There is nothing like Michigan in the summer. We have everything from beautiful lakes and beaches, tons of outdoor activities, wine trails, breweries, and fruit. One of our favorite things to do is taking a Fruit-Venture day trip.
Although Covid-19 has changed those outings a bit, we are still able to social distance and enjoy the bountiful Michigan fruits as they come into season. Some places are limiting U-Pick this year and others are not. It’s best to follow your favorite sites to keep up with their 2020 plan.
Strawberries were hard to get in lower Michigan this year. For me, fruit harvests are something I do every year. With more people at home because of Covid-19, there were more people looking for activities like strawberry picking. The farms would sell out right after opening and the berries were only available for a short window. I was sad that I only managed to get a quart from a local stand and never made it to the fields.
Because July 4th fell on a Saturday, my husband and I both had Friday the 5th off of work. It was the first weekend of the Southwest Michigan cherry season! Cherry picking is a road trip we make each year. It’s a gorgeous 2 hour drive straight across the state to our favorite fruit destination. We drove out that Friday and picked over 6 pounds of sour pie cherries and about 2 and a half pounds of dark sweet cherries. The trees were full and it didn’t take too long, which is good because it was a very hot day.
If you are looking for a solid pie recipe, I prefer Martha Stewart recipes for most fruit pies. One tip though, I generally add 1.5 x the original amount of extra cornstarch the recipe calls for. I like my pies to set nicely and not run everywhere when you cut them. Fresh fruit can be VERY juicy!
Since the farm is located right in the middle of a Michigan wine trail, we usually make a stop or two and then grab a nice lunch somewhere along the way home. With Covid-19 this year, we decided to keep it simple. We did find a local spot with a patio where we could socially distance for lunch. We also stopped on the way home at one of our favorite breweries because they have a sprawling outdoor beer garden. The tables are already well spread out there, but since it was a Friday afternoon, there were literally only 2 other groups out there. The perfect place for an appetizer and a pint.
Last week was the first week of Blueberry season. Our favorite spot to get them is Leduc’s in Paw Paw. Since they were open on Sunday, we decided to make a day of it. We stopped 2/3 of the way there to pick up our daughter and her fella and made it a family Fruit-Venture. She and I got to catch up during the remainder of the drive which is always a plus.
As you are approaching the area where Leduc’s is located there are fields and fields of blueberries. It’s awesome to see. The building is just a large pole barn with an ice cream and pastry section, gift shop, and a counter where you check out and get your blueberries.
U-pick was not an option this year. I often get 15 pounds of blueberries, but this year cut back to 10 pounds. I used to take a container to work and eat them either with oatmeal or yogurt every day. Great portable breakfast snacks. Working from home now has changed my breakfast routine since I have more options available to me and have eaten a few less blueberries than usual. Traditionally, I make 2 pies (1 to eat now and 1 to freeze for later) then flash freeze and pack the remainder in quart size freezer bags. They freeze so well.
Although the blueberries are obviously the star of the show, we always look forward to some blueberry ice cream! It is the best! Sometimes we come away with a few blueberry donuts or a blueberry scone as well. I really love coming here!
Flash Freezing Blueberries
Rinse your fruit and let dry completely. Arrange fruit in a single layer on a heavy metal sheet pan with sides and place the pan in the freezer. I generally freeze the berries for at least 20 minutes before transferring to quart sized freezer bags. Make sure to leave a little headspace in the bag and squeeze out all the excess air when sealing.
Freezing for Pie
Last year I assembled a whole pie in the crust using a disposable metal pan and flash froze it for an hour. I then wrapped the entire pie in waxed paper (to avoid freezer burn) and placed it in a large freezer bag. When I was ready to bake it, I thawed the pie for 3 to 4 hours then baked it as per usual. This was an experiment for me and I was pleased that it came out just as if I had baked it fresh. You can also just mix up and freeze the filling. I did that this year with my extra cherry pie filling.
Although we could get plenty of fruit from local area Farmer’s Markets, there is just something fun about going out to the field or farm to get it. Don’t worry, there is still plenty of season left to get some fruit and u-picking is a great social distance activity. Check your local area for the next fruit that will be coming into season and plan a little day trip Fruit-Venture! Make sure to add some activities like dining, a scenic hike or a brewery stop to make your day trip more fun.
For us, peaches are up next!
Dream, Plan, Save, Adventure! Even if it IS just a Fruit-Venture for now.