Strawberries in the Kitchen

Strawberries are one of America's favorite fruits and are delicious fresh or cooked. Strawberries can be preserved by freezing or turned into jelly or jam and canned.

Strawberry Pastry

Strawberries stop ripening once picked, so they have a very short shelf life. The best strawberries are smooth and plump with a shiny skin and bright color. The green cap should not be wilted and the berries should be dry and firm with no signs of mold. The berries should not be washed until right before use as any additional moisture will cause them to go bad quickly and will encourage mold growth. Fresh strawberries will store in the refrigerator for about four days.

Fresh strawberries make a great addition to many dishes including green salads, fruit salads, and cold or hot cereal dishes. Fresh strawberries can also be used to make a strawberry vinaigrette by mixing a handful of strawberries with a cup of olive oil, cups of water, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. For a romantic dessert, fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate or fresh strawberries and cream are simple and tasty.

Macerated fresh strawberries can be used as a topping for strawberry shortcake or as a topping for pancakes, waffles, or ice cream. To macerate strawberries, cut them in halves or slices and add 3 tablespoons sugar per pint. For an adult version, Cointreau, Grand Marnier or another favorite liqueur can be added at about 2 tablespoons per pint. Mix the ingredients until the sugar dissolves and allow to sit for about an hour for the strawberries to develop their juices.

To store strawberries for a longer time they can be frozen. To freeze strawberries they must first be washed and dried and de-stemmed. Once the strawberries are dry they can be arranged in a single layer on a cookie sheet and placed in the freezer. Once frozen they can be placed in a freezer bag. By following this method the berries will not be stuck together and the berries can be retrieved from the bag in the needed amounts. Once frozen, strawberries lose their form as they are thawed, so they should be used in recipes that call for cooked strawberries such as strawberry pie or cobbler. They can also be added to pancake or waffle batter. Frozen strawberries can be macerated for use as a topping, but since they will not be firm, blending them into a sauce may be preferable. Frozen strawberries can be used in smoothies.

A fresh strawberry pie can be made by making a thickened sauce from heated macerated berries (and corn starch) and mixing it with fresh strawberries. Pour the mixture into a cooked pie crust and chill for three hours.

Strawberries can also be preserved by turning them into jam or jelly. To make a quick strawberry jam, mash two pints of strawberries in a sauce pan and bring them to a simmer, adding 1 to 2 cups of sugar depending on taste. Stir until the sugar dissolves and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently until the mixture begins to get thick and then add to sterilized jelly jars and seal with lids and bands. The mixture will thicken and set as it cools.

<< How to Grow Strawberries | Fun Facts >>

Resources:

Vegetarian Perspective: Strawberry Vinaigrette
Vegetarians in Paradise: Taming the Wild Strawberry
University of Illinois: Strawberries and More

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