Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strawberry Season Signals Summer

It may not seem like summer just yet, but here is another post from Quest volunteer Talia that will make it even harder to wait for warmer weather.

As the summer months continue to approach, BC's local berries are becoming more plentiful. Starting last week, local strawberries began to make appearances at local grocers and farmers' markets. While the strawberry season tends to be short, there is absolutely no shortage of recipes to incorporate these delicious and nutrient-rich foods into our diets. British Columbia accounts for one quarter of Canada's strawberry production. This represents over 3 million kg of strawberries every year! Most of the strawberries grown in BC come from the Fraser Valley. Buying local berries is not only economical, it also supports our local farmers. When preserved properly, they can be enjoyed well after the season is over. Here are a couple of recipes to get your berry juices flowing:

Strawberry Summer Cake (Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch pie pan. Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack.

Frozen Strawberries

Freezing whole strawberries is an excellent and economical way to incorporate local strawberries into your diet year round. Frozen starwberries can be thrawed when needed an incorporated into smoothies, pancakes, baking, etc.

Before freezing, remove the stems and caps. Sort, wash and drain the fruit carefully. Do not soak in water, or the strawberry will lose flavour and nutrients.

Freeze strawberries individually in a single layer on cookie sheets. After completely frozen (about 24h) place into freezer containers or flexible freezer bags.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Freezer jam is an excellent way to have strawberries all year round. This type of jam can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 weeks and will keep in the freezer for up to 1 year.

2 cups prepared fruit (buy about 1 qt. fully ripe strawberries)
4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1 pouch CERTO Fruit Pectin
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Rinse clean plastic containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly.
STEM and crush strawberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. Measure exactly 2 cups prepared fruit into large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 min., stirring occasionally.

Mix pectin and lemon juice in small bowl. Add to strawberry mixture; stir 3 min. or until sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy. (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

Fill all containers immediately to within 1/2 inch of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator.

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