We don't have any strawberries in our garden (at least not yet), but I neither wanted to go completely without them this summer, nor have to buy imported and/or frozen berries in the wintertime. The popular solution in Finland is to wait until the main season of strawberrries and then buy a box of 5 kilos from your local grower (or farmers market, or even a berry booth outside most supermarkets in the berry season). Strawberry lovers and people with kids will usually buy several boxes, but I thought as we will be getting lots of other fruit and berries from our garden, one box is enough for us. I paid 35 euros for my box from our local grower Suttinen, which makes 7 eur per kilo. A luxury, but boy what a tasty one!
But what did I do with those berries? Well first of all I served Nick a little bowl of the juiciest berries, made us some coconut-strawberry smoothie and took a big bowl of them berries into the fridge to eat the following day.
The rest I conserved in different manners. I pureed a part – I simply put the cleaned berries and a dash of sugar into my blender and blended a few seconds. The puree was then filled into freezer containers and into the freezer they went. The puree will be used during the winter for smoothies most likely, there's nothing better to remind you of summer than strawberries, no matter what kind of blizzard there is outside!
Another part I froze whole. I chose smaller and not-so-ripe berries for this and froze them in bigger containers. These berries I can use for making cakes or anything that requires the berry to be intact. If I don't end up baking with them, I can still make them into smoothies next spring, too. The same goes for sliced strawberries of which I froze a few little containers.
The rest I sliced rather thin and put them on my drying machine. Wow! It did take quite some time to get them dry (I had pauses during the night and sunny moments when the berries were just "air-drying", but I would say 6 hours of electricity-aided drying) but the taste is magnificent! Some berries I rinsed in lime juice and some I didn't, but I see or taste no difference at all between them.
The next time I dry strawberries I will slice them even thinner to make them dry easier and turn them halfway through the process – the finished "chips" were rather difficult to peel off the plastic grid and still felt a bit moist below, even though the top was completely dry. I will store them in a glass jar and use them to pep up muesli and porridges throughout the winter. It was quite a hassle making them, but the taste is so good, I would do it again anytime.
All in all I worked for about 1-2 hours to get the berries good to go for winter, which is quite good concidering this is the first time I've done anything like that all on my own (without Mom!) It was also a lot of fun!
I was trying to count the cost effectiveness of the project, but couldn't find comparable commercial products in Finland. The frozen berries I could buy from the supermarket in the winter are never from Finland but always from abroad, and since there has been problems with foreign berries here to the extent that the recommendation is always to cook them before eating, there is no way I could make decent smoothies from them for example, or use them as decoration on cakes or such.
Compared to the raspberries, currants and hopefully gooseberries we will be getting for free from our garden the strawberry project was of course horrendously expensive. If money were real tight, I would leave it, but currently it's a very sensible luxury which will bring us joy and vitamins all winter long.