The other week we were lucky enough to snag an invite from our good friend/farming sensei Sara over at Sandiwood Farm to join her on a strawberry picking field trip. So we loaded up one morning with the intern crew and headed over to “the spot”, Riverside Farm in East Hardwick, Vermont.
Riverside Farm is owned and operated by the lovely couple, Bruce and Judy Kaufman. The Kaufman’s are committed to “organic farming to cultivate a sustainable farming practice.” In their own words “one that is supportive of the earth, the people working on the farm, the people eating the food, and the community we live in. Real food for real people”. Well that sounds mighty nice and refreshing, eh?
It happened to be the first solid week of strawberry picking in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and we were in for a treat with rows and rows of plump strawberries up for grabs.
And H O L Y smokes it was a hot one too!! Judy shared that the heat actually speeds up the already short season and our timing couldn’t have been better to get in some of the best picking around. And so, after a quick tutorial on strawberry picking, we were off with buckets and Tupperware in hand (and coated in sunscreen from head to toe).
A Few Things We Learned:
1. The best time to pick strawberries is in the morning when the berries are still cool. Sunshine and heat quickly make the berries soft and then they tend to bruise easily.
2. Only solid red berries are completely ripe. Look for plump firm berries with a red tip. Unripe (white) or partially ripe berries will not ripen once picked. The ripening process actually stops once you pick them.
3. Smaller berries tend to be sweeter and more flavorful. Plus – they’re pretty freaking cute.
4. When you pick your berries, leave about ½ inch of the stem still attached.
5. It’s best to process your berries soon after picking. Berries stored more than 2 – 3 days will lose some of their fresh, bright color and tend to shrivel and deteriorate in quality.
6. You can easily freeze strawberries that you’re not planning to eat right away. Simply wash, cut off the green husks, and place them in a Ziplock bag removing as much air as possible. Perfect to have on hand for smoothies, jams, pies and cobblers… which we’ll show you how to make! Keep on reading…
Why Pick Your Own?
Here’s an interesting tid-bit: Did you know that commercial, store-bought strawberries continuously rank as one of the most contaminated common foods due to the use of pesticides? Even after washing store bought berries they still have significant levels of unnatural chemicals on them. YIKES! BUT not the case with organic, freshly picked strawberries like those found at Riverside Farm. No pesticides means you can dive right in – plant to mouth. Perfect for me – professional taste tester.
Ingredients – for your filling
- 2 ½ cups of sugar (taste your berries first for level of sweetness; you may want to adjust amount of sugar based on this)
- 2 ½ cups of cold water
- ¼ cup of corn starch
- 14 cups of fresh strawberries
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
1. Heat your sugar and (2) cups of water in a large pot until sugar dissolves.
2. In a separate bowl, add ½ cup of cold water to your corn starch to make a slurry. Then add to your sugar/water mixture.
3. Bring your mixture to a light boil so your corn starch activates. Then add your strawberries and lemon. Turn off heat.
Ingredients – for your topping
- 3 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
- 6 Tablespoons of sugar
- 2 ½ Tablespoons of baking powder
- 2 ½ cups of milk
- 1 Tablespoon of softened butter
1. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients and sift.
2. Next mix in your softened butter. And mix until the butter becomes more like grains of rice.
3. Create a well in your mixture (similar to making biscuits except your mixture will be more like pancake batter).
To make your cobbler:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pour your strawberry mixture in your baking pan(s). We used (2) 9×9 pans.
3. Spoon your topping mixture evenly across the strawberry mixture.
4. Bake on 350 for 15 – 20 minutes, or until your dough is cooked all the way through.
Decadent Dulce de Leche:
1. Take one small can of sweetened condensed milk. Boil in a medium pot on medium low heat for 2 – 3 hours. (Longer the time = Richer the Color)
2. Pop open the can after a couple of hours and fold into fresh whipped cream. Then pour over your cobbler for a sinfully good treat.
Until we find freshly picked inspiration again,
A + H