It’s been a tough season for strawberries here in the Northwest. The cold and rainy spring has delayed the season and the berries tend to be smaller and less sweet than usual. However, they still are a treat, a long-awaited treat. They are my husband’s favorite berry and they’re really quite versatile. Once you’ve had your fill of them plain, right out of the green cardboard pint basket there are so many options. And if you’re like me and u-pick them or buy them by the flat you’ll quickly realize there really are only so many berries one can eat in the moment before they spoil.
So, this is what my kitchen counter looked like last week after my first real haul of the season. And I’m going back for more later this week since I don’t yet have my quota for plain, frozen berries, jam, etc.
I make popsicles all summer and usually add a bit of yogurt and honey to any fruit that’s suitable for popsicles (berries, peaches, etc.). The strawberries I picked last week were not very sweet or particularly flavorful so I decided to roast a bunch of them which is what is in the container on the far right of the photo above. Roasting brings out the sweetness in most any fruit or vegetable and strawberries are well-suited to this technique. I spread about 2-3 pints worth out on a sheet pan (cut in half), drizzle them with about one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and about 1/2 cup of sugar (more if you like them sweeter or the berries are particularly tart), toss well and roast at 375 until they are greatly reduced and the juice becomes syrupy. This can take anywhere from 40 – 70 minutes. They are wonderful over ice cream, stirred into yogurt, mixed with other, fresh fruit in a crisp or cobbler, etc. . . .they are quite intense in this preparation so can go along way.
Baking with strawberries is a bit trickier than other berries. They don’t hold up so well and tend to lose their punch. As you might recall from my wedding cake adventures last summer, creating a concentrated, stable strawberry filling was quite the task. So I was delighted to find this simple strawberry cake recipe on smittenkitchen this spring and have been enjoying it immensely. It’s quick, beautiful and delicious. I have adapted it only in two small ways. I reduce the amount of sugar in the batter to 3/4 cup and I add 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom and 1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper to the batter–Makes for a slightly more mysterious cake. And if you’re feeling really adventurous add a little Kirsch to your whipped cream.
And if you really find yourself in a time crunch and need to process berries just freeze them whole in containers or bags. In mid-winter those berries are perfect in a bowl of steaming steel cut oats.