We have a few fun family traditions that we love to do each year. Perhaps one of my favorite is strawberry picking on the farm. I love it, and it never gets old!
This year, Isaiah was 4 1/2 years old and Annika was 2 1/2 years old, but I was also 6 months pregnant. While I absolutely love the adventure of strawberry picking on the farm, my body did not like the stress and heat of strawberry picking with two toddlers and no hubby to help chase them. We did decide to go with a friend and her one year old daughter, but I pretty quickly regretted not bringing along my hubby or another helper. So note to pregnant mommas with toddlers, take some help, or you may turn quickly into a grumpy mommy like I did...
My favorite strawberry picking place has to be Triple B Farms which you can find at 823 Berry Ln, Monongahela, PA. They have so much fun stuff to do, and so many Pick Your Own (PYO) opportunities, you really have to check them out! See their website for details on their PYO schedule and their many weekend festivals throughout the summer (http://www.triplebfarms.com).
They really make the trip to pick berries an experience. They escort you to their berry fields in a trailer lined with hay bales pulled by a huge farm tractor, which is a huge bonus for any little boy. I'm pretty sure the tractor ride is Isaiah's favorite every time! And then after some brief instruction on how to find and pick the best berries, they let you loose!
It was a brief time of picking this year... The kids started strong, but tuckered out pretty quickly in the heat. And this pregnant lady was done after about 30 to 40 minutes of picking, which wasn't quite the amount of berries I wanted to get. The good news is they have already picked berries in their extensive farm store along with all sort of other homemade goodies! So we grabbed some to take home, so we could make strawberry freezer jam, strawberry ice cream, and have frozen berries for smoothies!
Our day was capped by a packed lunch and fun times on the play ground equipment at Triple B Farm, which is awesome I might add!!! They have a wooden Jeep, a wooden tractor, a small barn with slide, and a small house for the kids to play in. It's always a huge hit for my kids, and will be with yours, too! But early summer brings crazy thunder showers, and you can see what quickly rolled in and caused us to quickly roll out...
It's such a memorable experience for the kids, and so I love taking them! I still remember strawberry picking with my family and my mother's awesome strawberry freezer jam, both of which were the reasons I wanted to take my kids strawberry picking in the first place! If you haven't had strawberry freezer jam, it is SO MUCH BETTER than store bought or even homemade cooked strawberry jelly. The fresh flavor of the strawberries cannot be beat!!!!!
Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe
(Found in Sure Jell pamphlet or Natural Dutch Jell pamphlet)
2 cups crushed strawberries
4 cups sugar
1/3 cup rounded Dutch Jell or 1 box of Sure Jell (in the yellow box!)
A few mason jars with lids
1. Wash, dry and hull the strawberries.
2. Crush the berries, and measure out exactly 2 cups of strawberries into another bowl.
3. Mix sugar with the berries thoroughly and let sit for approximately 10 minutes.
4. Mix pectin (Dutch Jell or Sure Jell) with 3/4 cup of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
5. Once brought to a full boil, let boil for 1 minute.
6. Then mix the hot pectin mixture into the strawberry and sugar mixture and stir for 3 minutes.
7. Pour jam into clean jars, loosely cover with lid, and let sit for 24 hours. Then tighten lid and freeze.
My three suggestions for fool proof strawberry freezer jam are...
1. Use "sugar required" pectin that you heat in a saucepan on the stove. You can find it at the store, Sure Jell in the yellow box, or get it at Triple B Farms, where you find the amazingly priced Natural Dutch Jell. Found Bell brand to not work as well, the Sure Jell liquid form didn't work well for us, and the instant pectin was horrible.
2. Measure precisely! Nuff said!
3. Use perfectly ripe strawberries. The more over ripe they are (or the longer you wait after you buy or pick them) the less likely your jam will be to set properly.
It was an awesome day picking strawberries, and I highly suggest taking your kids, no matter their ages, to a local farm for some memorable family fun! And another bonus to strawberry picking, tractor riding and playground romping is super tired kiddos. Which a momma always loves!
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