The great thing about living in New England is that everything is within driving distance – other states and even Canada can be a day trip from home. As I mentioned in my last post, my wife and I recently relocated to Massachusetts. Living in Delaware, I was used to picking or growing my own vegetables. I know it’s a lot of work, but it’s fun and satisfying! When you’ve lived around farms for most of your life, there’s something special about the taste of a warm strawberry fresh out of the field. It’s almost as if you could taste the sunshine. It sounds a bit corny, but try it. You’ll never look at a strawberry the same way again. Sadly, I missed out on picking strawberries this year because of moving and I was determined not to have the same thing happen with blueberries. We decided to take the opportunity to not only pick our berries, but to also explore the area a bit.
We packed up the car one morning when blueberry season was still in full swing and travelled into New Hampshire. For both of us, this was new territory. New Hampshire is the 45th state in the United States that I’ve had the privilege to visit. My wife has some catching up to do, but she’s not far behind.
There is something to be said about crossing a border, whether its international, into another state, or just visiting an adjoining town. Travel gives us the opportunity to stretch ourselves, but it’s also important to our overall wellbeing. I’m not a doctor (but I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express before), but I know how great I feel when I travel. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a week or a day. I sometimes think that explorers like Magellan or Columbus weren’t traveling for the fame or glory. I think that they were just hooked on the idea of traveling away from their homes to new places. Taking the opportunity to see a world that most in their time couldn’t have dreamed of. This is true whether you’re traveling around the corner, around the world, or up the road to pick blueberries.
We pulled into Heron Pond Farm (www.heronpondfarm.com) late in the morning and started for the blueberry bushes. There’s something to be said about standing in a field and picking your own food. As you can read from my previous posts, I grew up in farm country and I’ve had fruit trees and vegetable plants. I know it’s easier and more convenient to buy things like blueberries in the grocery store, but don’t do it! They don’t have anywhere near the taste that berries you’ve picked off of a plant will have. Plus, it’s an opportunity to know where your food is coming from and to be involved in the process. That’s an amazing experience for anyone to have and one that I would suggest you take advantage of whenever possible. In less than two hours (and for a lot less money than you would spend in the store), we had picked nearly 13 pounds of blueberries!
Once we got the berries home, it was time to prepare them for the deep freeze. I know, I should use them right now, but that’s not my plan. These berries are destined to become some fantastic blueberry jam, but they have to hang out in the freezer for about two months. I found this trick making jam a few years ago. If you freeze whatever berries you’re using a few months before you make jam with them, the jam will be sweeter and better than if you had made it the day you picked them. I don’t know why, but it works.
It’s not hard to freeze your berries and can be done in a minimal amount of time. First, wash the berries thoroughly and dry them as much as you can. I use a salad spinner to dry mine. Now take your berries and spread them in one layer on as many cookies sheets as you need and carefully stack them in the freezer. Wait until the next day to get them out so that they have an opportunity to fully freeze. Once frozen, measure them into desired quantities, place them into zipper freezer bags, and lay them in flat stacks for future use.
Blueberry picking has been a family tradition for years and it’s one that my wife was happy to take part in when we first met. Take some time to find a u-pick farm, and eat locally. You won’t believe the difference in quality and taste. By the way, be watching for a future blog post on the blueberry jam that I’ll be making with these blue gems!