By Liz Bares
My fridge is full of fresh strawberries that we just cannot eat fast enough. I’ve made shortcake, a strawberry wine concoction with mint cream, strawberry quinoa salad, strawberry green salad, added strawberries to smoothies, and eaten them in yogurt and oatmeal. I’m ready for blueberry season.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Strawberry season is still in full swing and the best way to store fresh strawberries for immediate consumption (over a few days to a week) you need to keep them in your fridge unwashed. You can wash as you need them.
When you wash strawberries and store them in the fridge, they tend to get mushy with the extra moisture. Remember strawberries are almost 100 percent water, so adding water to them makes them mushy if left to wallow in a wet puddle in your fridge.
Freezing strawberries — same rule applies — do not wash them before you freeze them. I typically brush them off before I freeze them whole and take off the green tops. A super handy tip is to spread the strawberries in a layer on a pan, freeze them until hard and then put the frozen berries in a freezer bag or container. This way the berries are individually frozen and, therefore, don’t clump into a smushed ball o’ berry.
So, when you want strawberries in December, for example, you can almost pull them out of your freezer individually, rinse them and throw them into a smoothie, or let them defrost and make strawberry shortcake, or just pop them into your breakfast oatmeal.
Another way to store fresh strawberries and will make probably everyone in your house very excited, and makes a wonderful dessert to bring to a party, is to make a granita. A granita is a semi-frozen dessert made from a simple syrup and flavorings.
Originally from Sicily, it’s a simple dessert to make especially when you have lots of leftover berries or melon. A simple syrup is just water and sugar cooked until the sugar is dissolved.
I like making granita because you control the amount of sugar in the dessert. You can also add mint, vanilla or really anything you’d like. I read about one with lemongrass and watermelon — YUM! Here is a simple Strawberry Granita recipe you can take to your July 4th fete, as long as a freezer is available.
4 cups washed strawberries, sliced in half
1 cup water
½ – ¾ cup white sugar
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
For the simple syrup, put water and sugar into a small pan, bring to a boil, then simmer for about five minutes or until the sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, place your cleaned strawberries in a blender or food processor and blend until completely pureed.
Pour the simple syrup into the blender with the strawberries (making sure you are careful if your syrup is still hot) and blend along with the lemon juice.
Now pour the mixture into a metal cake pan and place in the freezer. Every 10 minutes or so, mix the sides of the mixture into the center so everything freezes well. I do this with a fork. Freeze for about 30-40 minutes, blending every 10 minutes.
Once your mixture is softly frozen, use a fork to sort of break apart and grate. If taking the mixture to a party leave it in the pan and then serve in small cups or a pretty glass.