Picking strawberries is a seasonal ritual
I’m standing in rows of red ripe strawberries. The surrounding fields are green and coral where young barley sways in the breeze. I hear people’s voices, some I recognize, most I don’t. It’s the regular strawberry talk — people joking about having to stand on a scale to pay on the way out. The endless comparisons to last year’s berries — these are sweeter or those were better. The warning from Grandma to stop eating all her berries.
It all retreats to a hum. In fact, there is a real hum as the farm’s honey bees hover on the nearby blueberry blossoms. Berry picking is a seasonal ritual. Each Summer, we begin with the strawberries and work through raspberries, marionberries, loganberries and our favorite the blueberries. We pick and eat, and can or freeze to savour them for breakfast in the quiet days of winter.
I freeze my strawberries as a puree.
We picked 20 lbs of strawberries on Friday. I made strawberry shortcakes today, left a big bowl to eat, and the rest I pureed and froze. I pour the puree into paper cups. When they’re frozen, I pop them out and store four cups per quart Ziploc. I like this method because then I can use the pureed strawberries as needed.
We use the strawberries year round for jam, syrup or smoothies. Monk fruit powder is our sweetener of choice. Sometimes, I add vanilla, balsamic reductions or rhubarb. Yesterday, I made a strawberry banana, vanilla smoothie with coconut milk, so good.
Don’t you love the scent of strawberries? I love the smell of strawberries in a sun-warmed field, and especially rhubarb strawberry pie baking.
Just picked strawberries are sweet and astringent, and they make my mouth pucker.
Strawberries need cream. The mellow cream shows off the sweet astringency, and that’s why they go well with buttery scones.
Stay away from adding too much sugar to strawberries. Use a touch, but more than that hides the berries true flavor.
It’s the color of strawberries that astounds me; that red, so bold, for me?
A strawberry poem
Down on my knees,
looking for strawberries
clustered and red
under the leaves.
Instinctively, I bring
the best berries
into my mouth,
and like a holy child
find love defined
a vital ripe
soul kiss, that becomes sweet
in the sun’s heat.
Flavor affinities to try in strawberry jams, cordials, compotes
Strawberries + balsamic vinegar + black pepper
Strawberry + rhubarb + vanilla bean
Fresh strawberries paired with: strawberries + creme fraiche, strawberries + dry cheeses, Strawberries + rose geraniums. strawberries + green tea. strawberries + mascarpone
Gluten-Free Shortcakes for Strawberries
A short cake deserves to have a delicate flavor, buttery crust, open crumb, moist yet flaky interior. It deserves to hold up to strawberries and whipped cream. It deserves envy and admiration, and this shortcake gets it.
1 1/4 cups gluten-free oatmeal spun in a food processor to a fine meal.
2 cups my all purpose gluten-free mix
1/3 cup coconut sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons)
cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
Lemon or orange zest from one whole lemon or orange
1 cup buttermilk
Directions using a food processor
Spin the oatmeal fine, add all the other dry ingredients to the processor and spin until combined. Add the butter and pulse 8-9 times, or until butter is the size of small peas, don’t overwork it. Empty the food processor bowl into a mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk and mix. Bring together with your hands into a soft dough. Separate into two evenly sized balls.
Flatten each ball into a 7 inch round disk. Cut each disk into 8 pieces. Separate the pieces and chill them in the freezer for ½ hour before baking.
Preheat oven to 425 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Bake the shortcakes for 12 to15 minutes, or until both the tops and bottoms are golden brown. They’re best served warm, layered with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
Speaking of whipped cream
I make whipped coconut cream, in a food processor, by whipping the solids from a can of coconut milk, with a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a touch of stevia or monk fruit. It makes a beautiful topping for the short cakes.