So many posts about strawberries just now - and why not? Nothing else shouts "Summer!" quite like these shiny scarlet jewels. Punnets of local strawberries are piled on counters in many of the shops and petrol stations just now, and its a very rare trip that sees me return without one or two of the fragrant packages in my bag.
And so, several times a week I find myself with strawberries draining in the sink. What to do with all this delicious bounty?
Well, you can't really have too many strawberries and cream - probably our favourite way to eat the ripe lucious fruits just now. I like to macerate them in a spoonful of caster sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar. It really seems to bring out the sweetness even more, and then, smothered with double cream - or perhaps even ice cream, it is truly the taste of summer.
Then, of course, there is strawberry jam. I like to make a few small batches each year - most gets eaten or given away, but keeping a couple of jars to open in the depths of winter is a treat. I tried a new method of jam making this time, but I need to warn you in advance that it takes 3 days - a small amount of stirring and boiling and lots of leaving covered with a cloth. Anyway, I used 2 kg of berries and 2 kg jam sugar*
Rinse and hull the strawberries, but leave whole
Place berries in a large bowl, and layer up with the sugar.
Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave until next day.
The sugar will have begun to dissolve and the strawberries will have softened.
Empty the contents of the bowl into a preserving pan and heat until the sugar is dissolved.
Turn up the heat and boil hard for 5 minutes
Put the contents back into the bowl, cover and leave for 48 hours.
transfer back to pan and bring back to boil until setting point is reached - about 10-20 minutes.
Keep checking for setting point, as you don't want the fruit to be hard. I usually use the chilled saucer method: drop a dollop onto a chilled plate, wait a minute or two then push to see if it wrinkles. if it does then its ready. Or, if the jam falls off the spoon in large flakes, then it is at setting point.
Leave in the pan for 15 - 20 minutes, to allow the fruit to settle, then pot into warm sterilised jars.
What else is there to say.... just enjoy!
Strawberry and mint ice pop? Go on... it's a lovely day. Take 5 sprigs of mint, 150 g caster sugar, half a lemon and 700 ml water. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn down heat, add 500g strawberries and 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid. Simmer until the strawberries are soft. Remove pan from heat, cover with a cloth and leave to cool overnight. Strain the liquor - push as much of the strawberries through the sieve as you can, but remove the mint and lemon. Freeze in ice lolly moulds, or you can decant into sterilised bottles and keep in the fridge to use for future popsicles, or as a syrup base for drinks, ice cream drizzles or mixed into yogurt.
Maybe even crush one of your ice pops up and mix with a splash of Bacardi and soda water for a refreshing strawberry mint daiquiri. Definitely a recommendation, that one.
Or, just maybe, you could eat them straight as they come.
Hope you are enjoying the season. xxx
*I used jam sugar with added pectin.