Saturday Six #25: Sweet Strawberry Summer

Before developers purchased the fields, I went strawberry picking with my parents and brother every summer. It was always one of our first family outings once my mom finished the school year as an elementary secretary, together filling flats of locally grown berries. I’m sure crouching and bending in the hot sun wasn’t always the most pleasant activity, but I don’t remember the discomfort. I just remember the results.

Fresh Strawberries. They’re still one of my favorite fruits, and it didn’t get much better than eating them the day they were picked, red juice staining our fingers and, if we were lucky, dripping from our chins. I’ve always enjoyed dipping strawberries in sugar, and my close friends and I made a frequent snack out of dipping them in Cool Whip, but the fresh ones rarely needed sweetening.

Chocolate-dipped Strawberries. A few berries eventually found their way into melted chocolate, and I never complained.

Strawberry Shortcake. My dad was a Bisquick guy, so he made up the shortcake, either a round pan cut into wedges like scones, or individual drops on a baking sheet. And he smashed the sliced strawberries with powdered sugar until they were a chunky syrup to slather on the warm shortcake, along with vanilla ice cream and Cool Whip. Are you hungry yet?

Ice Cream Topping. Those same smashed strawberries were also delightful on vanilla ice cream with a drizzle (or more) of chocolate syrup. Let it be noted that there are very few instances where I prefer vanilla ice cream; these are two of them.

Strawberry Jam. Jam was the whole reason we picked the berries in the first place. My mom stocked up our basement cupboard with mason jars full of homemade strawberry jam, enough to last the year. The perfect consistency and sweetness (less sugary than store-bought), the jam graced toast and English muffins at breakfast, biscuits at dinner, and PB&J sandwiches at lunch. It’s still by far my favorite jam, and yes, I still eat PB&J for lunch!

Strawberry Bread. During high school, I spent the first six weeks of summer at tennis camp, 6-8am, Monday through Friday. I hated getting up so early, but it was always nice to finish playing before the heat of the day. I rode my bike home, tennis bag slung over my shoulder, and settled in for a slice of strawberry bread, spread with whipped cream, while I watched Wimbledon. It was the Green family’s version of Strawberries and Cream! Someday, though, I’d love to enjoy the real thing at the tournament.

Today my parents found some locally grown berries at the produce store in our town, and my mom has already put up four batches of jam. She’s really excited because, recently, she’s had a lot of trouble with her jam setting because grocery-store berries tend to be extremely watery. She’s had to remake batches and add extra pectin to make up for it, but we can already tell this jam has set perfectly. Yet another reason to focus on local foods as much as you can.

Now excuse me while I run out to buy a package of English muffins.

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