In just a few days it really will be summer, but I can feel it in the air already. School is winding down, and that seems to take me back to childhood, when those days were the early indicators of summer’s joyous arrival. We are still running on a schedule, but the looseness beckons. The long days are no longer bewildering–we are happy to stay outside until the orange and pink clouds cross the sky, and the blue deepens and darkens. And when I look out my open bedroom window at night to smell the warm air, there are fireflies everywhere: low to the grass, high up in the trees, dancing across the yard, in the garden, in the inky forest across the street. Summer is here.
The strawberries are here, too. They’ve been here a while really, but now is the time to get their full effect. Is there anything so fragrant as freshly picked strawberries? As I drove home with two flats in the back–about 35 pounds–the smell continuously wafted up to me. There’s something so pure and straightforward about the strawberry. I love pickled strawberries, and roasting strawberries is swell, but is there anything so nice as just-made strawberry preserves? I like to keep the strawberries whole, but mash them a little as they cook. They foam up like crazy in the pot, but it never seems to stick around. Every book will tell you to skim the foam like mad, but I don’t, and it just disappears. The preserves smell so rich, buttery, but I don’t put butter in my preserves either, which some folks like to do to keep the foaming down. I just watch it, so it doesn’t overflow because no one needs strawberry syrup all over their stove. Believe me, I know.
This strawberry season I put a lot of strawberries in my salads. The little ones from the garden were perfect for that, as they are more tart than sweet. I have been keeping a glass bowl filled with the bigger ones in the fridge, hulled and halved, macerating in sugar. A bowl of that is the perfect dessert. And if you are feeling extra fancy, make some coconut whipped cream to put on top of it. The syrup– if it’s not slurped up by a small child–is especially good in a tall glass of cold lemonade. It’s so nice to sit on the porch, prepping strawberries while drinking a chilled glass of rosé (that has a nose of wild strawberries itself), knowing that summer is on your doorstep.