As we come upon strawberry season I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes with you. It’s perfect for this time of year as strawberries start appearing in the store and suckers like me buy them even though they are not very ripe yet. This recipe is also perfect for berries a little past their prime. They are so transformed no one would notice that they aren’t perfect garden specimens.
While I’m on the subject I may as well subject you to my little rant on strawberries. Strawberries these days are bred for size. Someone somewhere got the idea that the larger the berry the better but they would be wrong. The sweeter the berry, the smaller they are. Large berries are comparatively tasteless and seem swollen by excess water. The tiny berries are not only sweeter but much more intense. Tiny, marble-sized strawberries straight from the garden are a hundred times the berry of their bloated grocery store cousins. A small-chocolate covered strawberry is much nicer than a large one and can be eaten in one greedy bite. Farmers, take note.
Also, never ever freeze strawberries unless you like a sticky, viscous mess. The only thing frozen strawberries are good for is if they are to be pureed or mashed. Basically they are good for smoothies and not much else.
Lastly, don’t put strawberries in the refrigerator. That’s just mean.
So! Right! On to the recipe. Take your strawberries, de-stem them and cut them so they are all roughly the same size (either half or fourths, depending on the size). After they are all cut spread them out in a single layer either on a plate or a shallow bowl. You’re going to macerate them in sugar, which is a fancy way of saying, “you are going to sprinkle them with sugar and let them sit in it a long time.” I learned this from Mollie Katzen, one of my cookery heroes.
Macerating them in sugar releases their luscious juices and balances their under (or over) ripe-ness. The juices become more syrup-like as they sit. I like to let them go about four hours or so. Enough for the sugar and the juices to work their magic.
When they are about ready to eat, sprinkle them with balsamic vinegar. The vinegar not only enhances the ruby redness of the fruit but does something magical to the flavor. It offsets the strawberries in a perfect sweet-and-sour harmony. If you like strawberries at all you will love this.
I typically just eat this as is because it is good an I am lazy, but this would be lovely over pound cake or angel’s food cake or as a topping for vanilla ice cream. Chocolate drizzle is optional. Yum.