Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A glut of strawberries

There's a glut of strawberries in local shops at the moment. Lovely, particularly when we can get them cheaply at the end of the day. But of course they don't last. What can we do with a glut of strawberries then?

First things first. As soon as you get them home, go through the batch and take out any that are going mould. Mould spreads quickly and will ruin them in a matter of hours if you leave them at room temperature.

Oh yes, stick'em in the fridge. Now, what should we think about doing with our loot? In the longer term:
  • They don't freeze all that well. They go soft. That's okay, though, if you want to use them in sauce, in ice cream, in cakes, or mixed up with fromage blanc. But for just eating, as they are... not good.
  • Cook them up into a compote and they'll last a few days more in the fridge. Simply add sugar - the fruit will make its own juice, you don't need to add water. I usually cut the strawberries, add sugar, and let them macerate for an hour or so at room temperature before I start to cook - you'll be impressed at how much juice comes out of the strawberries.
  • Simply macerating them in sugar and/or alcohol extends the fruit's life. Once you've done this you can leave them a few days in the fridge.
  • Dried strawberries.Halve them and stick them in the oven at about 100c - really low, slow heat is the key to this process - if you don't have a food drier.  Make sure you start them off cut side up, otherwise you'll end up with a gooey mess. 
  • Strawberry vodka. Chop up your strawberries and pour vodka over them. We make ours in large Kilner jars, which have the advantage that it's easy to mix the ingredients by simply turning the jar end over end a couple of times. After a week or two (or three...) strain off the liqueur; you can add sugar syrup if you want a sweet liqueur rather than a flavoured vodka. None of the recipe books tell you this, but you can now eat the strawberries (Lay them out in a baking tray and pour melted white chocolate over the top for a wicked and messy-to-eat treat.)
  • Strawberry jam works too... but for me, it's a last resort. Setting point is tricky, and we have so many other fruits to make jam with.
And right now?
  • Make strawberry smoothies with yogurt, or strawberry milkshakes.
  • I love strawberries with grilled halloumi cheese - put them on the grill when you turn the halloumi over to do the second side, and add some balsamic vinegar for a very wicked warm salad.
  • Eton Mess - bashed up meringues and strawberries and cream. 
  • Eat them fresh with balsamic vinegar and black pepper.
  • Roast them slowly with rum or armagnac.
  • Use them in a cheesecake.
  • Use them to dip in mascarpone cheese.
  • Just eat them!