Strawberry season is finally here in Ontario. Cool, wet weather delayed the crop by a week or two throughout the province making for the latest start to strawberry season in decades. But the good news is that despite the delay, the strawberry crop is expected to be a good one.
Strawberry season generally only lasts for between 10 days and three weeks, so don’t miss out! Start looking now for Ontario strawberries at your grocery store and make plans to go picking or buy freshly picked at local farms while they’re still available.
A few fun strawberry facts:
- Strawberries are a perennial crop and a member of the rose family.
- Some cultures believe strawberries to be an aphrodisiac.
- Strawberries are the first fruit to ripen each year (rhubarb is technically classified as a vegetable).
- Washing your strawberries speeds up spoilage. Don’t wash until you are ready to use or freeze your berries.
- Strawberries are one of the very few fruits that are grown globally.
- Strawberries are an excellent source of antioxidants.
- Phytochemicals found in strawberries have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
- Strawberries are the only fruit to wear their seeds on the outside.
- The Romans considered strawberries to be a symbol of Venus, the goddess of love.
If you’re wondering what to do with your strawberries, here are a couple of simple, delicious strawberry recipes well worth trying.
Easy Small Batch Strawberry Jam
This recipe will make approximately 5 small, 125ml Mason (or similar) jars.
Refrigerate the jam and use within 2-3 weeks or freeze to keep longer; this will eliminate the need for sterilization and processing in a boiling water bath canner.
4 cups chopped strawberries (approximately 600 grams of washed, hulled berries)
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp butter (optional)
- First, wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse. Dry with a clean cloth. Set jars aside.
- Set out your cooking thermometer or place a small clean saucer in the freezer.
- Wash and prepare the strawberries chopping them into quarters, or smaller if your strawberries are large.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, mix the berries, sugar and lemon juice and cook over medium-low heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Then turn heat to medium and slowly bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Once the mixture boils, set the timer for 10 minutes and continue stirring frequently, turning the heat down if the mixture begins to scorch on the bottom of the pan, or up if the boil cannot be maintained.
- When the timer goes off, check the jam to see if it has reached the jelly stage by either using your thermometer and making sure the jam has reached 220°F or 104°C; or, place a teaspoon of jam onto the cold plate from the freezer and tilt the plate to see if the jam runs across the plate or it if it slow and thick. Once the jam has either reached the correct temperature or does not run freely across the cold plate, remove the saucepan from the heat and if necessary, stir in a teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming.
- Spoon the hot jam into the prepared jars and cover. Let cool on the counter for an hour and then refrigerate or freeze.
Fresh Strawberries in Balsamic Vinegar
This simple, elegant dessert works well served in old-fashioned open style champagne glasses, martini glasses, small wine glasses, or small cut glass bowls. Use the best quality balsamic vinegar you can find (you won’t need much, and it keeps well). Balsamic Vinegar de Modena is perfect but if not, try using a fruited balsamic vinegar such as black currant balsamic.
- 2 cups RIPE washed, hulled, and halved strawberries,
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Very sparing find grind of pepper
- 1 pint of the best vanilla ice cream you can find OR 237ml of whipping cream, stiffly whipped (or you can serve for breakfast with Greek yoghurt)
- Gently mix the strawberries, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Cover and let marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature. (After 30 minutes the berries will begin to deteriorate.) Just before dishing up, add the slightest grind of pepper to the berries and stir briefly.
- Spoon the berries equally between four small dessert dishes. Top each a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream. Serve immediately.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie
This old-fashioned recipe has stood the test of time – a pie our grandmothers and great grandmothers once made – with very few changes over the decades.
1-9 inch (22 cm) unbaked pie shell
3 cups chopped rhubarb, if using frozen: fully thaw in a colander, do not press liquid out
1 cup washed, hulled, sliced strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
½ tsp lemon juice
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
- Mix together the fruit, with the 3 tbsp of flour, 1 cup of sugar, and lemon juice.
- Mix the crumble ingredients until crumbly.
- Put the fruit mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Top with crumble.
- Bake at 375°F / 190°C for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F/175°C and continue baking for another 25-30 minutes or until the crumble topping is lightly browned and the fruit is tender when poked with a knife.
Lindy Mechefske is the award-winning author of Out of Old Ontario Kitchens and Sir John’s Table. Contact her at lindymechefske.com.