Broccoli is high in Potassium, Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, & it has more Vitamin C than an Orange!! As if you needed another reason to eat tons of this yummy veggie!
Broccoli harvest happens all at once rather than sporadically throughout the season like, say, green beans for instance. If you can’t eat it all fresh straight out of the garden, freezing is the best method to preserve it for another meal and it’s really easy too! Select firm, tight broccoli heads to preserve!
You Will Need:
Cookie Sheets Lined With Freezer Paper/ Food Saver
First, give your broccoli a good rinse to remove any dirt. Then cut away the leaves. (I like to save them for the chickens.) Then fill a large pot with enough water to cover the broccoli and let it come to a boil and begin to prepare the broccoli for blanching.
Now run a sink full of cold water. For every gallon of water in the sink add 1 tablespoon salt and dissolve it to create a brine. Cut the broccoli florets off the stalk and put them in the brine bath and allow them to soak for at least five minutes. – This actually has nothing to do with adding flavor, nor does it aid in preserving the broccoli. It’s to get rid of any worms (caterpillars) or bugs that may be inside that pretty stalk of broccoli you brought in from your garden. Even the most perfect looking broccoli will have bugs hiding in it, so don’t freak out it’s just a fact of life! The brine kills them and they fall out of the broccoli florets. Typically they sink to the bottom of the brine bath, but when fishing the broccoli out of the sink for the final rinse in the colander you will need to look to make sure none got stuck to the florets.
After the brine, rinse the broccoli in the colander and give them a good swishing around. Cut up the stalks into bite sized pieces and toss them in the pot of boiling water. Add the florets. Allow the broccoli to cook for 3-5 min or until it is bright green.
Drain the broccoli into a colander and fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the broccoli, gently stir it around to cool it. This stops the cooking process and prevents the enzymes in the vegetable from breaking down the food any further. Drain once more. From here you can pack the broccoli cuts into food saver bags and freeze them OR you can spread the cuts out on freezer paper lined cookie sheets and pop them in the freezer for about 4 hours or overnight. Once frozen, grab a corner of the freezer paper and pull it towards you. The broccoli should free from the paper in perfect loose pieces, then bag the broccoli in portion sized bags and store them in the freezer.
This is the first year our four rhubarb plants produced enough stalks to actually do something with, so for the first time I made Strawberry Rhubarb Jam! I just love this combination of two of the seasons first crops. It’s tangy, sweet and perfect on warm flaky biscuits, on top of ice cream, or even smeared all over your morning waffles!
This recipe contains no added pectin to help it thicken so you will need to set aside a bit more time to allow the jam to cook down and thicken on it’s own. As always remember: Safety First! Sterilize your jam jars, lids & rings before you begin. You can do this by running the jars and rings through the dishwasher, or boiling them in a pot on the stove. In a small pan, boil the lids for 5 minutes.
In a large pot combine all ingredients, stir gently over medium heat until contents begin to boil but NOT violently. You may need to adjust the heat as you go. Lava jam burns are no fun! Stir occasionally but allow to cook for at least one hour or until the mixture has thickened. When it coats the back of your spoon and doesn’t have runny drips the jam is done! Ladle into prepared jars on a towel, secure rings and lids. Now it’s time to can the jam! Place your jam jars in a hot water bath canner (a large pot will work just fine if you don’t have a canner), cover the jars with water and boil the jars for 10 minutes. After canning remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool undisturbed on the counter for 24 hours. You will hear the “pop” of the lids shortly! This means your canning efforts were successful. If any jars didn’t seal, pop them into the fridge and use up within a week.
Enjoy! My family loves this recipe, and …if you can manage to not stuff it all in your face it makes a great gift too!
I think strawberries are natures way of apologizing for the heat that’s about to come in the following months. Each year our family looks forward to stuffing our faces with gobs of the sweet red berries any way we can get them: strawberry pie, shortcake, jam…and it’s so sad when they are gone. Growing our own strawberries also falls in the “eventually” category around here (along with asparagus) – If I would have just planted them when I moved here years ago I could be feasting on my very own heaping pile of strawberries as we speak. I keep putting it off because as soon as I make the investment I know we would find our forever home and I would have to leave it all behind.
The other thing is: Why bother planting strawberries and waiting years for them to produce a large crop when just a few miles away, nestled on gentle hills off a country road lies an amazing family owned strawberry farm? I have been going to Creek Valley Farm to pick and buy berries ever since I can remember and I recently got to chat with Aaron Smith about his families unique crop.
Nearly 40 years ago Stanley and Carol Smith planted their first small strawberry patch in Waldron Michigan after they were first married. They and their children Aaron & Stephanie still work the farm today. These days the Smith family’s strawberry patch sprawls over ten acres and they didn’t stop at strawberries. About an acre is dedicated to blackberries and raspberries too! They grow around 8 different varieties of strawberries, some “early” bearing and some “late” bearing, with a customer favorite being Jewel, a large juicy variety. Keeping a mix of plants helps to keep their crop a constant throughout the month of June, when there is a lull in activity after planting their fields of corn, beans, & wheat.
The strawberry business isn’t as simple as “plant it and they will come”. I talked with Stephanie and Carol about the challenges they face with weather. Remember those late frosts we got this year? For the Smith family it meant sleepless nights checking temperatures and spraying the strawberry blossoms with water to form ice on the blooms to protect them from the damaging frost, because no viable blossoms means no berries. Thankfully their efforts were successful and they were able to save their crop, but other Michigan strawberry farmers weren’t so lucky. The hard frosts coupled with the heavy rain we got in the following weeks took it’s toll on many strawberry crops across the state.
Selling a fresh perishable product that isn’t preserved in any way is its own challenge. The berries are meant to be consumed or cooked with immediately for optimum flavor and freshness. I learned that a lot of their sales aren’t from people stopping at their big red barn to purchase fruit like I thought but rather wholesale, to places like St. Johns Produce, Glei’s Orchards & Greenhouse, and several other local businesses that sell fresh fruit. You will also see them set up at local farmers markets.
Under the lean to of their pole barn you will find a table filled with flats of berries already picked and waiting to go home with you. To be honest, this is the route I take, maybe when my boys are a bit older that will change. OR you could choose the U-Pick option. If you take this route you will be directed towards the U-Pick Specialist, Sarah. She’s been working at Creek Valley Farm during strawberry season for 9 years.
Sarah will show you the places to pick, and tell you how to pick, which is helpful not only to them but to those of us who haven’t picked a strawberry in years or maybe even never at all. You must pick all the red berries whether they be large or small, then place a flag at the point where you stopped. This way the folks that come after you get to pick in an unpicked over spot. I had a great time chatting with Sarah about her job. We talked about how grocery store berries can’t beat the flavor of the strawberries here at Creek Valley Farm and she says it largely has to do with the fact that the California grown strawberries that are found in grocery stores across the country are picked before they are ripe otherwise they would spoil before they made it to their destination. This results in firm red berries sure, but they have zero flavor. Buying your strawberries locally from Creek Valley Farm and farms like it ensure that you are getting produce at it’s sweetest and juiciest peak. In my book these tasty little berries are worth every last penny!
One of the things I love about coming to Creek Valley Farm to purchase strawberries every year is the family atmosphere. They remember their customers and greet each one while happily answering any questions you may have. Walking around their beautiful farm to the U-Pick section was really peaceful, it was a beautiful day with a slight breeze and I could hear the creek babbling nearby. The hills, the quiet, delicious berries, and the great people who run this farm are the stuff memories are made of. Taking your family here to pick berries will last with you your whole life, like it has for me. Your kids wont remember it was hot or that it was hard work picking, but they will remember the feeling of accomplishment when they fill their berry box and they will remember the giant strawberry pie heaped with whipped cream you made for desert that night.
If you’d like to visit Creek Valley Farm to get the whole strawberry experience you can stop by during business hours at: 6600 East Camden Road, Waldron, MI 49288 or Click here to like them on Facebook and keep updated on all the goings on of the farm. I hope you stop to get berries here this season, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.