Whether you need mass quantities of fruit for a big project like making jam, or you just want a nice bowl of berries to enjoy at the peak of their season, finding top quality local strawberries makes a big difference in flavor. I’m lucky to have the Chandler Strawberry Patch nearby in Cross Plains, Indiana. I can just call or text in my order, set up a delivery time up the road in Versailles, or pick it up at the farm market just a half hour from home. This year I also received an extra quart as part of the first Madison Area Growers CSA bag of the season. Home run! Their fruit is carefully handpicked by Amish neighbors, the berries are beautiful and delicious.
In addition to being local growers, the Chandler’s daughters, Sarah and Leah, went to grade school with our kids. Sarah was in Carrie’s class, and Leah was in Kevin’s. Later on, Leah and I crossed paths when we both contracted with Visit Indiana in the early 2000s and again a few years later when she’d attend ABA Marketplace for Explore Branson and I attended for Visit Southeast Indiana. Small world.
STRAWBERRY JAM is one of my favorite things to make from flavorful vine-riped local berries. The color of the finished product – and of course the taste – are definitely worth the effort. In my younger days, I would experiment with recipes for preserves, conserves and jams calling for either whole, crushed, or chopped berries and varying proportions of sugar and lemon juice. When I opened Main Street Bed & Breakfast in 1987, I switched to making cooked jam using the Sure Jell pectin recipe for ease and product consistency and have never gone back. Now that we’re empty nesters, I make jam in half pint or smaller jars, mostly for gifting. You’ll need 8 cups of berries for one batch. If you’ve never made cooked jam, I highly recommend beginning with this simple Sure Jell recipe that has never failed to set!
I have my Grandmother, Flo’s, handwritten recipe for her strawberry preserves, and believe me, there’s nothing high tech about it. “When done put on large meat platters and let sit overnight… can next morning and put in cool basement.”
My Mom’s STRAWBERRY PIE is one of my husband, Ken’s, favorite desserts, and really the only thing he cares I make during strawberry season! It’s important to note that to him “pie” means “pies” and whipped cream is served in large quantities. He doesn’t care whether it’s whipped from heavy cream, comes in a spray can or a plastic tub, as long as there’s a lot of it! You’ll need a generous quart of berries for this pie.
Mom’s Strawberry Pie
- 1 quart strawberries (I use a generous quart!)
- 2 1/2 tbsp corn starch
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 baked pie shell
- Bake a single crust pie shell and cool.
- Place 10-12 whole strawberries on the bottom of the pie crust. Slice remaining berries and add to saucepan.
- Combine remaining ingredients in the saucepan with the strawberries. Cook on medium heat while stirring until thick, clear and glossy.
- Pour filling into pie shell and cool.
- Top with whipped cream when served.
Homemade STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM seems to signal the real arrival of summer. There’s nothing better than just churned ice cream! I use a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker and find the process to be quick and simple. If I’m making ice cream for more than just Ken and I and it will all be eaten in one serving, I use the Cuisinart recipe book’s Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream recipe that calls for 1 1/2 cups of fresh berries. The flavor is excellent – very fresh tasting – but it develops an icy consistency after storing in the freezer for a day or two.
For an ice cream with a creamier texture when stored in the freezer, I use the Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream recipe from the cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home requiring 1 pint of berries. The result is easy to scoop and not the least bit icy.
STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD is delicious, and I make it several times during strawberry season. The recipe calls for spinach, but I often substitute some of it with baby leaf lettuces. Last night I used a combination of spinach, mixed greens and Russian kale since strawberries, leaf lettuce and kale came in this week’s Madison Area Growers CSA bag! The combination of the juicy sweet berries, the soft bleu cheese crumbles and the poppyseed dressing is fantastic. Most of the time I substitute Panera Bread bottled poppyseed dressing for the homemade recipe and have found it to work very nicely!
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
- 6 cups baby spinach (or combination of spinach & other tender greens)
- 1 pint strawberries
- 4 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 1/3 small red onion, thinly sliced
- poppyseed dressing
Poppy Seed Dressing
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp poppy seeds
- pinch ground dry mustard (optional)
- salt & pepper
- Make the salad: Toss all ingredients together with your desired amount of dressing until combined
- Make the Poppyseed Dressing: Whisk all ingredients together until combined
STRAWBERRY BUTTER is a treat to have on hand and is easy to make. The recipe only calls for 6 ripe berries, so when you’re down to the end of your haul, this is a nice way to use the last few berries (other than just eating them!) I love to use this butter on the homemade English muffins by H&H Bakery that I buy at the Madison Farmers Market, but it is also really good on a plain cream scone.
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 6 ripe strawberries
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- pinch salt
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and using the steel blad, process for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Transfer to a small crock or ramekin, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperture before serving.
Now don’t think that every strawberry that comes to my house is destined for a recipe. We always have plenty of “loose berries” to eat in any number of ways. Spontaneous strawberry eating is a good thing! Who doesn’t love vanilla ice cream and sliced berries, Frosted Flakes with sliced berries, strawberry shortcake – or just a handful of berries! The strawberry love goes deep around here!
In fact, the need to acquire delicious strawberries in peak season is apparently a genetic trait in my mother’s family. Our daughter, Carrie, lives in the Seattle area where fabulous fruit and amazing farm markets are abundant. Her young boys, Henry & Max, are huge fans of her strawberry jam, and she cranks out many pints from her large steaming cauldron.
My niece, Chloe, is a home-schooling mother of four who makes annual treks to u-pick berry farms in the area near Rock Hill, South Carolina – the Ivy Place Berry Farm in Lancaster, Bush & Vine in York, and Springs Farms in Fort Mill. Friends and family pick like crazy so she can prepare 4+ dozen jars of jam for family and gift giving. Her younger son, Wilson, will have no other strawberry jam!
Cousin Emily Curry of Liberty, South Carolina is an elementary school teacher and the twirling coordinator for Clemson University. She likes to take her two young daughters, Addison and Annabelle, to Hunter Farms in Easley to pick berries and enjoy ice cream. If her mom, cousin Julie Truax, is visiting during strawberry season, you can bet she’ll be pickin’ and jammin’!
I hope you’ll join me and my family in our love of Strawberry Season – and I hope you’ll enjoy trying a few of these favorite strawberry recipes. There’s nothing better than the burst of flavor from a delicious vine-ripened strawberry!