Sometimes when you are up to your eyeballs in berry juice and the whir of the food dehydrator has been going on so long you are hearing noises that aren’t really there, you gotta wonder – is it worth it? Is it really worth it to, say, make your own jam when you could just buy a good jar for $6?
Well, let’s find out.
As you may remember, I talked last week about efficiently processing a lot of berries – 48 pounds, to be exact. With the right workstation set-up, and a little help from my daughter, I was able to go through that pile of berries in just a couple hours.
But that’s not the end – oh, no! Once I got all the berries topped and rinsed, I moved on to freezing and jamming.
The Tillamooks were marinated with sugar overnight before being processed into my first ever no-pectin jam.
I started with 16 pounds of berries, added 10 cups of sugar, reduced by half, water bath processed and ended up with 16 half-pint jars of yum. It was all quite simple. I like no pectin!
The Shuksans were transfered to a clean, lint-free towel to drain. Once dry they were moved to a parchment-lined sheetpan for freezing. Note the efficient set-up again for this step: the sheetpans are stacked and ready to go. I work left to right, left to right…keeping it moving all the time.
I froze my berries in a single layer so they would not stick together when packaged. Industry parlance for this is IQF, or individually quick frozen. You do need a fair amount of freezer space to pull this part off, I’ll admit. I had sheetpans stacked on top of chicken wings and steaks and squash puree out in my upright garage freezer.
Once the berries were frozen solid – a day or so does it – I transferred them into freezer bags. I save my expensive vacuum sealer bags for meat and seafood and just go with Ziploc Freezer Bags for fruits and veg. Seems to work fine. Once again, employing a helper is a good idea if you have one.
Because the berries need to move from freezer to bag and back to freezer before they can thaw (if they thaw and refreeze they’ll stick together in the bag, negating all that IQF work) I don’t assembly line this step. I go out to the freezer, bring back a single sheetpan of berries, fill up as many freezer bags as I can, return those bags to the freezer and pick up the next full sheetpan. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
And then it’s all done, and I have my year’s supply of strawberries, ready for smoothies or adding to yogurt or sucking on while still frozen. I know where they came from and I know how they were processed.
So, probably two hours of topping, another hour of active work to make the jam and maybe another hour of filling freezer bags and miscellany. Was my bulk strawberry processing adventure worth it, financially?
According to Amazon’s grocery delivery service, this 2 pound bag of frozen kinda localish Oregon strawberries costs $8.19. That’s $4.10 a pound.
What do you think – is doing it yourself worth it, financially-speaking?