Pick Your Own season is one of my favourites, especially when it comes to strawberries.
My kids are all strawberry guzzlers, and it’s rare a punnet survives long enough for me to be able to try anything different with it these days.
If you’re wondering what to do with your strawberries when you get them home though, here are a few delicious ideas…
1kg hulled strawberries
750g jam sugar
juice 1 lemon
small knob of butter (optional)
Prepare the strawberries by wiping them with a piece of damp kitchen paper. (Wiping the strawberries rather than washing them ensures the fruit doesn’t absorb lots of water – too much water and the jam won’t set easily.) To hull the fruit, use a knife to cut a cone shape into the strawberry and remove the stem. Cut any large berries in half.
Put the strawberries in a bowl and gently toss through the sugar. Leave uncovered at room temperature for 12 hrs or overnight. This process helps the sugar to dissolve, ensures the fruit doesn’t disintegrate too much and helps to keep its vibrant colour.
Before starting the jam, put 2 saucers in the freezer. Tip the strawberry mixture into a preserving pan with the lemon juice. Set over a low heat and cook very gently. If any sugar remains on the sides of the pan, dip a pastry brush in hot water and brush the sugar away.
When you can no longer feel any grains of sugar remaining, turn up the heat to start bubbling the jam and bringing it to the boil. (The sugar must be completely dissolved before increasing the heat, otherwise it will be difficult for the jam to set, and it may contain crystallised lumps of sugar.)
Boil hard for 5-10 mins until the jam has reached 105C on a preserving or digital thermometer, then turn off the heat. If you don’t have a thermometer, spoon a little jam onto one of the cold saucers. Leave for 30 secs, then push with your finger; if the jam wrinkles and doesn’t flood to fill the gap, it is ready. If not, turn the heat back on and boil for 2 mins more, then turn off the heat and do the wrinkle test again. Repeat until ready.
Use a spoon to skim any scum that has risen to the surface and discard this. Do this only once at the end, rather than constantly during the boiling stage, to reduce wastage.
Add a knob of butter, if you like, to the finished jam, and stir in to melt. This will help to dissolve any remaining scum that you haven’t managed to spoon off the top. Leave the jam to settle for 15 mins – this will ensure that the fruit stays suspended in the mixture and doesn’t all float to the top of the jam jar. Meanwhile, sterilise your jars.
Ladle into warm jars, filling to just below the rim. Place a wax disc on top of the jam (this prevents mildew forming), then cover with a lid or a cellophane circle and elastic band. Pop on a label (include the date), plus a pretty fabric top, if you like. The jam can be stored for up to 1 year in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate after opening.
Victoria Sponge with fresh strawberries and lots of cream!
double cream – whipped with a sprinkle of icing sugar.
Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper.
In a large bowl, beat 200g caster sugar, 200g softened butter, 4 eggs, 200g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 2 tbsp milk together until you have a smooth, soft batter.
Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
Bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed.
Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
To make the filling, whip the cream and sprinkle with icing sugar.
Spread the cream over the bottom of one of the sponges. Top it with plenty of strawberries
Dust with a little icing sugar before serving. Keep in an airtight container and eat within 2 days.
Strawberries dipped in chocolate
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
30g white and milk chocolate, roughy chopped (optional)
Cut a strip of baking parchment and leave to one side. To melt the dark chocolate, fill a small pan with 2cm water and bring to a simmer. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and rest it on top of the pan, ensuring the bowl isn’t touching the water. Stir the chocolate to gradually melt it. Or, melt the chocolate in 20 second blasts in the microwave, stirring after each blast until melted. Put the melted chocolate in a small, deep bowl.
Gently hold the strawberries by the leafy top and dip into the chocolate. Tap off any excess chocolate and put on the parchment to set. If you have any leftover chocolate, pour it onto another strip of parchment and leave it to set, it can be used again.
If you’d like to decorate the strawberries, melt the white and milk chocolate and drizzle lightly over the fruit.
Strawberry ice cream
400g strawberries, stalks removed
1-2 tsp lemon juice
600ml double cream
300ml whole milk
150g white caster sugar
5 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
Put the strawberries in a food processor or blender. Whizz to a purée, then add the lemon juice to taste – if the strawberries are quite tart you’ll only need a little.
Warm the cream and milk in a pan until just steaming, not boiling. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl for a minute or two until pale yellow. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking as you do. Once fully incorporated, strain through a sieve back into the pan. Gently cook over a low-medium heat until it thickens slightly – it should coat the back of your spoon and leave a channel if you run your finger through it (this will happen at about 82-85C). Be careful not to overcook it as the eggs will scramble. Transfer to a bowl. Cover and cool for 10 mins, then chill for 1 hr.
Stir the strawberry purée and vanilla through the cold custard. Taste to see if it needs a little more lemon or vanilla.
Freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker, or container in the freezer. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, freeze for 4 hrs, whisking vigorously or blending in a food processor every hour to remove any ice crystals. Will keep in the freezer for up to two months.
3 egg whites
50g golden caster sugar
300g strawberries, sweeten if you need to
142ml double cream, softly whipped
Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then whisk in the sugar to make a glossy meringue. Fold the cream into the purée, making sure to leave a few swirls, and spoon into glasses. Chill.
For the shortbread
100g/3½oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
55g/2oz icing sugar
1 free-range egg yolk
For the filling
150ml/¼ pint double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
55g/2oz strawberries, hulled and chopped, plus a few left whole, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
For the shortbread, place the butter, flour, icing sugar and egg yolk into a food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together as a dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 0.5cm/¼in thick. Use a pastry cutter to cut rounds out of the dough and place onto a non-stick baking sheet.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
For the filling, place the cream into a large bowl with the icing sugar and vanilla seeds and whisk until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Gently fold in the strawberries.
To serve, use the cream filling to sandwich the shortbread biscuits together and place onto a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar and garnish with extra strawberries.
And if all else fails, you can’t beat strawberries with a sprinkling of sugar and a good pouring of double cream! Enjoy!