Tag Archives | strawberries

Strawberry Maple Butter

strawberry puree

For weeks now, I’ve been meaning to write up my recipe for the strawberry maple butter (hinted at here) I made recently (I liked it so much, I made it twice in rapid succession). And so, I finally sat down to do so tonight, only to realize that I didn’t take any pretty finished pictures of it.

However, instead of being defeated by my lack of artful images (I’ll add one tomorrow), I decided to dig in and write the post anyway, since strawberry season is starting to wane around these parts (and is already entirely over for some of you).

cooking strawberry butter

This one is much like the other fruit butters I’ve made in the past (and is nearly identical to the blueberry butter from four years ago). You start by pureeing enough fruit to fill your slow cooker up at least 3/4 of the way. For my four quart cooker, I found that four pounds of berries did the job nicely. Then, turn the cooker on low and let it run.

If you’re going to be in and out of your kitchen, you can leave the lid off and give it a good stir every half hour or so. The reason for the stir is that if you leave the lid off and don’t stir regularly, a skin forms on the surface of the butter that makes it impossible for the steam to escape.

If you’re not going to be around, set a chopstick across the rim of the slow cooker and then put the lid on. This allows the slow cooker to vent a little, but also ends up trapping just enough moisture to prevent the growth of the skin.

maple strawberry butter

I tend to let this butter cook anywhere from 16 to 24 hours. So much depends on the volume of fruit you start with, the amount of water it contains, and how much heat your slow cooker produces when set to low (I prefer older slow cookers for this task because they cook at lower temperatures). I have been known to cook my fruit butters overnight, but I don’t recommend doing that until you understand how your particular slow cooker works with butters.

So, once your strawberries have cooked down to a dense product that doesn’t have any visible liquid on the surface, it is done. I like to hit it with an immersion blender at the end of cooking, to ensure that it’s perfectly smooth.

Once you like the texture, you add maple syrup to taste. My batches each produced about three half pints, which I sweetened with 1/3 cup of maple syrup. I also included two tablespoons of lemon juice to help keep the color, brighten the flavor, and increase the acid load just a little (strawberries are typically quite high in acid, but maple syrup is low in acid, so a little extra lemon juice makes sure that all is well, safety-wise).

You can process this butter in half pint jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. It’s a good one. If you can still get beautiful strawberries, I highly recommend it!

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Strawberry Lavender Caramel + Giveaway

driscolls strawberries

Spring has been slow to come this year and so the local produce has only just begun to trickle into the markets around Philadelphia. Happily, a much-welcome dose of spring arrived on my doorstep a couple weeks back, in the form of a large box of Driscoll’s strawberries.

the incredible hull

Months ago, Driscoll’s and OXO hatched a plan to gather up a gaggle of food bloggers, send them an assortment of tools and berries, and see what they created. For me, it couldn’t have come at a better time, as I was positively itching to get my hands on some fresh ingredients.

berry top

One of the tools that came in the box was OXO’s new berry huller and I am not exaggerating when I say that it’s a strawberry game changer. I’ve used their previous huller and while it was a good tool, I always defaulted to a paring knife.

berries in blender

But, now having tried this new huller, it is my go-to strawberry prep tool. It is incredibly easy to use, cleanly removes the hard white center, and makes it possible to whip through four or five pounds of berries in no time at all.

berry puree

I made three different preserves with the berries Driscoll’s sent and I’ll be sharing those recipes over the course of this week. The first one is a variation on the strawberry caramel recipe that I wrote for Simple Bites a couple weeks ago. The second is a maple sweetened strawberry butter. And the final batch was honey sweetened strawberry vanilla jam.

dried lavender

I love the basic version of the basic strawberry caramel, but I’ve long thought that it would be delicious to infuse with lavender for a more complex flavor. And since I spotted OXO’s twisting tea ball, I had a feeling it would be the perfect infusion tool (short answer: it was!).

lavender in tea ball

You start with one pound of strawberries, hull them, and puree them (just pop them raw into a blender or food processor) until smooth.

cooking sugar

Then, combine 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar with 3/4 cup of water in a small saucepan. Measure 2 teaspoons of dried lavender buds (culinary grade) into your tea ball and add it to the pot. Place it over high heat and bring to a boil.

250 degrees F

Cook the syrup until it reaches 250°F/121°C. Remove the pot from the heat and pour in prepared strawberry puree (you should have about 2 cups) and the juice of 1 lemon. Return the pot to the heat and cook until the temperature reaches 218°F/103°C.

finished caramel sauce

Funnel the sauce into two prepared half pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

This sauce is amazing drizzled over ice cream, angel food cake, or a piece of crunchy, buttered toast (it is entirely decadent but ridiculously good).

finished strawberry caramel

Now for the fun part. OXO and Driscoll’s are giving away a pretty terrific prize pack. The lucky winner will get one of those fabulous strawberry hullers, a three-piece OXO berry bowl and colander set, a $70 gift card to OXO.com, and a year’s supply of Driscoll’s berries. You enter via the widget below (not by leaving a comment on this post). The giveaway will close at 5 pm eastern time on Friday, May 30, so make sure to get your entry in!

To see what the rest of the participating bloggers made, make sure to click over to their sites!

a farmgirl’s dabbles
Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker
Crepes of Wrath
Crunchy Creamy Sweet
Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Diethood
Eat Your Heart Out
Eats Well With Others
Food n’ Focus
Hoosier Homemade
Never Enough Thyme
Rachel Cooks
Sweet Remedy
Very Culinary

Disclosure: Driscoll’s and OXO provided the berries and tools I used and featured in this post and are also providing the prize pack. They did not compensate me for my participation and my opinions are entirely my own.

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Practical Preserving: Strawberry Applesauce

strawberries and apples

When I first started canning, each project was its own nice, neat, contained experience. I would shop for produce, make a recipe, process it in appropriate jars, photograph it, and share it here. However, over the course of the last five years, my approach has shifted a little bit.

While I do still occasionally pick out a recipe, buy the ingredients, and work my way through the steps, the bulk of my putting up these days is more utilitarian. I spend a lot of time looking at the contents of my refrigerator or fruit bowl and wondering, “What’s starting to decline*? Is there something I can breathe additional life into by applying heat, sugar, or vinegar?”

strawberry applesauce in jar

This strawberry applesauce is the result of one of those calculations. My friends at Beechwood Orchards** recently gave me bunch of apples that they’d had in storage since last fall and there were about three pounds worth in the crate that had no more than 48 hours of life left in their current state. I also had a pound of strawberries leftover from another project (more about that next week) that had been in the fridge for ages and needed to be used.

Though apples and strawberries rarely get paired together (I imagine mostly because they rarely share a season), my thought process went something like this. Apples and rhubarb have similar flavor profiles. Strawberries go beautifully with rhubarb. There’s really no reason why they shouldn’t also go well with apples.

taste of strawberry apple sauce

So I went with it. I peeled, cored, and chopped the apples. I hulled the berries and cut away any truly bad spots. And then I threw them in a pot with about 1/2 cup of water and let them cook down over very low heat for nearly two hours (mostly because I forgot about them). When I finally remembered to check the pot, the fruit had softened and all it took was a little work with a potato masher to turn it into a chunky puree.

The resulting sauce is pleasingly pink, plenty sweet without so much as a hint of sugar or honey, and just a bit tart. I’ve been eating it with a scoop of plain yogurt and some toasted walnuts for breakfast. I didn’t can it, but both apples and strawberries are high enough in acid to make them safe for canning, so one could.

How are you saving your produce from the compost pile these days?

*You will often hear that you should only use perfect produce that is in its prime for canning and preserving, but sometimes, the techniques of jamming, saucing, roasting, or pickling can also take aging produce and give it a new lease on life. That said, do steer clear of anything that is has started to turn or is truly rotten.

**The plan was that I’d make the rosemary apple jam from the new book to sample at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market a couple weeks back, but I didn’t manage to do it. Once again, my intentions were grander than my capacity to execute.

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Strawberry Picking at Rowand Farms

In an effort to switch things up a little, today I have a post of pictures and no (or at least, not very many) words. These are from a recent trip to pick strawberries at Rowand’s Farm in Glassboro, NJ. The strawberries and sweet cherries are now done for the season, but if you’re in the area, I hear they’ll have sour cherries through the weekend.

Rowand Farm Market
strawberries
upick boxes
strawberry boxes
rows of strawberries
strawberry fields
hidden strawberries
berries at the farm market
nine pounds of strawberries

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Small Batch Strawberry Fig Jam

figs and strawberries

A couple weeks back, I went to a dinner hosted by California Figs. At the end of the dinner, when I was absolutely full to the bursting point, the nice folks who had organized the dinner handed me a little colander of fresh figs to take home. Though I couldn’t quite imagine ever eating again, I said yes to the figs and walked home with them perched carefully in my purse.

black figs

It was a busy weekend and so the figs languished in the fridge for two whole days. It wasn’t until Sunday night (the dinner had been on Thursday) that I was able to take stock and determine what was on the verge of going bad.

a scant quart of strawberries

There was a bundle of basil that became walnut pesto. A bundle of kale was chopped and toasted into chips. At last, I was down to figs and a scant quart of rapidly softening strawberries from our Saturday CSA pick-up.

chopped fruit

Though I’d never had strawberry fig jam, I was fairly certain it could be done (and a quick internet search showed that I was not nearly the first to combine these two). And so I chopped the fruit, weighed it and added half as much sugar. It all went into a jar and then into the fridge for an overnight rest.

cooking

Two days later, I circled back around to the jar. What I found was glorious. The strawberries and figs had mellowed and married. I scraped the contents of the jar into a skillet, added a little lemon juice and cooked it, stirring all the while, until I could draw a path through the jam with my spatula.

finished strawberry fig jam

I ended up with just enough to fill three half pint jars, which I processed in my 4th burner pot. I sent one jar to my dad for Father’s Day, gave another to a friend as a thank you and am saving the final jar for late fall, when both fresh strawberries and figs are just a memory.

a half pint of strawberry fig jam

A note: Do remember that figs are among that group of fruits that are a bit low on acid for safe boiling water bath preserving. Any time you work with them, it’s important to either combine them with higher acid fruits or to add some lemon juice in order to boost the acid levels. As you can see, I’ve done both here to ensure a perfectly safe product.

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A Visit to Driscoll’s Berries

Driscoll's berries

Last month, I went on a really great (if far too brief) trip to California. I’ve been intending to write about it since returning home, but there’s been a cavalcade of events (a book deadline, a visit from my sister’s family, the departure of my intern, a week-long vacation, the return of canning classes, and 34th birthday celebration).

You see, my sojourn in Northern CA was a gathering of bloggers, hosted by Driscoll’s. We were invited to learn more about how Driscoll’s develops, grows, packages, and sells their strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.

raspberry plants

Going into the trip, I knew very little about the ins and outs of berry growing beyond the fact that I liked to visit my local farms during the season and pick their fruit. Thanks to Driscoll’s and this trip (which was essentially a one-day crash course on the ins and outs of berry farming), I have a far deeper understanding of breeding, developing, growing, marketing, and shipping processes required to bring that clamshell of berries to my local market.

greenhouse

When you buy a box of berries at the grocery store, know that your fruit was at least five to seven years in the making. You see, Driscoll’s works with number of farmers to grow the berries. All those growers start with seedlings that Driscoll’s breeds, propagates and raises, to ensure that the berries they sell meet their very high standards of texture and flavor.

raspberry canes

It takes five years of growing before a seedling is ready to be shipping to the grower (one plant is raised into 100, those 100 are grown into 5,000, those 5,000 become 200,000 and so on. For five years). Before that, there were many seasons of growing, tasting, and testing before a variety was selected to be propagated. It definitely not a matter of picking up some seeds and planting a field.

rows

We spent much of our time on the trip talking about strawberries, as those were the berries that were currently in season in Watsonville while we were there (this was in early April). We visited the test fields where Driscoll’s develops their new varieties and got to pick and taste berries directly from the ground (it was amazing).

cluster of berries

One thing that surprised me to learn while we were in the fields was that each strawberry cultivar has a relatively short lifespan. That’s because they’re constantly tweaking the plants in order to make them just a bit more delicious (all this work is basic breeding science. They don’t engage in any genetic engineering).

tee-shirt motto

One thing I heard over and over again during the time I spent with the Driscoll’s folks was the importance of delight (in fact, Driscoll’s mission statement starts with, “Our Mission is to continually delight our Berry Consumers…”).

At first, I was a little taken aback, because I’d never before been exposed to a company that is so clear about putting pleasure and flavor ahead of profits. But truly, Driscoll’s does (they made it very clear that if berries are subpar, they are not sold).

berry tour boots

One thing I found particularly interesting was the fact that strawberries are only touched once before we bring them home to our kitchens. They are packed into the clamshells in the fields by the pickers, so the handling is incredibly minimal. The growers are all independent, but do work closely with Driscoll’s, to ensure that standards are being met in regards to cleanliness, ripeness, and general berry quality.

berry tracking code

Here’s another thing I learned while on this trip. You can actually track exactly where your berries are coming from. All clamshells are labeled with code stickers and if you go to mydriscolls.com, you can punch in that code, see a picture of the farmer who grew your berries and learn where the farm is located. I’ve been doing it with every box of berries I bought since returning from this trip.

Driscoll's berries

I’ve long been someone who believes that the most important thing to do is to support your local farmers (and depending on where you live, there’s a good chance that the Driscoll’s berries in your market are local). And during the summer months, I buy mountains of fruit from the farmers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

However, being in the recipe writing business means that I often need berries in January. Having been on this trip, I feel so much better about buying off-season berries from Driscoll’s, because I know they’re working hard to produce the best, most flavorful and safest berries around.

Many thanks to Driscoll’s for inviting me to learn more about their berries and for giving me the opportunity to meet a collection of other fabulous bloggers and writers.

Disclosure: This trip to California was paid for by Driscoll’s. However, my opinions are entirely my own.
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