Fresh strawberries: Spring’s reward for the taste buds
by Margaret Dabbs
Apr 04, 2012 | 1824 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Margaret Dabbs
Margaret Dabbs
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As strawberries announce the beginning of Alabama’s fruit harvest, a couple of months before Julie and Jeremy Calvert open their stall at the Walker County Farmers Market, they are selling the world’s most popular berry fruit. For the last two weeks, fresh fruit hungry customers have found these young energetic farmers selling strawberries grown on their Cullman County-Brushy Pond farm from the back of a well-worn pickup truck in one of two places- at an old gas station off Highway 69 North in Dodge City or a few miles down County Road 222, next door to the farm.

Calvert strawberries grown in the hoop houses, described by Julie as “greenhouses without the equipment,” have been coming in since February. Jeremy noted that they picked over fifty gallons from the field two weeks ago, marking the earliest field harvest in the last several years. The just sweet enough taste and the firm texture of their strawberries lure customers who do not hesitate to drive a few miles to enjoy locally grown berries so freshly picked, you can almost taste the warm sunshine in the first satisfying bite.

Strawberries garner a strong and loyal fan base all across the country. The national average for strawberry consumption is about 4.5 pounds per person per year. Alabama strawberry fans promote this average by consuming approximately nineteen million pounds of fresh strawberries and strawberry products each year.

These fans delight in knowing that a cup of fresh strawberries carries only forty-five to fifty-five calories and provides all the Vitamin C most adults require on a daily basis. These berries are also fiber and iron rich and are second only to blueberries in antioxidants.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System recommends storing strawberries in the refrigerator on a shallow tray, unwashed, caps on. When you are ready to use them, wash them gently in cold water, drain, and pat the berries dry with a paper towel or allow them to air dry. Leaving the caps on prevents the strawberries from absorbing water, so remove the caps at the end of the preparation process.

While there are several methods for freezing strawberries, including packing them in syrup or sugar, which permits longer storage, the simplest method is to wash, drain, and dry the berries, and then remove the caps. Place the strawberries in a single-layer on a baking sheet or tray in the freezer until they are frozen and then pack them in plastic containers or Ziploc bags.

Abundantly available over the next few weeks, fresh strawberries share their essential goodness in an endless list of forms ranging from a handful enjoyed as a quick snack to puddings, cakes, salads, breads, pies, and ice cream.

Cindy Robinson’s Strawberry Pudding was a regularly featured attraction at Walker High School Baseball suppers the four years her son J.T. was on the team.

Handily prepared in just a few minutes, this light and creamy dessert should be made a day or two before it will be eaten so the flavors have a chance to blend and the vanilla wafers forgo their crunch for a cake-like texture.

Cindy’s Strawberry Pudding

1-14 ounce can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 and one half cups cold water

1-3.4 ounce box instant French vanilla pudding

1-16 ounce container Cool Whip- slightly thawed

1-11 ounce box vanilla wafers

Thinly sliced strawberries

1. Whisk together the condensed milk and the water in a bowl.

2. Add the pudding mix to the milk-water mixture and chill for ten minutes.

3. Put the Cool Whip in the bowl of an electric mixer and stir it on a low speed. Add the pudding mixture and mix well on a low speed.

4. In a glass serving bowl, layer the pudding, wafers, and strawberries. End the layers with pudding.

5. Refrigerate the pudding at least one day.

6. Garnish with whole or sliced strawberries.

Notes:

•Use at least two quarts of strawberries.

•Other fruits such as bananas, blueberries, and raspberries can be added to this pudding.

•Fat free and sugar free versions of the ingredients in this recipe can be substituted.

On a regular basis, Janie Wilson’s Strawberry Cake makes appearances in a variety of gatherings and locations all over the area. Janie frequently made this lovely, delicate cake for her close friend and neighbor, Barbara Maddox, as a way to say thank you for the special gestures of kindness Barbara regularly sent her way. Janie’s son-in-law, Darren Hix, owner of Johnny Brusco’s New York Style Pizza, recently prepared this cake for one of his catered events.

Janie’s Strawberry Cake

1-18.25ounce box white cake mix

2 Tablespoons lemon extract

1-8 ounce package cream cheese

2 and three fourths cups confectioners sugar

1 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1-16 ounce container Cool Whip

Thinly sliced strawberries

1. Prepare the cake mix according to the package directions and add 2 Tablespoons lemon extract.

2. Pour the batter into two well-greased and floured 9” cake pans.

3. Bake as directed on the package.

4. Prepare the filling by combining the cream cheese, confectioners sugar,

butter, vanilla, and lemon extract.

5. When the layers are cool, spread the filling over the top of each layer,

add sliced strawberries, and then cover them with the filling.

6. Put the layers together, frost the entire cake with the Cool Whip, and refrigerate it.

Notes:

•Garnish with grated white chocolate and\or strawberries.

•Make this cake at least one day before serving it as its flavor increases with time.

•Allow the cream cheese and butter to soften at room temperature.

•Almond extract can be substituted for the lemon extract.

•When serving a large group, Janie prepares her cake in a 9”x 13” pan

and slices it to create the layers.

Fresh strawberries and mixed salad greens create a healthy side dish that adds the slightest touch of sweet to a meal. There are multiple ways to approach this salad and the following recipe offers a basic starting point.

Strawberry and Mixed Greens Salad

2 Tablespoons raspberry vinegar

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 ounces mixed salad greens

1 cup strawberries- thinly sliced

One half cup walnuts- toasted

2 ounces goat cheese- crumbled

1. Whisk together the vinegar and the oil.

2. Add the other ingredients and toss to combine.

Notes:

•Blueberries, raspberries, sliced seedless grapes, and toasted sliced almonds are delicious in this salad.

• Make more dressing to suit your taste and substitute white vinegar or balsamic vinegar.

In the 1970s, Maida Heatter reigned as the Queen of Sweets. Her cookbook, Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, includes a recipe designated The World’s Best Hot Fudge Sauce. For strawberry enthusiasts who find the berry’s magnetism enhanced by chocolate, this recipe lives up to its name. Use this sauce for dipping strawberries or pour it over fresh berries served on a slice of angel food cake or in a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

The World’s Best Hot Fudge Sauce

One half cup heavy cream

3 Tablespoons butter- cut into small pieces

One third cup sugar

One third cup dark brown sugar- firmly packed

One half cup Dutch-process cocoa powder- stir to remove lumps

Pinch of salt

1. Stir the cream and butter in a small saucepan over moderate heat until

the butter melts and the cream comes to a low boil.

2. Add both sugars and stir until they are dissolved.

3. Reduce the heat and add the cocoa and salt. Stir quickly with a small

whisk until the sauce is smooth.

4. Remove the sauce from the heat and serve immediately or refrigerate it up

to one week.

Notes:

•If the sauce is too thick when it is reheated, add hot water to thin it.

•The best way to know if the sugars are dissolved is to taste the sauce while it is cooking as Ms. Heatter wisely notes, “The surest test is to taste.”

•Ms. Heatter recommends Dutch-process cocoa for the best flavor and color.

Packed with healthy benefits and endless appeal, fresh strawberries serve as spring’s reward for the taste buds. Standing on their own or presented in a multitude of delectable forms, these berries inherently suggest pleasure, encourage smiles, and lift spirits.

Margaret Dabbs is a freelance columnist who resides in Jasper. Her column appears every other Wednesday in the Lifestyles section.