One of my long standing problems in the kitchen is ambition versus execution.
That dilemma always comes up during strawberry season.
Strawberries are such a fleeting crop. I always feel this intense pressure to take advantage of the six to eight glorious weeks the local berries are available. And so, I never pass up an opportunity to bring home quarts and buckets and flats of berries.
I try to put up jars of strawberry jam; regular, low sugar and no sugar. I try to make batches of old-fashioned strawberry preserves, where the berries are suspended in sauce. The preserves are so beautiful and make great holiday gifts. I try to make at least one strawberry pie.
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Inevitably, my ambition runs afoul of my limited time. Last week, I had a bucket of strawberries in the fridge that I was afraid were going to go to waste.
I came across a recipe for strawberry sauce in the latest cookbook from Food Network star Ree Drummond, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime.” The recipe was so simple that it took little time to make a batch. Now, I have a quart jar of sauce in the refrigerator, perfect for ice cream, yogurt, or even to add a spoonful or two to a cocktail or a glass of sparkling wine.
I was so inspired that I found myself making blueberry sauce using berries I froze last summer. I’m already plotting doing to the same with sliced peaches that I froze last summer. (Apparently, my chest freezer is where I send my culinary ambitions to languish.)
There are still a few weeks left for local strawberries. If you bring home one too many buckets, here’s a quick fix that even the most overly ambitious home cook can execute.
Recipe tester: You can adapt this recipe for blueberries using 1 pound and 1/2 cup sugar; omit food coloring. The sauce will last for a few months in the refrigerator and can be frozen. Adapted from “The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime,” by Ree Drummond (William Morrow, 2015).
2 pounds strawberries, hulled
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Couple of drops of red food coloring, optional
Place strawberries, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly, and let the strawberries cook for a good 5 minutes, or until they are soft.
Turn off the heat and use a potato masher to completely mash the berries. If you’d like to bump up the red color, add a couple of drops of food coloring.
Pour mixture into a fine-mesh strainer placed over a bowl. (You also could use a food mill.) Use a spoon to stir the fruit so the liquid is forced through. Set the pulp aside if you want to add some back to the finished sauce.
Skim as much foam off the sauce as you can. Then pour sauce back into the same saucepan. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn off heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Pour into a glass jar or container. If you like, add a spoonful or two of the pulp back into the sauce. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Serve either straight out of the fridge or warmed up in the microwave over ice cream.
Yield: 1 1/2 to 2 cups