Recipe Spotlight: What to do with all those strawberries from your U-pick adventures

SO, YOU AND THE KIDS went strawberry picking. Or, you and the kids went strawberry buying. Either way, your fridge is overflowing with baskets of red sweetness and you’re stuck trying to find something to do with them.
Figure out what you are going to eat fresh in the next few days. Check on space in the freezer. If you have more berries than space give some to the nice folks next door.
Freezing berries is simple. Wash them. Hull them. Spread them on a cookie sheet. When they are hard enough to hurt you if they fall on your little toe they are ready to bag and store back in the freezer.
Or just pop the cleaned and hulled berries in freezer bags and stow them in the icy cold. Don’t expect them to be the same texture when they thaw. Freezing breaks cell walls and the berries will be soft. They are great for shortcakes, drinks, puddings, and jams, but they don’t look nearly as spiffy when they are the center of attention.
If you are going to be using the berries in shakes and smoothies or as an ingredient in say, pudding, you can beat the devil out of them, put a cup or so in each plastic bag, pat the bag flat and pile them in the freezer. Puree takes up a lot less space than whole berries.
Here’s an easy recipe from Eastern Europe to try that works with fresh strawberries:
• Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add 1/2 cup white sugar and take off heat. Dissolve 4 tablespoons corn starch in 1/2 cup cold water.
• Stir into sugar-water mixture and return to heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add 1 pound hulled and crushed berries. Mix well.
• Transfer to four bowls and chill about 3 hours. Top with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, chocolate sauce, or honey.
Here’s a recipe that is ideal for when the berries get a bit past prime but they are still too good to toss on the compost pile:
• Slice the best ones and cut the rest into pieces. Toss with sugar and a little orange juice. Let the berries rest in the fridge for a few hours to release the juice.
• Layer berries, whipped cream, and lady fingers (or pound cake or angel cake) in a bowl or in serving dishes.
• Repeat the layers, ending with cream and garnished with sliced berries.
A book titled, Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets, which was published in 1987, has an interesting recipe that combines the best of strawberries and the best of tapioca pudding.
1 pint frozen strawberries, thawed
1/3 cup minute tapioca
1/2 cup sugar
Small pinch salt
Whipped cream or dessert topping
• Drain the berries and add water to the juice to make 2 1/2 cups liquid. Add tapioca, sugar, and salt to the juice. Let stand 5 minutes. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cool and chill.
• Stir in strawberries.
• Layer with whipped topping or cream in a bowl, or in serving dishes.
• Yields 6 to 8 servings.
Can’t you just see this in a graham cracker crust, garnished with fresh berry slices around the outside? Rice pudding is one of my favorite desserts. It’s quick and easy, economical, and can be made with leftover rice. Use your favorite recipe … there are thousands … and stir in chopped strawberries before serving.
Lang’s Sun Country Groves in Lake Alfred makes Grapefruit Pie that is famous. The recipe is all over the Internet. The base is strawberry Jell-O with red grapefruit sections added just before chilling. There is no reason you can’t pop in some of your strawberries — sliced, please — instead of citrus sections. Use a prepared graham crust to save a lot of time and labor.
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 box strawberry-flavored Jell-O
1 pint strawberries, sliced
Whipped cream or whipped topping
• Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and 1 1/2 cups water in 2-quart pot.
• Simmer, whisking constantly until mixture becomes thick and clear, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add Jell-O to the sugar mixture and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
• Add sliced berries to filling. Pour into crust and chill until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
• Garnish with whipped cream and more berries.
Now, get ready to solve the same problem in watermelon season.
story by CFAN Food Editor Trent Rowe

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