How best to celebrate the beginning of the strawberry season? It’s the first true fruit of the season here, so people do celebrate. I mean, I love my rhubarb, but it is a vegetable. However, we must note that a strawberry is “not a botanical berry, but an aggregate accessory fruit,”or so says Wikipedia. Have you ever pondered why a strawberry is called a strawberry? It’s a fun research topic, but not very definitive so I’ll let you suss that one our for yourself. I had never asked that question before!
As I sit and ponder the wealth of strawberries headed my way, I wonder what my favorite things to do with them are. As you hone your preserving skills, you find that making certain things are requirements. Of course, there is always room for experimentation, although I honestly think the best ways to eat strawberries are the most unadorned ones.
Strawberries sliced and sprinkled with sugar is one of my favorite things, and I’m sure yours. I used to love sitting on the porch of my childhood home eating a large bowl of strawberries like this, counting the days until summer vacation in my head. These days I like to add a little liqueur drizzled on them. Or how about some good balsamic? Serve the sliced strawberries on their own, or with crème fraiche. Or ice cream. Or biscuits. Or cake.
As far as preserving goes, aside from freezing lots for smoothies over the winter, I think my favorite thing to do with my garden strawberries is to make a small batch of plain jam with it: simple, low sugar, with Pomona’s pectin. It’s a favorite with the peanut butter and jelly set. I love a syrupy strawberry jam made the old fashioned way, but I have really come to appreciate the fresh taste that the Pomona’s pectin brings out in the strawberries. Strawberry jam does tend to lose it color very quickly, so I learned from my pal Shae at Hitchhiking to Heaven to put a touch of citric acid in to keep things bright.
But is that too dull of me? Just jam and fresh eating? I am always so hesitant to roast strawberries because, well, why? But Winnie at Healthy Green Kitchen makes such a strong case for it, I might just take her advice this year.
Remember those pickled strawberries from Food In Jars I talked about? That was an experiment gone right. I was chatting with Michele from Cider and Rye (who has a beautiful Meringue Cake with strawberries here, speaking of which) about pairing a gin I had just bought (Half Moon Orchard Gin from local Tuthilltown Spirits) with strawberries, in particular pickled ones. Jayme was one step ahead of us and had already posted her take on it at Holly and Flora. She also has the recipe for the pickled strawberries posted. The cocktail is so incredibly good–a little salty, sweet and goes perfect with a gin that’s not heavy on the botanicals.
I loved drinking the leftover brine with bubbly water, so maybe this year a strawberry shrub is in order. Or just plain strawberry vinegar? Although, my vinegar holds are multiplying rapidly. How about a strawberry wine or liqueur? Ice pops?
I’m also taking some inspiration from this small booklet from Short Stack, Strawberries by Susan Spungen. It’s a sweet little book filled with strawberry goodness. So glad a friend of mine sent me this!
Soon I’ll be heading to both Thompson Finch Farms, who grow amazing organic strawberries with a devoted following. I also like to visit Greig Farms, which is a little closer to me, who have beautiful no-spray strawberries. There is nothing more idyllic to me than kneeling in the fields next to buckets of juicy red strawberries, the hot sun above, bees buzzing by, my son running up and down the rows. A sun-warmed strawberry has a special place in my heart.