I woke up Saturday morning eager to get dressed and start the day. Usually I'm happy to wear my PJs at least until noon, but this day, we were going strawberry picking...
I was so excited, and had been waiting to pick berries for weeks, hoping that the season's first crop wouldn't be all picked over by the time we were able go.
Berry Patch Farms is located in Brighton, CO, about a half hour away from where we live, so it was an easy drive there. Last summer we tried unsuccessfully to find some "pick your own" farms when we were in Paonia, wine country in southern Colorado. But we weren't there at the right time for picking, and crops weren't as productive as the farmers had hoped. So I was thrilled when, after researching online, I found this farm so close to us.
When we arrived at the farm, we were greeted by the morning "cockadoodle-doo" of several roosters, and a very large turkey ambling towards us, ruffling his feathers as intimidatingly as possible.
A sweet looking pig with a curly tail rooted around on the ground, sniffing out something yummy to nibble on. I was tempted to pet the pig since they have the reputation of being as friendly as dogs, but decided maybe I shouldn't.
A black and white farm cat wandered around the grounds, looking for attention and treats.
At 9am, it was already warm out, and the sky was bright blue and sunny, slightly streaked with clouds. We rode a wagon out to the organic strawberry fields, where we were given a few tips for strawberry picking and etiquette.
As we bent over the rows of plants, looking for the ripest berries, children ran around excitedly, asking their parents over and over, "Is this one ripe? Is it all red? Can I pick it?"
"Yes, it's all red" or "No, that one has too much white on it", came their patient answers. These conversations repeated themselves many times.
I could feel the sweat trickling down my spine, in spite of my lightweight, cotton sundress. We worked our way from the start of one long row down to the end, and before long, we had three containers full of juicy, sweet red berries.
When we took our berries to be weighed so we could pay for them, the lady at the counter asked me with a smile, "Did you pick a dandelion? Usually only the children do that."
Yes, I picked a dandelion because it was pretty. And yes, I know it's a weed. :) Something my younger brother used to love to tease me about regarding my name. "Heather is just a weed!" he would tell me, but it never made me feel bad. Even weeds can be pretty, even though they grow wild and free.
Back home, I immediately set to work cleaning and hulling the berries. I already knew what I was planning to use them for...
The day before, I had mixed up a vanilla custard base for ice cream, with plans to add fresh strawberries, macerated in a little sugar, after the custard had chilled overnight. This was my first time making ice cream with a cooked, egg-based custard, and the extra work was so worth it. The ice cream was so creamy, smooth and luscious, with the berries we'd picked ourselves making it just that much better.
Then I combined some of the strawberries with some rhubarb I'd bought earlier in the week, cooking it down with sugar and a little lemon, cinnamon and vanilla until it was thick and rich. I strained the mixture, extracting as much juice as I could, and then reduced the juice a little more until it became thick and syrupy. Now we have a beautiful jar of strawberry-rhubarb syrup to use on pancakes or waffles - but you'll have to wait for the syrup recipe until the next time I make pancakes. :)
With some leftover bits of cheesecake, I made two little strawberry cheesecake trifles in mason jars with the cheesecake, strawberries and whipped cream.
And with the strawberries that were left, I made a quick and simple strawberry jam with a little orange juice and zest, which we ate with fresh rhubarb muffins, which will also be in a separate post.
But, oh, that ice cream. Maybe it was the rich custard or maybe it was the freshly-picked strawberries. Or that we'd gone out and picked them ourselves in the hot Colorado sun. But it was the best strawberry ice cream I've ever tasted...
Strawberry Frozen Custard
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean)
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons (divided)
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 cups fresh diced strawberries
In a large saucepan, combine the cream, milk and vanilla. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, but don't bring it to a rapid boil. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar with the egg yolks. When the cream mixture is hot but not boiling, drizzle about 1 cup of the hot cream into the eggs and sugar mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Pour all of the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the cream. Cook the custard gently over medium low heat, stirring constantly until thickened slightly, and the temperature reaches 170. Remove from the heat.
Pour custard through a mesh strainer into a bowl. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate, preferably overnight, but at least until very well chilled. The custard will thicken quite a bit as it chills, more to the consistency of pudding.
Toss the diced strawberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; set in the refrigerator to macerate for 20 minutes. Stir strawberries into the chilled custard.
Churn custard according to the instructions on your ice cream maker, then transfer to a container and freeze until firm, 4-6 hours.
Yields about 2 quarts.
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen