Recently, I was in the produce department of a supermarket looking for fresh salad greens. As I wheeled by the fruit display, I caught a whiff of ripe strawberries. The aroma was so compelling, I stopped my cart to inspect the berries.
They were bright red, shiny, dewy fresh and fragrant. I fondly remembered an adage of my mom's regarding fresh peaches: If it smells like a peach, it will taste like a peach.
Adapting her philosophy to berries, I knew those strawberries might be the best I have had this season and I quickly put a couple of quarts in my cart. Although they were not on my grocery list, I knew I could find some tasty ways to use them.
Some of you have had questions this season regarding strawberries, and the first one is a common one.
I love strawberries and often buy them. Sometimes they are fine, but I recently got some that were mushy and even had some mold growing on them and I ended up throwing them out. What should you look for when you purchase berries? And how long do they normally keep?
Strawberries are not good keepers so plan to use them within a day or two after you purchase them. I generally take a few moments to check a carton of berries before putting them into my cart. I look for a bright, shiny color, as a dull, deep red color indicates they are overripe. I check the bottom of the carton to see if there are any berries that are molded or if juice has collected; if so, I reject those. Usually you will find the freshest berries nearer the back of the display as the older ones are pushed to the front.
Do not wash the berries until you are ready to use them as water will speed deterioration. To wash berries, I place them in a bowl of cool water, swish them gently, and then lift them out and drain. Remove the caps after they are washed; otherwise, water will seep to the interior of the berry and dilute the flavor.
I would like to make some chocolate-dipped strawberries. How is that done?
It is really very easy. If you can find berries with the long stems, they are the most beautiful but others will work just as well. Wash the berries and dry them well. Place a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper on a baking sheet.
For a pint of strawberries, you will need about 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate. Chop chocolate into very small pieces. Place chocolate in a small metal bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water; stir chocolate until it is melted and smooth. Dip three-fourths of each berry into the chocolate. Hold berry over bowl for a few seconds to allow the excess chocolate to drip off, then place on prepared pan. Chill until chocolate is set. These will not keep long so plan to use within a day.