Fruit is one of the most versatile foods in my book. It can be used in so many ways. Strawberries are the star when it comes to versatility. Besides being perfect to pick and eat fresh, they can also be made into pies, jam and smoothies. Used as a topping for cheesecake and shortcake, a filling for crepes, an ingredient in scones and danish, their baking uses are endless.
Strawberries are also found in fruit parfaits, traditional fruit salads and tossed into green salads for added sweetness. They are at their peak of perfection and simplicity when dipped in chocolate. Strawberries also work their magic as a drink ingredient. Whether it is strawberry lemonade, strawberry margaritas or daiquiris, strawberries make the perfect summertime drink.
Strawberries go beyond desserts, drinks and chocolate-dipped.They can also be featured as a complimenting flavor in savory dishes such as salads, salsas and dressings, or even in non-traditional ways, for instance, as a barbeque sauce.
Have you ever eaten fresh picked strawberries? They are far better tasting than store bought. We are very fortunate to have many local farms in central Illinois where a family can spend the afternoon picking fresh berries together. It can be a great activity for children of all ages. The rows are easy to walk, the plants grow low to the ground at the perfect height for children, and the bright red fruit is easy for them to spot. Plus the May through June picking season is usually the perfect weather, not too hot or humid. Or simply skip the farm and head for the nearest farmers market to pick up some just picked berries. Either way you can’t beat the taste of fresh picked.
Cleaning and storing fresh berries are pretty easy. Wash the strawberries especially after picking them straight from the field. They absorb water which will ruin the berries by turning them mushy, so be sure not to soak them. Use a large bucket or bowl, fill it with strawberries and cold water, give them a quick swirl or agitate briefly then drain off all of the water. Repeat if the water is extremely muddy or dirty.
Next, spread out the berries on towels to absorb excess moisture. Make sure the strawberries are mostly dry before storing. At this point they can be sorted into three groups. The really ripe and soft berries should be grouped together and used for baking scones, smoothies, making drinks and items where the appearance and texture do not matter. Since they are very ripe, they should be used within a few days.
The second group should consist of the picture-perfect strawberries. These are the ripe yet still firm berries that have no blemishes. This group of berries can be laid out in a single layer on a sheet pan, stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and used for salads, parfaits, pies and cake toppings or any item where the appearance and texture are both featured.
Then there is the third group of strawberries, those with blemishes and the ones that may have been slightly smashed, which will happen to the strawberries on the bottom of a filled five-gallon bucket. Cut away the blemishes and use these strawberries to make jams and sauces.
Now it’s time to use all those berries. Enjoy!
- 2½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, room temperature
- ½ cup fresh strawberries
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream (for brushing)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; reserve.
Place the flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the flat beaters, mix the dry ingredients on speed 1 to combine. Add the butter and mix on speed 2 until mixture is shaggy. Reduce speed 1. With the mixer running, slowly add the liquid ingredients until just combined; do not over mix.
Pour the mixture onto a clean counter/large cutting board and add the strawberries; gently divide evenly throughout the dough.
Form the dough into a 10-inch disc, about 1-inch high. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 even pieces. Place on prepared baking sheet. Brush each scone with heavy cream and the reserved sugar. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool before serving.
Tangy strawberry barbecue sauce
Yield: 3 cups
Use on grilled chicken breast, pork chops and pork ribs. Brush sauce on during the last 5-8 minutes of grilling.
- 4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
- 1/2 cup chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Process strawberries, chili sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, minced garlic, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper in a food processor until smooth, 15 to 20 seconds.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and Baking/Pastry, and non-credit cooking and food classes through LLCC Community Education.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.