We had a bit of trouble finding the actual strawberry patch at the farm since it was hidden by weeds and the owner was tied up with a tour (there wasn't a lot of staff because you pay on the honor system). Eventually he saw us wandering and pointed us in the right direction. After that, we were able to find it. Surprisingly, the weeds ended up being an advantage because kids and their parents didn't want to walk through/reach into the pokey weeds around the plants. The farther into the weeds we went, the bigger and riper the strawberries we found. We were able to fill two pretty big buckets.
I didn't try very many as we were picking because it was so hot, but the few I did try were super sweet and juicy. The organic bright red strawberries were so pretty!
We picked a tiny bit less than 10 lbs and paid, $28. I have no problem paying $2.80/lb for organic strawberries, even if we did have to pick them ourselves. We had a lot of fun trying something new. It's definitely something to do again throughout the summer. Their blackberries should be ripe soon, so I've been checking their calendar on Facebook (and calling).
That afternoon, Courtney cleaned and prepped the strawberries for our jam making session the next day. We picked up more jars and new lids at Winco (the cheapest place we can find them locally). I did a lot of research on techniques and safety and I found the National Center for Home Food Preservation had the best basic information for a beginner. That being said, I did find some of the picture tutorials I found on Pinterest to be helpful, but I definitely relied on the NCHFP for recipes and safety information.
While I've always wanted to can (partly because it involves playing with mason jars), the safety aspect has always scared me. Doing all the research reassured me that if you follow tested recipes and safe techniques, it's pretty easy.
We invited my aunt because she seemed interested and wanted to learn. Courtney thinks she's the Mexican Martha Stewart.
We started the morning off by picking up a Waterbath Canning Kit by Ball and the Ball Blue Book at Lowe's. Based on our one jam making experience, I'd definitely recommend them. The actual making of the jam was easy, but filling the sterilized jars and putting the lids on made me nervous. Since we had all hands on deck, I chose to 'run' the sterilized jars to be filled and then back to the canner.
Our adventure wasn't without mishaps though, my aunt and mom were using the jar lifter upside down and couldn't figure out why they couldn't get a good grip on the jars, haha. Hint: the silicone grips are for the jar, not your hands.
I'd say is was a success. The jam is super fresh tasting and I think we only had one jar not seal. Ten pounds of strawberries and lots and lots of sugar yielded 4 pints jars and 14 half pint jars...plenty for us and for gifts.
I think we've all been bit by the canning bug. There are already plans for dill pickles (not fermented, yuck!), blackberry jam, spaghetti sauce, and enchilada sauce (once we get a pressure canner).