The time has come, my fingertips are tinged scarlet and there will soon be handpie dough resting in the fridge. Spanish cava chills, petite mason jars are unearthed, and inked strips of parchment make their way in and out of the freezer. It’s strawberry season, from my kitchen to yours.
I thought a lot about the taste of strawberries this past week, since my wife and I picked up a half flat (aka 6 pints’ worth) of local strawberries from the Montavilla Farmers Market. There were two farms with strawbs, the beloved “first fruit of the season”, but we skipped the beautiful, larger ones, opting for the sweet hoods being sold by a family floral farm.
I’m now easily charmed by produce that looks hand-picked out of a garden.
Six pints of strawberries, one Armenian cucumber start for the garden, and that rad Oatly shirt
I confess that I never much cared for strawberry ice cream as a kid (just turn back time and give me the mint chocolate chip or spumoni), but that ode to mellow, just-getting-sweet for the end-of-spring vibe is exactly what these strawberries delivered, in the most legit way possible. They were moist, yet watery, in a GOOD way, with varying deliveries of strawberry jam..iness. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but if you’ve had the pleasantly mild but fresh roasted strawberry sorbet from that ice cream shop with all the branding and fame and related lines, or ever been strawberry picking-and-snacking-as-you-go from a U-Pick farm or garden, you can jive. We have a small patch in our garden this year, and it takes me back to my mom planting strawberry starts in our yard when I must have been around seven. They continued to emerge, slightly less, year after year for a while (technically, it’s usually about 3-5, according to my rough internet research), and thinking about the greenish white berries popping up makes me smile, even now, nearly three decades later.
In a dream that I don’t truly want to actualize at this point in my life, we’d have gone strawberry bonanza with a full flat, fuller bellies and a second freezer packed with frozen berries (Oh, snap! Disclaimer: they’re not really berries! They’re fruit!!) I have to face the music that we live in a one bedroom apartment and my eyes are perpetually bigger than my stomach, plus, the impending awesomeness that will be next week at the market, and the one after that, and hey, there’s summer and salads and pies and fruit kabobs to make happen.
The half flat was plenty, and went a little something like this:
- 1 pint = immediately devoured, duh
- 2 pints = freezing for future smoothies, muffins, pancakes
- 1 pint = chilled for appropriately chill afternoon snacking and Jules' strawberry milk concoction, which is exactly what it sounds like
- 1 pint = macerated with raw sugar and cacao salt for strawberry shortcakes
- 1 pint = macerated with fresh ginger, vanilla and raw sugar for sparkling cocktails
For freezing, I recommend slicing in half, and laying out on a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface in your freezer overnight. A small cookie sheet or plate works. Freeze at least 5-6 hours, until frozen solid, and transfer to a freezer bag or suitable container. Bonus points for writing the date on it to remind yourself to enjoy this when you’re missing the early summer strawbs, or simply when it’s fruity smoothie time. Way more bonus points for admiring the resulting artwork after you’re done.
Personally, I’m looking forward strawberry pancakes with a bit of buckwheat flour worked in for even more contrast.
The ginger-macerated strawberries are easy peasy:
- Slice one pint’s worth of strawberries into rounds, quarters, halves – whatever you would like to see floating in a glass.
- Top with about an inch worth of peeled, thinly sliced fresh ginger, ½ tablespoon of raw sugar, and ⅛ teaspoon of vanilla extract. If you really love ginger, you could grate the chunk with a microplane onto the berries for even more of that ginger heat.
- Let sit 15-20 minutes or so, and then gently stir to meld the flavors.
- Add a spoonful or two – about one strawberry’s worth, making sure to get a wee bit of the juice, to cocktail glasses – and top with bubbles of choice, such as cava or brut (I’d vote a dry one), or even a sparkling rosé or full on mimosa for even more extravagance, or dial it back to refreshing with whatever La Croix or Polar Seltzer is taking up that one shelf in your fridge (and making you fart in your sleep).
Use within 48 hours, ideally. If you're going for wine and aren't sure about vegan-friendliness, do check out Barnivore.
Similarly, you could use these very same ingredients with a different ratio and grain alcohol or high proof vodka to make a strawberry liqueur, or cut the sugar and just get to the vodka infusing.
As for strawberry shortcake construction, I can’t vouch for any of the vegan recipes online because I still have a case of blog burn-out and mild psychological issues that arise when sorting through blogs with smiling faces of beautiful women on the sidebar (no offense, just my nightmares talking here), where my head starts to hurt and I have to exit every window and shut my computer down for a while. Cookbooks are so much more pleasant, and I know from experience that many of mine are legitimately well-tested. That said, I recall that my favorite vegan recipe maker, Isa, had a recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance and if you don’t have that freaking vegan classic, you can find this recipe online, so let’s all take one big deep breath and get macerating and baking.
But! having said that and looking at the recipe, I can share that the biscuit recipe I made for our own wife night strawberry shortcakes looks similar, and that’s good news for all of us. I tweaked my go-to fluffy biscuit recipe, incorporating more sugar (organic inside and raw sugar on top) into “J.P.’s Big Daddy Biscuits”, going for soy/coconut buttermilk-action with apple cider vinegar in place of the cow’s milk, and using an organic butter-flavored shortening I picked up from Grocery Outlet ages ago for the fat. I overcooked them a tad since I’m getting reacquainted with my electric oven after a few weeks with my sister’s intense gas range in Brooklyn, but come on, we had no complaints when these were split, topped with macerated strawberries (sliced berries + less than a tablespoon of raw sugar + pinch of Jacobson cacao salt) and some whipped soy cream we picked up at Veganz in Berlin. Ugh, that place is beyond cool.
I’m truly more of a coconut cream-everything gal and would have sprung for that short-lived coconut whip that Trader Joe’s was selling last fall if it was still possible to acquire and actually worked, but….when you carry a bottle of vegan spray whip across three countries in Europe and then across the US, you gotta open it at some point in the year that follows. Now, that’s strawberry shortcake made even more special.
And goodness gracias, I’m hereby gonna hold myself to making some straight up strawberry jam this summer, and already kicking myself for the absence of a strawberry-basil galette waiting for me at home.
Or perhaps, someone else will get inspired by strawbs and bring one to a certain seasonal potluck social fundraiser on June 29.