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Fresh spring greens make us happy because we see them as signs that winter is over, but it’s the arrival of strawberries that really gets us going. They tell us that warm weather is here to stay and summer is near. This message is especially clear if you buy locally grown berries. Their taste is wonderful! Strawberries thrive in almost all climates and freshly picked are so different than the ‘plastic’ transported ones market-available all year. If you can’t get to a farm or farm market, most food stores run specials on ‘local’ ones at this time.

I was lucky when my children were young, because we lived close enough to the country to have farms with ‘Pick your own’ policies a short drive away. Taking the kids out to the fields gave them a way to use that end-of-school-year energy and desire to ‘be free’ as well as safely satisfy the annual summer urge to explore and forage, with the added bonus of tasty rewards.

We would bring ‘our bounty’ home, often a couple of pails full, hulling and eating our fill that day but the problem was keeping the rest edible and for how long? This is a problem whether you have access to farm produce or simply want to take advantage of seasonal sales.

As I’ve often said, my Mother was expert at freezing all kinds of berries. I’m not! I’m all about avoiding waste by finding ways to use the berries, especially those of ‘lesser’ quality by discovering recipes to preserve them for future enjoyment or by making them quickly ready for future preparations.

I learned that the simplest, least space consuming way to preserve berries is to puree and freeze them, for me, in 1 cup freezer containers or bags. I cover the puree in containers with plastic wrap and press the air out of the bags to prevent ice crystals from forming and liquefying the contents. Later, I can thaw it and add it directly to recipes like soufflés, or make a sauce for a tart by cooking it with cornstarch and covering transported, available off-season berries, thus giving them the special taste of ‘Fresh Spring ‘strawberries ‘. There are lots of options for desserts all year, and trust me, they’re show stoppers for every dinner from New Year’s on.

Of the recipes below, only the first, Strawberries Romanoff, requires fresh berries, and truly shines with the fresh field-picked ones. But hey, it’s the season! The tart is also better with fresh berries, but, as explained, can be made later in the year. The Strawberry Preserves, which will last for many months, are an easy way to use up excess or damaged berries. The Soufflé and Mousse recipes are great with fresh berries, but do equally well with thawed, pureed ones. The ice is a done deal, but don’t try to substitute it for the puree. It contains far too much water!

All these recipes seem impressive, but are really easy to make. Give them a try and really enjoy strawberries this year—all year!

Strawberries Romanoff: Serves 6-8 A traditional, elegant dessert, but so easy it seems like cheating.
2 pts. Ripe strawberries
2 cups + 2 Tbs. sugar
1/3cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau
Peel of 1 orange- with no pith attached, in thin 1 inch long strips
¾ cup heavy cream
Wash, hull and dry the berries; place in a bowl with 2 cups sugar, orange peel and liqueur. Stir gently and refrigerate for several hours. Whip the cream with the 2 Tbs. sugar and chill. Serve berries in individual dessert dishes and pass the cream on the side.

Glazed Strawberry Tart: (1) 9 inch cooked tart shell or (6) 2 ½ inch tart shells
6 cups washed and hulled strawberries—divided in 2 parts= 3cups of the best berries and 3 cups regular
1/3 cup sugar
1Tbs. lemon juice
Drop+ red food coloring—as needed to give a rich color
Arrange the 3 cups of the best berries in the pastry shells and mash the others well. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing down to release juice. Cook the juice with the other ingredients over low heat until they form a thick, clear sauce. When slightly cool, pour the sauce over the berries in the shells. Serve chilled, optionally with whipped cream.
NOTE: See tip above for using this recipe all year

6 Minute Preserves: Yields 5-6 cups preserves- A simple colonial recipe that still works
6 cups strawberries- hulled
6 cups sugar
4-6 Tbs. lemon juice
Wash the berries by placing in a colander and dunking up and down in a large pot of water. Do not let water run over the berries. Place the colander in a large container and cover with boiling water and let stand 1 min. then drain well. This allows the berries to absorb the sugar. Place the berries in a 6-8 quart kettle with half the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a rolling boil, one that can’t be stirred down and cook 3 min. Remove pot and skim. Add the rest of the sugar, repeat the process. Remove from the heat and allow to stand overnight, occasionally pushing the berries down into the syrup. If the growing season was rainy, or the syrup seems too thin, boil again for 1-2 min. When completely cool, seal in sterilized jars or paraffin covered jelly jars. Keeps for months in a cupboard

Strawberry Souffle: Serves 6 -This is really a cinch, but very impressive.
1 pt. berries
8 eggs separated
½ cup + 1/3 cup sugar
½ lemon –juiced
1 Tbs. Cointreau – optional
Butter to grease the soufflé dishes
Powdered sugar for garnish
Wash, hull and drain the berries and process to a fine puree. Scrape the puree into a bowl. Add the egg yolks, ½ cup sugar, liqueur and beat thoroughly until light and fluffy. With clean, dry beaters whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the yolk mixture. Spoon mix into 6 well-greased soufflé dishes and place on a baking sheet in a pre-heated 450 deg.oven Bake 7 min. reduce heat to 425 deg. and bake 7 min. more. Serve hot garnished with powdered sugar.

Strawberry Mousse: Serves 6-8 Better than ice cream because it’s all natural
1 quart strawberries-washed and hulled
1 pt. heavy cream – whipped
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. salt
Add sugar to the berries, let stand 1 hr. and mash well. Whip cream with vanilla and gently stir into berries along with salt. Pour into freezer containers or into a mold and cover bottoms with a piece of lightly oiled waxed paper. The cream tends to form a dry crust when frozen. If using a mold, rinse with water firs, but don’t dry it out. This makes unmolding easier. Freeze at least 4-6 hr. preferably longer. Will keep for weeks.

Strawberry Ice: Serves 6-8 Great to have on hand for a quick ‘dessert fix’
2 quarts strawberries- washed and hulled
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 Tbs. lemon juice
Puree the berries. The yield should be about 2 cups. Boil the water with the sugar until it dissolves, then cool. Mix all the ingredients, beat well and pour into a covered freezer container. Freeze until slushy, a few hours, turn out into a bowl and beat again. Return to container and freeze until firm. Keeps as long as commercial ice cream. Very good with meringues or a whipped topping.


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