Soon strawberries and Rhubarb will be center stage! I can’t wait until I taste the first local strawberry. Failing a backyard bed or pick- your-own farm, try to find local strawberries! In season these babies are best when eaten right out of the patch sweet and still warm from the sun. Strawberry varieties grown for mass production and transportation, fail in comparison to local berries. Make sure when you visit a farm, market or pick your own. To buy berries that are scarlet, shiny, plump and fragrant. Store the berries in the fridge in well ventilated baskets so they can breathe. Wash them just before eating and remove the hull and stems AFTER you wash them. Remember a fresh local berry is worth the wait. Eating and cooking seasonal is close to our hearts here at our farm. My husband and I have always taken our children out strawberry picking. And although we own a produce market, things haven’t changed. We still pick berries together and make jam. Remember the intensity and scent is what makes a fresh berry remain unsurpassed. The aroma of strawberries and spring onions as I make my daily pickup is incredible! It lets me know, Spring has Sprung!
Strawberries are a natural complement to Rhubarb, which come into season at the same time. Coming from stores Rhubarb has been stripped of its leaves, which are toxic, containing oxalic acid. Never eat the leaves! Rhubarb season here in Va. Is April-May. Refrigerate them as soon as possible. To cook cut the stalks across into ½ “ -1 “ pieces. You can stew or bake them with plenty of sugar as they are tart. Hot house varieties are sweeter compared to home grown, so adjust sugar accordingly. Rhubarb cooks quickly, so cook it no longer than necessary. Stringing it is not necessary but some prefer . It is a natural laxative. Some call a spring tonic. I love strawberry rhubarb pie and jam. Recently I discovered how good a rhubarb sauce goes with pork or lamb. The tartness offsets the meats richness, much like apples and pork. (Yum) And the best part is Rhubarb is a perennial,coming back year after year!
One day while making jam, it just would not jell. So I changed my labels and made Zina’s Strawberry Topper. It is great topped on anything…pancakes, waffles, yogurt, cake… It quickly became one of my better sellers. Then my husband bought me an ice-cream maker! Zina’s topper became my year round supply of strawberry ice-cream, any time you want it! It has less sugar than strawberry jam (hence the reason it didn’t jell) I use this recipe for all seasonal berries blueberries ,raspberries, blackberries… Here is the recipe for Zina’s Strawberry Topper and ice cream. Enjoy!
This ice cream is delicious adding fresh local strawberries or Zina’s Strawberry Topper: Recipe as follows.
1 ½ pint of Zina’s Strawberry topper
½ cold milk
2 ¾ cup of heavy cream
11/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
In a medium bowl combine the milk and sugar, mix with mixer until sugar is dissolved. About two min. Stir in heavy cream, vanilla, and strawberry topper. Pour mixture into the freezer bowl, turn on maker and let it mix for 25 min. If more berries are wanted add during last 5 min. Enjoy!
Zina’s Strawberry Topper
Use the best local strawberries you can find. Can be used as a jam, but runnier than your traditional jam. You can substitute any berry in season.
6 cups of fresh berries
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cups of sugar
Combine the berries and lemon in a heavy pot. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until juice runs from berries and they float. Add sugar, stir until dissolved, bring liquids to a boil. Cook until the topping reaches setting point.220 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 15 min. stirring as it boils to avoid scorching. Skim off foam, adding a tsp. of butter will help this, spoon clean ½ pint jars. Hot water bathe for 10 min. Store in cool, dry cupboard.
Makes about 6 half-pint jars
Rhubarb Coffee Cake
This coffee cake has a nice balance between the sweet of the topping and the tart of the fruit. Great with coffee for a real morning treat!
1 1/4 c. of milk
1 T. vinegar
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp. baking soda
8 T. butter (1 stick at room temp.)
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 large egg
2 c. of rhubarb 1/2 " thick
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Butter and flour 9x13 pan. Tapping out excess flour.Combine the milk and vinegar and let stand until curdles (5 min). Mix the flour baking soda ,salt together. Cream the butter,brown sugar together in med. bowl until fluffy about 3 min. Beat in the egg. Combine flour mixture ,sour milk, and creamed butter and sugar. Do not over mix! Mix just until ingredients are moist. Fold in rhubarb, spread in pan. Mix topping : Brown sugar, oats, and butter. Spread evenly over batter, mash down a bit with the back of a spoon. Bake until a tooth pick comes out clean.35 min. Cool in the pan on a rack.Enjoy!
Easy Balsamic Strawberry Jam Recipe
2 cups of chopped strawberries
1 cup of sugar
2 Tbl. of balsamic vinegar
Cook strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a medium pan on med heat for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally. I usually eye-ball the thickness of the sauce to determine when it is done. When the jam mixture has reduced to the consistency of thick honey or 220 degrees F. remove from heat and allow to cool. Enjoy!