Fragaria Fields Forever

FOFstrawberries There are literally hundreds of types of strawberries from Annapolis to Valley Sunset. And while we typically think of strawberries as being a June fruit, harvests can last all the way into mid autumn. Strawberries are classified into three varieties: June bearing, Everbearing (a bit of a misnomer as they usually produce two crops throughout the growing season) or Day-Neutral (smaller berries that produce up until October if it is mild).

Possibly the best strawberries I ever tasted were teeny tiny wild strawberries grown in the Apennines regions of Italy. Fragaria vesca, or Alpine strawberries, although miniature, pack a punch of intense flavour and sweetness. Delicious on their own or with balsamic vinegar, they also are delightful fermented in liqueur.

Sadly I haven’t come across any quite like those in Ontario, but our own local strawberries, in season now, are a fine substitute. I try and buy local organic wherever I can as Strawberries are one of the “dirty dozen” produce that is heavily sprayed with pesticides. There are so many wonderful recipes for strawberries from shortcake to freezer jam or just dipped in chocolate. I’ll be doing a workshop at the end of June on a classic recipe of strawberry and balsamic conserve. Perfect for pairing with goat cheese. Why don’t you join me?

Out with the old, in with the new

Oldpickles

This time of year I’m so anxious to get my hands on the new and  fresh produce that sometimes I get ahead of myself. Frequently I still have jars left over from last season that really should be used up, but I’m less inclined to as fresh asparagus, strawberries and tender turnips are much more appealing than slightly soft year old dill pickles.

 I found a way of freeing up my jars without the guilt of actually dumping the contents in the compost. Dehydrate! Start by slicing your pickles to about 1/8″ thick, place on the dehydrator racks on a low setting and letting it do its magic (some 5-8 hours later). This will result in dime sized dill pickle pellets.

Why would anyone want dill pickle pellets? Well for starters you can throw them into a spice/coffee grinder (make sure it’s clean of all coffee residue), grind them up, add a little sea salt and you have an excellent popcorn topper! You could also add the ground mixture to salad dressings, ground meat for tacos or even a funky salt rimmer for a casesar!

If you don’t have a dehydrator on hand (which most people don’t), I think putting it on a baking sheet in an oven on the lowest setting c. 200 F. for about 6-8 hours will probably do the trick. I’d be interested to know anyone out there who has tried dehydrating in the oven.