Picking and preserving summer berries with the kiddos

Picking and preserving summer berries with the kiddos

Late summer is a great time to get your kids more connected to their food and where it comes from. If you've never been to a pick-your-own farm before, consider giving it a try. This is a family outing that kids and adults alike will adore. We like Stade's Farm in McHenry County for pick-your-own strawberries. However, the strawberry season is sadly over here in the Midwest.

But never fear -- the pick-your-own farm and crop choices in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan are numerous. I recommend visiting Pick-Your-Own.org for a comprehensive list of pick-your-own farms in your area. The information is searchable by location, type of produce, etc. Blueberry picking is still available!

What to do once you've filled your baskets with summer's goodies? Obviously, you fill your belly with as much of the good stuff as you can. But what about the precious leftovers? These delicious berries are too good to waste. I've got a few ideas on how to preserve the best that summer has to offer (you'll thank me come December).

  • Make your own fruit leather. Skip those super sugary fruit snacks from the store. You can easily make your own dried fruit at home. This approach works particularly well for fruits like berries, apricots and other other fruit. Intrigued? Once upon a time,  I wrote a how-to article in this month's issue of Chicago Parent Magazine.  We used strawberries for our fruit leather, but the recipe easily translates to other types of fruit.
  • Home canning. What, you say? Does this lady think I have nothing but time on my hands?  The idea of home canning made me nervous at first too. But now that I have a few batches of homemade jam under my belt (literally), I really love the process and plan to expand my canning this summer. And it really doesn't require much time, special equipment or skill. I swear.  Fellow Chicago-area mama and blogger Emily Paster wrote a guest post on Wee Windy City a couple years ago about picking fruit and home canning with kids. Have a look to learn more about getting your summer canning started.

Be sure to include the kiddos in the food preserving process -- this is such a great learning opportunity for them.

Happy summer eating to you and your little ones!

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