This is a story of a field trip inspired by ten empty canning jars. My impromptu marmalade making left me with ten brand new half-pint jars that begged to be filled every time my gaze fell upon them. In a moment of brilliance, I started looking up information on South Florida strawberry farms in hopes of filling the jars with farm-fresh strawberry jam. It did not take long before I came upon information on Redland, Miami’s countryside. Last Saturday, I armed myself with a few addresses and set out on a little road trip after I wrapped up training at Key Biscayne.
My search for strawberries brought me to Burr’s Berry Farm. As one of the best strawberry growers in the area, Burr’s supplies their excellent berries to some top restaurants in Miami. I chatted with the gracious owner who told me of the different varieties of berries they plant. His personal favourite Sweet Charlie did not fare well this year but the currently harvesting Chandler are big, juicy, and flavourful. I took a leisurely stroll through the hydroponic field with their shoulder height planters surrounding me. I took a deep breath and was instantly enveloped by the sweet smell of ripe strawberries. This was an experience unlike any strawberry farms I’ve been to because the shrubs are typically too low to the ground for the fragrance to travel up. Behind the rows of strawberries, Burr’s also plant a vegetable garden laden with lettuce, cauliflower, sweet peppers, peas, and tomatoes. Just looking at the harvest was enough to make me smile. I left the farm with a whole flat of the most gorgeous strawberries.
There was another reason I could not wipe that smile off my face when I visited Burr’s. Their famous strawberry milkshake and strawberry shortcake were my well-earned post-workout recovery meal! I’ll simply let the photo do the talking.
It was one of the most rewarding recovery meal in months! Apparently strawberry shortcakes around here are not the biscuit type. Underneath that mountain of strawberry ice-cream, whipped cream, and sweetened strawberries, there was a round disc of sponge cake which heroically soaked up all the sweet berry juice. The strawberry milkshake had visible chunks of fruit and it was creamy, refreshing, without being the least bit cloying. No wonder people make special trips to Burr’s just for their famous strawberry milkshake!
My next stop was Knaus Berry Farm & Bakery, with emphasis on the bakery. I patiently stood in the 30-deep line and admired the trays of baked goods everyone walked away with. From what I overheard, people are such fans of their cinnamon rolls that they would overnight ship the rolls across the country to friends and family! My order of one lone cinnamon roll was apparently not usual. When the lady placed the pastry in my hand, I knew immediately that the wait was worthwhile. It was warm and soft with the enticing smell of cinnamon and butter tempting me every step of the way as I returned to the car. I took a bite and it was everything I expected from a cinnamon roll. It was sticky but not overly so. There was no raisins or nuts to distract from the syrupy cinnamon filling that soaked into every nooks and crannies of the soft buttery roll. I was impressed. Oh yes, farm! Aside from the popular bakery, there were also farm-fresh produce for sale. I grabbed a bag of mint as part of my strawberry jam recipe.
Further south to Florida City was my last farm stand of the day, Robert Is Here. This is quite an institution in the area and apparently as been around for its 52nd season! Robert specializes in tropical fruit and I was mesmerized by all the exotic fruits. Some were familiar favourites like mangos, papayas, sugar cane, and coconuts. Others were names I only read about like sapodillas, mamey, and sapote. There were also lots of local citrus to choose from and I bought some lemon for the jam recipe. I enjoyed a sapodillas key lime milkshake which tasted like pear and brown sugar with a hint of tartness. What a treat!
At the end of my long drive back to Fort Lauderdale, I immediately got to work in the kitchen. The berries were sorted, washed, mashed, and infused with mint, black pepper, and lemon juice. The next day, I turned them into my favourite Minty Strawberry Jam with the brightest taste of strawberries and a subtle hint of cool mint. My usual recipe would require the use of red currants to help along with the set. What I found out is that currants are not commercially grown in South Florida. With a little help of Pomona Universal Pectin, this batch of barely cooked jam retain much of the fresh berries flavour. You can find the recipe from Mrs Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen. I absolutely adore the vibrant red colour of this jam!
With only two weeks left of my stay in Fort Lauderdale, I should start thinking about finishing up all the ingredients I purchased. Before I set out for this trip, I never imagined I would have so much fun working and eating all these excellent local fruit and vegetable. These ten jars of strawberry jam and my last batch of marmalade are proofs that eat local can be as rewarding as you make it out to be.
(Originally published at Dessert By Candy)
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