- Susan Norton
Some foods never overstay their welcome. People may tire of beets or green beans or the endless zucchini that become baseball bats in many a home garden. But strawberries? These delectable members of the rose family are eternally enticing.
Local crops were delayed a few weeks by the cold, wet spring, so the season is just starting.
Although it's entirely possible to eat pounds of fresh strawberries out of hand or in classic preparations such as shortcake, why not try a new twist on an old favorite? Here's a mini guide to foods that pair well with the ruby fruit, plus a few recipes to kick-start your culinary creativity.
Most of us know instinctively that some foods taste better together than others. For instance, imagine eating a piece of chocolate-dipped mango. Now, imagine eating a piece of chocolate-covered pickled herring. Sorry about that, but you get the idea. Here are things that go particularly well with strawberries.
- Dairy products: heavy cream, cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, ice cream, chèvre, other soft cheeses
- Herbs and spices: basil, rosemary, mint, cilantro, tarragon, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger
- Other fruits: lemon, orange, rhubarb, bananas, most berries, mango, coconut
- Vegetables: lettuce, spinach, arugula, microgreens, tomatoes, fennel, celery
- Miscellaneous: balsamic vinegar, chocolate, sparkling wines, honey, maple syrup, hazelnuts, almonds, olive oil, rose water, vanilla, scallops
Strawberries Outside the Box
Each recipe will vary depending on the berries' sweetness and water content. If they're perfectly sweet, you won't need to add much sugar. If they're watery, you might need less liquid. Assess taste and consistency at every turn to create something you'll really enjoy.
Strawberry-Basil Soda Syrup
- In a small saucepan, combine equal parts water and sugar — at least 1 cup of each. Add a small handful of strawberries that have been cleaned, hulled and cut in half.
- Simmer until the liquid thickens and reaches the consistency of syrup. (Start checking it after 10 minutes. The goal is to simmer until it coats the back of a spoon.)
- Just as you turn off the heat, add a few whole basil leaves.
- Let steep until the liquid reaches room temperature.
- Pour through a strainer to remove the strawberry pulp and basil leaves. (Feel free to eat this mixture. You could chop it and stir it into some yogurt or purée it into your next smoothie).
- Add a few tablespoons of the syrup to seltzer for a refreshing soda, or stir it into mixed drinks. It pairs well with vodka, white rum and gin.
This is a variation on Strawberry-Basil Soda Syrup. The difference is that you're introducing an acidic ingredient to create a savory sauce that can be drizzled over scallops, meats or cheeses; used in place of half of the vinegar in salad dressing; or turned into a mignonette sauce for oysters with the addition of minced shallots and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Combine equal parts vinegar and water with a half part of sugar (for example, 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water and ½ cup sugar).
- Add a handful of strawberries and cook to the consistency of syrup.
- Let cool, strain and taste.
- Add salt, pepper and/or other spices as desired.
- Juice a lemon into a small bowl. Into the juice, place a handful of Flame raisins. Add water or vinegar until the raisins are just covered. Let them sit for a few minutes to rehydrate.
- Chop one large onion and a few cloves of garlic. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan and gently cook the alliums until they're translucent and tender.
- Grate in some fresh ginger, then add the raisins, the soaking liquid, and sprinkles of salt, cinnamon, chile powder, black pepper and cardamom (optional).
- Stir in approximately 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Simmer until the liquid is mostly cooked off.
- Add a few cups of strawberries that have been washed, hulled and chopped. Cook until the strawberries are just soft but still hold their shape.
- Stir in minced cilantro leaves and/or mint.
- Taste your chutney. Do you like it? Does it need more salt, sugar or vinegar? Can you taste the spices? Make it delicious!
- Serve with soft, bloomy rind cheeses or over meat or fish.
Strawberry Cream Soup
- Using a blender or an immersion blender, purée 1 pound of strawberries, 1 cup of half-and-half, 1 cup of sour cream and ¼ cup of maple syrup. (Two cups of yogurt could be substituted for the dairy.)
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Taste the soup. Do you want to add seasonings, such as cardamom or rose water? Does the soup need to be sweeter? Does it need more salt to bring out the other flavors? Tweak it until it makes you happy.
- If it's a hot day, try freezing the soup in Popsicle molds.
Strawberry and Rosé Wine Jam
- Make a refrigerator strawberry jam by combining approximately 2 pounds of strawberries that have been washed, hulled and chopped; 2 cups of sugar; and ¼ cup of rosé. Cook until thick.
- Suzanne Podhaizer
If you're itching to go berry picking, you're just in time. Cold, rainy weather has delayed crops in northern Vermont, so pick-your-own options start this week at a few farms and next week at others. Look for berries at farm stands and farmers markets, as well as in store.
Strawberry size and sugar content may vary more widely this year than usual. Some growers report large fruits that they expect will sweeten nicely in the warmth and sunshine. Others report smaller berries that are already ripening and may be tart for lack of sun.
Here's the latest from a few area farms, but calling your favorite is the best way to learn what's what.
Hartshorn Organic Farm, Waitsfield, 279-8054: Pick-your-own starts this week.
Sam Mazza's Farm Market, Bakery & Greenhouses, Colchester, 655-3440: 22nd Annual Strawberry Festival has been rescheduled for Saturday, June 24. Pre-picked berries are available this weekend; pick-your-own begins next week.
Last Resort Farm, Bristol, 453-2847: Pick-your-own organic strawberries begins approximately June 17.
Full Belly Farm, Hinesburg (formerly Norris Berry Farm), 453-3793: Pre-picked strawberries are available this week; pick-your-own begins next week.
Adam's Berry Farm, Charlotte, 578-9093: Pre-picked organic strawberries will soon be available at the farm and in stores; no pick-your-own. Contact farm for pick-your-own raspberries, starting in July.
Cedar Circle Farm, East Thetford, 785-4737: Pre-picked organic berries are available now; pick-your-own begins next week.