As harvest season is quickly approaching, my friends down south have started making plans (and some have even made reservations!) to drive their children to faraway farms for the opportunity to pluck apples straight from the trees.
Tickets to these “you pick” farms are sometimes expensive, and are always in high demand, as parents around the country plan outfits and hairstyles for photo ops with their children amongst the pumpkins and hay.
For many, the hassle and expense are too much to pay in exchange for some fruit and a family photo, but we are lucky enough to have a charming farm right here in Nikiski, far away from the crowds and overdressed influencers with their camera crews. We visited O’Brien’s Garden and Trees this past Thursday and came back with an abundance of fruit and berry-stained children.
Their strawberries are particularly beautiful and bountiful this year. They inspired me to make a drink I used to buy as a snack on my way home from school in Seoul: strawberry milk.
This version isn’t like the Nesquik strawberry milk you might be thinking of. It isn’t nearly as sweet and contains whole chunks of strawberries instead of being completely smooth. Some of us may not enjoy drinking a beverage with floating chunks and various textures (not a single empty glass on the kids’ table … ouch), so to make this more universally palatable try adding another couple teaspoons of sugar and blend everything until smooth.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
3 cups fresh local strawberries
4 cups milk (anything but skim — the texture would be too watery)
3 teaspoons sugar or sugar substitute (local honey would be excellent)
Mash or blend 2 cups of the strawberries, add the sugar, and heat until boiling.
Boil until the texture is thick and sticky like syrup, about 7-10 minutes, stirring near constantly to avoid burning.
Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.
While the mash is cooling, cut the remaining strawberries into pea-sized chunks and set aside.
When you are ready to serve, spoon ¼ of the strawberry mash into the bottom of each glass, then slowly and very gently pour the milk on top trying not to mix too much.
Top with the berry chunks and serve with a spoon.
O’Brien’s farm produces a plethora of fruits and vegetables throughout the summer and fall (check their Facebook page for the latest on what’s ripe and ready).
This week we got peaches, plums, so many pie cherries, garlic, and haskaps. We froze most of it to enjoy throughout the year in pies and yogurt parfaits (my little guy has yogurt with local berries for breakfast at least three times a week all year long).
The apples will be ready much later in the fall, but I have already picked my son’s outfit for the all-important and oh-so-cheesy photos my grandma will be wanting to see.
Last year he was in a carrier for our apple picking, and we had to make applesauce for him to eat with his one little nub of a tooth, but this year he will run and hop through the trees and will get to have proper bites of those sun-sweetened apples.
Supporting a local business and a local food producer is a great family tradition, and a great reason for all of us to indulge our inner influencer and take those flannel-clad family photos … just be sure to tag the farm!
Tressa Dale is a U.S. Navy veteran and culinary and pastry school graduate from Anchorage. She currently lives in Nikiski with her husband, 1-year-old son and two black cats.