The joy of strawberry season

You know it’s summer when you can close your eyes and take a deep breath to smell the most wonderful, aromatic fragrance wafting over the fields – Ontario strawberries. Summer has arrived!

We’re lucky in Toronto, we don’t have far to travel for the experience of just-picked berries. Whittamore’s (905-294-3275) at Markham and Steeles is a well-known pick-your-own farm where you can have the experience of picking or, if you prefer, buying a flat of their own fresh-picked berries. Closer to home, the local farmers’ markets will provide you with fresh berries.

Whether you pick or purchase, these recipes will help you enjoy that unique and addictive taste of Ontario strawberries. Remember to freeze some berries for that “just picked” flavour in the winter months.

Freezing strawberries

Wash, hull and gently dry strawberries on towels. Arrange berries in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place in freezer and freeze until firm, four hours or overnight. Measure 4 cup (1 L) portions of berries into freezer bags. Label with date and quantity and return to freezer.

Frozen strawberries are ideal for baking and preserving. You don’t need to make jams, pickles and preserves in the heat of the summer. By using frozen fruit, you can preserve when it is convenient for you.

Strawberry spinach salad with maple pecans and vinaigrette

Barbara Welch made this scrumptious salad for a recent book club gathering. The salad met with rave reviews. I thought you may enjoy adding the recipe to your summer menus.

4 cups (1 L) each baby spinach leaves and arugula, washed and dried
2 cups (500 mL) strawberries, washed, hulled, patted dry and sliced
3/4 cup (175 ml) pecan halves, roasted with maple syrup (recipe follows)
2 tbsp (30 mL) maple syrup

Maple Vinaigrette
2 tbsp (30 mL) red wine vinegar
2 tbsp (30 mL) maple syrup (preferably dark for extra flavour)
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper

In a large mixing bowl, combine spinach, arugula and strawberries; set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) maple syrup; add pecans and cook gently for two to four minutes to coat nuts and toast them in pan. Remove pecans from pan and pat dry on paper towels.

In a jar, shake wine vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper together until well combined. Just before serving, pour vinaigrette over salad and toss to coat leaves. Sprinkle salad with maple roasted pecans and serve. Makes six to eight servings.

Strawberry mojitos

There’s nothing like the taste combination of strawberries, lime and mint. Here from Foodland Ontario is their interpretation of strawberry mojitos – a fantastic way to greet friends and family on a summer day.

4½ cups (1.1 L) chopped fresh strawberries
3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
6 tbsp (90 mL) fresh lime juice
2½ cups (625 mL) chilled club soda
3/4 cup (175 mL) chilled white rum
Garnish: mint and strawberries

In blender, purée chopped strawberries, sugar and lime juice; transfer to large container. In glass measuring cup, muddle mint leaves with handle of wooden spoon for several minutes, crushing to release their aroma; stir into strawberry mixture. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about two hours.

Just before serving, add 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the club soda to strawberry mixture; strain through fine sieve into serving pitcher, discarding the pulp. Stir in remaining club soda and rum. Place ice cubes into each glass, fill with strawberry mojito and garnish each with a sprig of mint and a strawberry.

Strawberry-mint ice-cubes

For added flavour and pizazz, add one small strawberry and mint leaf to each ice cube compartment in an ice cube tray, fill with water and freeze.


Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer  ~

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