Here in New England, we've already had a great strawberry season (good thing after last year's soggy mess) and we're moving quickly into blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry season. I didn't personally get out to get strawberries but I'm not going to miss the blueberries--however hot it usually is when they're ready to pick.
- Make Refrigerator Jam - Most people assume that making jam is difficult and that it requires a lot of fancy equipment. The truth is that if you make a small batch and use very clean containers, you can keep it in the fridge for a few months in an ordinary plastic leftovers container. No canning or special equipment involved!
- Freeze Them - If you have the freezer space, most berries freeze pretty well to be used later in the year in baked goods or for a summer-tasting treat. Freeze blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries in a single layer on a large baking sheet (uncovered). As soon as they're hard like marbles, transfer them to a zip-top bag and put into the back of the freezer far from the door so they don't accumulate moisture and freezer burn. Strawberries need to be washed, thoroughly dried, hulled, and cut into quarters. Place the quarters into quart-sized zip-top bags and freeze. The defrosted result will be a little mushy, but it's perfect as a cheesecake topping, waffle/pancake topping, or for mid-winter strawberry shortcake.
- Make and Freeze Pie Filling - This is a neat trick. Prepare your favorite berry pie filling. Instead of filling a pie, line a pie plate with plastic wrap and spray lightly with nonstick spray. Pour cooled filling into the pie plate. Freeze until solid and, using the plastic wrap as a sling, remove the frozen "pie" from the plate. Wrap in several layers of plastic and foil and keep frozen. When you want to use it, prepare your pastry crust, drop-in the frozen berry slab, and add the top crust. Bake as usual.
- Make Juice - If you happen to have a juicer or a food mill or even a wire mesh strainer, you can make juice. Puree the berries in a food processor and add a little hot water to loosen it up. Add to a sauce pan and bring mixture up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn off the heat and let it cool. Strain through a food mill or strainer and pour into containers to freeze. In the winter, you can add this juice to some freshly brewed iced tea, lemonade, or add sugar and drink it straight-up.
- Dry Them - If you happen to have a food dehydrator, dried berries can be awesome additions to salads and they can be re-hydrated with a little warm water and added to muffins and pancakes and other treats. You can even make "fruit leather," a homemade equivalent to fruit roll-ups. Scour the Internet for recipes.
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