Savoring the Seasons: Summer sweetness — Mouthwatering strawberries always a treat this time of year

  • Mary McClintock

For The Recorder
Published: 6/20/2017 10:30:42 AM

Strawberries! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways ... There’s the first berry out of the box, as soon as I’ve handed over my money at the farmers market or Baker’s Country Store or Atlas Farmstore — wherever I buy them. Or, there’s the first berry I pop in my mouth when I pick strawberries from a friend’s garden or a “u-pick” farm. Either way, that first strawberry causes an involuntary “ooooohhhh” of pleasure as I savor its sweetness. And, it gets followed quickly by the second, third, and perhaps, fourth.

By then, I don’t bother counting, because I’m usually passing around the box to friends at the farmers market or coworkers or neighbors who stop by.

Sometimes I cut up strawberries in Sidehill Farm yogurt for breakfast (perhaps with a dollop of Boyden Bros. maple syrup). Or, I slice them on top of a lettuce/mesclun mix/spinach/radish salad and toss them with some Appalachian Naturals Maple Balsamic dressing.

If I can restrain myself from eating all of them, I put them on a cookie sheet and freeze them whole, then put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer until next winter when they’ll be a special treat on ice cream.

I love strawberry shortcake, and was honored when Gemma Vanderheld gave me a copy of her Gramma’s special shortcake recipe. If you visited Conway’s Pumpkin Hollow during last week’s Conway 250th celebrations, you were close to Gemma’s house. Gemma is a superb cook, when she’s not busy working full-time at OESCO and serving as a volunteer firefighter and director of Conway Ambulance.

I also think of strawberries as the beginning of the local fruit year. They’re the first locally grown fruit to ripen (rhubarb is available earlier, and we treat it like a fruit, but it isn’t really a fruit). Throughout the year, almost all of the fruit I eat is locally grown. I rarely buy fruit from away. As each type of local fruit ripens, I savor it and, perhaps, freeze some for later. Local cherries will be ready in a few weeks — then, raspberries, blueberries, apricots and peaches. Apples, plums, grapes and pears start in late summer.

Thanks to the great storage systems at local orchards, we can buy fresh, locally grown apples from August until late April. Each summer, I buy a 20-pound box of blueberries from the Benson Place in Heath, and I freeze most of them. I eat them throughout the year, and especially during that time between late April and strawberry season.

Strawberries! How do you love them? What’s your favorite Franklin County u-pick strawberry place? Please share your recipes and strawberry advice.

This Week We’re Eating ...

Gramma’s Strawberry Shortcake

Shared by Gemma Vanderheld of Conway (learned from her grandmother, Doris Held)

My Gramma lived on Old Cricket Hill Road in Conway. The biscuit recipe was from one of her cookbooks — she changed it up a bit and I’ve changed it up a bit. My Gram used to make shortcake in the summers, either with fresh strawberries or peaches. Especially when my grandfather would stop on his way home from Westover air base for berries. She always said to use heavy cream, because it had more flavor.

Biscuits:

2 C. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

4 T. butter-cold

½ tsp. salt

¾ C. milk

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until finely crumbled, then slowly add milk and mix with fork until dough forms a ball. Drop by large spoonful on parchment-lined sheet, bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Makes 10 to 12 biscuits.

Strawberries:

2 quarts of fresh strawberries — sliced

¾ C. sugar

Mix together and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Whipped cream:

1 pint heavy cream

½ C. confectioners’ sugar

Whip cream with sugar until stiff.

Break biscuits in bowl, top with strawberries and dollop of whipped cream. Cook’s note: using confectioners’ sugar instead of granulated sugar will stabilized the whipped cream so it does not fall.

Local food advocate and community organizer Mary McClintock lives in Conway and works as a freelance writer, editor, and book indexer. Send column suggestions and recipes to: mmcclinto@yahoo.com.


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