One of the first big items to preserve for the year (at least here in Michigan) is strawberries. They start to ripen in the beginning of June which is well before we are harvesting anything out of our garden or out of the trees. I did make dandelion jelly already this year so I guess there are some things that we are still able to forage and preserve earlier in the year. Strawberries are still the first big ones, in my opinion. Oh, do I love strawberries too! In addition to just chowing them down, there are a lot of different things that you can do with them. Here are my top 5 strawberry ideas.
Jelly or Jam
The number one thing on our list of 5 strawberry ideas is to make jelly or jam. We made a huge batch of this last year and since we don’t eat a ton of jelly we still have some of that leftover. That means jelly is off the table for this year. My mom, on the other hand, was making a double batch of freezer jam this year. I prefer to can my jam to make it shelf stable (you just never know with electricity). She really prefers the flavor of freezer jam. Either way you do it, if you don’t have any on hand jam or jelly should definitely be on your list!
Pie Filling or Pie
The best part about the pie filling is that it can be for fresh pie or for canning. In my love for strawberries I obviously really love some strawberry pie. It’s been years since I canned strawberry pie filling so I decided since we aren’t doing jam this year we would preserve some strawberries as pie filling. I made 4 quarts of pie filling in this recipe and I’m already excited to serve a special strawberry pie for our Fourth of July party.
You could also just make a fresh pie. I opted for pie filling because I wanted to preserve it for a later date. When I was dealing with strawberries it was incredibly too hot to be baking any sort of pie. We had no air conditioning and I figured a strawberry pie mixed with my sweat might not be the best (though probably not the worst either). However, a fresh strawberry pie with a great big dallop of homemade whip cream would also be incredible. I also think that canned pie filling tastes just as good as fresh too though.
I swear all of these that I’m listing are my favorite. We use strawberry compote on top of homemade pancakes and it takes them to a whole new level. I love pancakes as it is but with this strawberry goodness on top, I am in heaven. Plus, it’s so easy to make a compote! I honestly had no idea it was so easy but once I learned I started to make it more often. In fact, now I keep frozen fruit on hand just so I can make some anytime that I want. Of course, it’s so much better with some fresh Michigan strawberries though!
The most classic of all the strawberry desserts! It can’t be strawberry season without strawberry shortcake. There are so many different ways to make shortcake and that helps keep it exciting and delicious. It can be a relatively healthy dessert option that my husband and I absolutely love. In fact, there are certain times in the summer that we’ll even grab strawberries from the store to be able to make some shortcake for dessert. Per usual, the fresh locally grown version has much more flavor.
To be honest, this is my least favorite thing to do with strawberries but only because it takes so many of them to have a good batch. If we still had a patch of our own I would be dehydrating them like crazy because we always had more than what we could manage. If you are in this type of situation, dehydrating them is definitely the way to go!
These dehydrated strawberries are often called strawberry chips. Not only are they healthy but they are also super delicious. They are a sweet treat for kids that you don’t have to regulate. They’re also great to mix into a trail mix to give them a good crunch and a sweet taste.
Along the lines of dehydrating you could also freeze dry them for similar results. I’ve heard this is extremely delicious but I don’t have a freeze drier to try it…yet!
In Summary: 5 Strawberry Ideas
No matter what you are doing with them, fresh strawberries are delicious and so worth getting your hands on. Even if you don’t have the space (or energy) to grow them you can usually find them locally and they are still cheaper than getting them from the big stores. Plus, those strawberries at the store have such a bland taste compared to local berries. A long time ago we had a great big strawberry patch and we would eat strawberry shortcake for days. It was a pretty good way to live, honestly! We would pick them morning and night though so as we got busier it got more difficult for us to manage the patch and we got rid of it. Now we are trying to grow them in a tower grower so we can live the life of fresh strawberries even more than we can buying them.
Do you buy or grow your strawberries? What is your favorite way to eat them?