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Jessica’s Garden: Strawberries: Get Them Before the Good Ones Are Gone

photo-2-300x300With the local strawberry season coming to a close, we are trying to get our fill of these delicious Summer berries before they’re gone until next season.  However, while local pick-your-own farms and farmers markets are dwindling on strawberry availability, the supermarkets are abundantly stocked at reasonable prices. At the beginning of June, my best friend and I took Grayson to pick strawberries. With the freezer already filling up quickly, it was time to get to some canning.

A neighbor of mine requested several jars of plain strawberry jam for her family, so I started there. The convenience of having the fruit already cleaned, chopped and pre measured into jam batches, helps alleviate much of the stress of canning. For years, I’ve been prepping and freezing fruit one day and canning another to make canning projects easier. I used a simple recipe of only three ingredients: strawberries, sugar and fresh lemon juice. I hardly ever use commercial pectin anymore as most fruits are high in natural pectin and will jell up on their own after boiling to their natural jelling point.

I’ve found that strawberries pair nicely in many jam combinations. One of my favorites is Strawberry Jalapeño Jam. It’s sweet with a little kick and perfect served with baked Brie cheese, cream cheese and crackers or on a hearty slice of whole grain toast. A couple of years ago, I made a Basil Balsamic Strawberry Jam which turned out rich and velvety.  I’ve also been making strawberry rhubarb jam annually for several years. It’s a family favorite, a classic combination of flavors and a perfect balance of sweet and sour.  With my garden’s rhubarb, this is the next project on the list.

photo-1-300x300While on our staycation last week, my husband and I took our son to the Inner Harbor and the National Aquarium for the day. While there, we stopped for lunch and I ordered a Strawberry Basil Lemonade — I was not prepared for how delicious this concoction would be. So delicious, that in a week, I’ve already developed and mastered my own recipe, enticing anyone who will try it. While the basil is certainly present, it doesn’t overpower the other flavors; a perfectly refreshing kid and adult friendly Summer drink.


Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Juice of 5 Fresh Lemons

1 Cup White Sugar

1 + 5 Cups Water

2 Large Sprigs Fresh Sweet Basil

7-10 Fresh Strawberries

Handful Fresh Blueberries for garnish (optional)

Directions:  In saucepan on stovetop, combine sugar with one cup water. Heat on medium low, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Juice lemons; add juice to empty pitcher.  Remove basil leaves from stems and add to lemon juice, keeping leaves whole. With wooden spoon or muddler, bash leaves a few times to release oils.  On a cutting board, with back of a fork, mash berries slightly; add to lemon juice and basil. Add simple syrup (sugar and water) to pitcher and quickly add remaining water, so hot syrup doesn’t cook and brown fresh basil leaves. Stir vigorously for a few seconds to incorporate berries with lemonade.  Chill and serve over ice.

Tips: Before juicing, zap lemons in microwave; all five for about 30 seconds.  This will help release juices. Also, before adding all five cups remaining water, give it a taste test at about four cups and add water as needed to desired flavor.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Strawberry-picking season is a great time of the year! It’s a short window to get out there and pick them, but it’s a great experience for everybody. I’ll have to try your recipe for strawberry lemonade!

  2. Ellen, you are so right. It’s a short window, but totally worth finding time to do. Fresh strawberries are the best, but admittedly decent strawberries are still available in the grocery store. I hope you enjoy the lemonade. I do a similar concept with limes and fresh mint instead of lemons, strawberries and basil and it’s equally delicious. Thank you for reading!

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