Sunday, May 20, 2007


I hate to say this, because it sounds churlish—a little bit like badmouthing Mother Teresa, or something—but fresh strawberries are more trouble than they're worth.

They bruise easily. They go bad quickly. A day or two after you bring them into your kitchen, a quart of fresh strawberries may have become a mushy, mold-infected mess oozing red juice out the bottom of the container.

So I have set a new policy on strawberries this year. On the day that I bring them home, I nibble a few in their fresh, natural state, then process the rest.

My "processing" of strawberries involves the following steps:

  1. Wash and hull them, discarding any that are already bad.

  2. Cut them into halves or quarters and pile them into a saucepan.

  3. Stir into them a small amount of white sugar. I eyeball it, but I would guess maybe one or two tablespoons of sugar per pint of strawberries. Sometimes I add a splash of lemon juice as well.

  4. Gently heat the strawberry-sugar mixture until the strawberries have exuded lots of juices, the sugar is dissolved, and the resulting syrup has just reached the boil.

  5. Pour the strawberries and syrup into a clean container and store them in the refrigerator.

I'm no food scientist, but my theory is that the heat pasteurizes the berries, stopping any bacterial breakdown of the fruit, and the combination of sugar, acid, and heat creates a syrup of invert sugar, which has a preservative effect.

The strawberries in their syrup stay sweet and tasty for days, so I can spoon out small servings at my leisure. I no longer get frustrated by paying for a quart or two of berries and then chucking half of them down the garbage disposal.

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