Tag Archives: strawberries

Strawberry Kisses Part 3

Misty morning

At three am I woke to the smell of strawberry air. The gentle, soft essence of strawberries was coming from the kitchen. Not the fake, nasty chemical version you find in lip balms, candles or air fresheners, which in my opinion doesn’t have the remotest connection to a true strawberry, but rather the air in my house was filled with scent of real strawberries because I was making Strawberry Chips, and they take all night to make. Our neighbor Joyce had loaned us her dehydrator and I was trying my hand at preserving strawberries in a slightly different way than the strawberry fruit leather I made in my last post.

Strawberries

 

I’d eaten dehydrated and dried fruit before, but I had never actually encountered a dehydrator in person. They’re huge! Most of my kitchen equipment is the size of a baby, while this sucker was the size of a large toddler. And Joyce’s dehydrator is jacked up like the kitchen equivalent of a monster truck with so many extra tiers it may require a special license to operate. I ended up setting the dehydrator on a card table rather than on my kitchen counter since I wasn’t sure how much clearance the machine would need.

Stacking the dehydrator with strawberries

Before you can turn it on you have to get the food into similar sizes. Dehydrators do the work of sucking most of the moisture out of whatever food you put in them, but they don’t prep it for you. That’s just a lot of old-fashioned slicing and dicing. My husband told me Joyce cuts her fruit with a mandoline to get even slices (which theoretically would then have similar drying times), which makes total sense because Joyce is a physicist and does things scientifically. I chose to go rogue and cut my strawberries by hand. I’m such a wild thing. She also recommended a longer drying time at a lower temperature to preserve more of the vitamins. I did follow that suggestion, which is why I woke up at three am smelling strawberry air.

Strawberries in dehydrator

Before you decide to borrow your neighbor’s dehydrator I need to tell you that strawberry chips are the fruit equivalent of crack cocaine. You will become addicted to them. The good news is there are no withdrawal symptoms, well until strawberry season ends and you realize there are only strawberries from California or Florida to dehydrate and you go nuts and decide to plow under your entire lawn so you can plant every inch of your yard in strawberries. Not that you actually do it, but the lack of more local berries to dehydrate makes you seriously consider the option for a minute or two. I’m just warning you.

Dehydrated strawberries

Strawberry Chips

There is not a whole lot of recipe here. Take 2-4 quarts of strawberries, depending on how many tiers your dehydrator has, and after removing the stems slice them into 1/4 inch pieces. On my second batch I threw the outer slices into a bag which went into the freezer for smoothies, since the outer pieces seemed to dehydrate at a different rate than the inner pieces. You could slice horizontally or vertically – your choice depending on if you want circles or strawberry shapes, I chose the latter. Dehydrate on the low end of the spectrum, 105 – 115ºF for 12-14 hours depending on how juicy your strawberries are. When cool, store in small batches in baggies with the air sucked out.

If you’d rather not go to all the effort of sucking the moisture out of your strawberries you can enjoy them the old fashioned way which my friend Jane Lear did with her husband in this post. Or you can do what Shawn and I did last week when the kids were out one evening with friends. We just opened a chilled bottle of Prosecco and ate a bowl of strawberries au naturel as we sipped our bubbly.

Strawberries and champagne

 

Here are links for Strawberry Kisses Part 1 and Strawberry Kisses Part 2.

4 Comments

Filed under 50 Recipes

Strawberry Kisses part 2

Strawberry rollup lineup

The remnants of tropical storm Arthur, formerly known as Hurricane Arthur, put a damper on the beginning of the July 4th holiday weekend strawberry picking. Strangely nobody wants to pick their own strawberries during a thunderstorm. Where is their sense of adventure? Oh, they’re more concerned with safety. Once the storm blew through the skies cleared up and the harvest resumed. Inspired by my tinkering with some strawberry fruit leather last week Strawberry Boy and Strawberry Girl both came home with brimming boxes of strawberries and I went back to the kitchen.

Strawberry Boy

I love the idea of fruit leather since it is the distilled essence of fruit. Strawberries, a spoonful of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, boiled down to a thick paste and then spread onto baking sheets and popped in a very low oven while more of the moisture evaporates. As if you could concentrate a strawberry’s soul. What you buy in the store is like a third cousin twice removed compared with what you can make at home. The two big differences between home-made and commercially made are no artificial preservatives and tons less sugar. Without all those preservatives I wondered how long the fruit leather would last, but then I watched the kids snorffle up strip after strip and realized it wasn’t going to last long enough to bother worrying about it. So I got on with making more and if you still have strawberries in your area I suggest you try these as well.

Whizzing up strawberry goo

A couple of things I noticed as I made batch after batch

  • You want to make sure the strawberry goo you cook down isn’t too thick or thin
  • If you make a 12″ x 18″ jelly roll pan it takes a really long time for the center to dry
  • Cutting the fruit leather is very sticky so try using a pizza wheel or really good pair of  kitchen scissors

Strawberry goo

Strawberry Fruit Leather

4 cups pureed strawberries (about a quart and a half)

4-6 Tablespoons sugar

1-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

You can puree the strawberries in a blender, food processor or juice machine. The idea is to have absolutely no lumps. If you want to make seedless fruit leather strain the strawberry juice through a very fine sieve at this point. We didn’t bother. Pour the strawberry juice into a wide saucepan or jelly pot and add the sugar and lemon juice to taste. Simmer 40-55 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture has reduced to approximately 2 cups or half of whatever you started with*. While the juice is cooking down prepare a jelly roll pan with a silpat mat or piece of parchment paper. If you cook the strawberry juice so that it is too thick you won’t be able to spread it evenly on the jelly roll pan. If you make it too thin it will run to the edges of the silpat mat or parchment paper and seep underneath. When you get the right ratio you will be able to tilt the pan and have the strawberry goo flow to cover the mat, stopping short of the edges by about 1/2″.

Pop the jelly roll pan into a preheated oven set to its lowest setting (mine went down to 170°F) somewhere between 150-200°F. Bake for 3-6 hours depending on your oven temperature until the entire surface of the fruit leather is dry enough to touch without any sticking to your fingers. Every so often turn the pan front to back  since most ovens have hot spots.

Let cool, transfer fruit leather to a piece of parchment (if you baked it on a silpat mat) then cut into strips. Roll up parchment and fruit strips into little logs and secure with a piece of tape or a rubber band. Store in a bag in the fridge.

 

Too thick and just right

The top batch was too thick to spread evenly. The bottom batch was just right.

Strawberry fruit leather

 

Strawberry sunshine

 

Strawberry roll ups

* If you stop here you will have an amazing topping for yoghurt or ice cream. You could also drizzle this thickened strawberry goo over pancakes instead of maple syrup.

You can find links for other recipes that go well with strawberries by clicking here. If you want to dehydrate strawberries you can read about that here.

2 Comments

Filed under 50 Recipes

Strawberry Kisses part 1

Straw for the strawberry plants

I think 2014 will be the summer of perspective for my family, me included. One teenager has her driver’s license, but not her own car which means we have to share my car every day. I’m thinking of setting up a calendar just for the Suburu. It also means we’re all very aware the price of gas is hovering around $4/gallon. The flip side of Belle having her license is I don’t have to chauffeur her brother Russell (who only has his permit) around very much, which after sixteen years of driving them around is kind of nice. Then there’s the reality check that if you are juggling summer school, work, homework and trips to the gym you will have approximately zero time for socializing. Or the dismal reality that ER tables are not meant for people who are over 6′ 3″ (don’t ask, I’ll just say it was not at a visit to the ER and nothing is broken just badly bruised). My favorite sliver of family summer perspective came after both kids received their first paycheck. It became clear how how little money you actually make when you work for minimum wage. These aren’t bad lessons, they’re just life lessons.

Strawberries resting on straw

The good news is that both teens have jobs at a local strawberry farm. The better news is that with the cooler-than-usual spring weather strawberry season is running a few weeks late. So despite it being early July there are still two more weeks of strawberry season to go! Plus we now have two strawberry experts in the family. Did you know strawberries can get sunburnt? I had no idea but I’m not sharing my sunscreen. They have more vitamin C than an orange which is a factoid the citrus growers don’t share with you. Plus there are roughly 200 seeds on each strawberry. Who knew? Or more to the point, who counted?

Strawberries for sale

My favorite statistic was hearing what  people plan to do with the strawberries they pick on this farm. Ninety-eight percent of them say they plan to make either strawberry shortcake, strawberry jam or freeze them. So I decided I would spend the remaining weeks of strawberry season coming up with some other things to do with strawberries, though all three of those methods are great ways to use the season’s bounty.

Strawberry Girll
There is just one little problem. I keep eating whatever I make with strawberries before I can reach for my camera. They are just that good. Grammy Caldwell would approve because these strawberries are red all the way through, not just on the outside. Since I am hanging my head in shame for my strawberry hoovering tendencies I am going to instead direct you to the half dozen tried-and-true recipes featuring strawberries below.

  1. Crêpes with strawberries & a sprinkle of sugar or honey
  2. Macerated strawberries on Angel Food Cake
  3. Strawberry juice mixed with stewed rhubarb juice for astrawberry-rhubarb Quarantine Cocktail
  4. Jessica’s Silver Dollar Pancakes topped with strawberries
  5. Fruit Smoothies with bananas, strawberries and orange juice
  6. Chocolate cake with strawberries, raspberry jam and chocolate ganache

Flat of strawberries

 

I’ll try to grab my camera sooner when strawberry boy and strawberry girl bring home their next batch of just picked berries.

You can read about the strawberry fruit leather I made here and the strawberry chips here.

 

4 Comments

Filed under 50 Recipes

It’s Back!

It’s that time of year.

I found the Holy Trinity of Fruit – strawberriesblueberries, and raspberries at the farmer’s market today. Get all three while you can at a farmer stand near you. I think I need to make some angel food cake or perhaps roll a ball of ice cream*.

"holy trinity of fruit"

*Last week on Cape Cod we enjoyed lobster and home made ice cream which we made in our ice cream ball. There is no paddle so the ice cream can be a little soft, but it is divine and a whole lot of fun to make. Simply load up your ingredients, screw on the lid, add ice and rock salt to the other end and toss around. We made coffee, but for the Holy Trinity I would make vanilla.

"Lobster on the Cape"

"ice cream ball"

1 Comment

Filed under In between