Last week, I stopped by and visited my favorite farmer, Russ Vollmer at Vollmer Farm. Vollmer Farm is a fifth generation working farm. While most often known for their organic strawberries, they have so many other amazing things growing outside and in their huge greenhouses tucked out of site. I picked up some asparagus while I was there and roasted it with some garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil for dinner … and that was my entire dinner! It doesn’t get any fresher or better.
So, back to the strawberries … They were ruby red and absolutely gorgeous in a not-from-the-supermarket way. The bonus of growing your own fruits and vegetables or buying local is that they have a certain beauty. You also know you’re supporting the local farmers in the community.
Whether it’s Vollmer Farm or another local farm, take your favorite lil’ chef berry picking this weekend while they’re still plentiful and beautiful and then stir up some fun with this recipe! We use a Cuisinart automatic ice cream freezer to make this ice cream.
Here are a few tips for picking strawberries with your favorite lil’ chef:
- Explain to your child how to pick berries. Strawberries that are picked when ¾ red will develop full flavor in one to two days when kept at 70 degrees. Berries that are only half red will seldom have the flavor, texture or size of berries that are more mature when picked.
- Ask the farm staff where you should pick berries so you’re not wasting time in fields that have already been recently picked.
- The best time to pick fruit is in the morning when the berries are still cool, and be sure to pick them with the stem attached.
- It’s best to eat (or process) your berries soon after picking because fruit that is stored for several days will lose some of its fresh, bright color. It will also shrivel and generally deteriorate in color.
- If making jam, ask the farm if they have any “seconds.” These berries usually have some damage, but make excellent jam. I picked up a bucket of seconds last week to make jam at Vollmer for around $5!
- Most of all, have fun! Pack a bag with some snacks, water and an extra pair of shoes in case the field is muddy. Many farms also have play areas and picnic tables and you can spend many hours there on a warm spring day!
Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream
3 cups fresh ripe strawberries
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
Chop strawberries or puree in blender or food processor until desired consistency. If you like a smoother texture to your ice cream, puree in a blender. If you like chunks of strawberries in your ice cream, you can chop them by hand. Mix milk, sugar and cream in a bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add in berries. If you’re using chopped berries, just add half now, and then add the other half of the chopped berries about 5 minutes before turning off ice cream machine. If you pureed your berries, you can add all of them now.
If using the Cuisinart ice cream maker or one that requires a freezer bowl, be sure you freeze your bowl at least 24 hours prior to making the ice cream.
Add mixture to bowl and turn on ice cream maker. It's usually ready in about 30 minutes, but if you like a more firm texture, transfer to an airtight container and put in your freezer for about two hours before eating. Enjoy!