Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Succulent Strawberries

Last week's newspaper reported that this was a grand year for strawberries. They were delicious and abundant. Oh goody! Fresh strawberries are one of the treats of spring.

My first batch of berries is usually eaten in the simplest possible way: I wash them, place several in a bowl, and then set out a plate containing a small pile of granulated sugar. Holding the berry by its stem, I dip it in the sugar and then eat it. Simple, satisfying, and tasty. My next way of eating is cut up the berries and macerate them with a bit of sugar, some triple sec, and some other berries, such as raspberries and blueberries. Sometimes I mash this up and serve it as a sauce over lemon sherbet.

As the season continues, I tend to branch out a bit. I like to add strawberries to salad, especially salads made with hearty greens such as spinach. I also like to add crushed strawberries to lemonade, partly because I like the look of it. If company is coming, I may make a showy but simple dessert, such as glazed strawberry pie. I generally start with a good purchased pie crust and then go from there. This pie has the advantage of combining fresh berries with cooked, plus a bit of cream cheese.

And let's not forget strawberry jam! Some people avoid making jam, fearing that it is difficult. However, with modern pectin, jam is relatively fool-proof. It's also fun to make. However, it does require some time, and it makes a mess of the kitchen. (I have never owned a magnetic lid-grabber, by the way. I use my washed hands.) I usually cut the sugar a bit and often add a 1/2 cup of blueberries to make the color more interesting. If you want to cut the sugar out entirely, or use a lot less than the recipe calls for, look for the special no-sugar-needed variety.

I package my jam in 8-oz. jelly jars and add pretty labels. If I really want to make a splash, I'll cut out a round of fabric using pinking shears and use this to cover the metal lid. A ribbon will hold it in place. Thus wrapped, jam makes great house gifts if you're visiting friends over the summer.

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