Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberry Picking 2013

Strawberry Picking 2013

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry than the strawberry, but doubtless, God never did.” 

During my last years at the Yancey House Restaurant, I took a vow to only serve strawberries in season.  It was tough choice, and I admit to weakening a few times and using the grocery store variety to make a smoothie; however, overall, I held pretty firm.

My anticipation of strawberry season is, therefore, understandable. . . and now it’s arrived!  In Caswell County, we are lucky to have a number of area strawberry farms.  I have already visited most of them, for I can’t imagine any May pleasure as superbly delicious as picking and eating strawberries warmed by the sun.

Last week, for a catered event, I didn’t have a chance to handpick strawberries so I dropped by Halls on Cherry Grove Road and picked up four quarts for the strawberry cheesecake, strawberry upside down cake, and strawberry salad I would be preparing for the weekend.

Strawberry Salad

Strawberry Salad

Most of my favorite strawberry recipes originate in Louisiana. Back in the 1970s, Counter Culture Frozen Yogurt on King’s Highway in Shreveport offered a “Humphrey Yogart”—a delightful concoction of frozen yogurt topped with strawberries, bananas, pineapple, granola, raisins, and a healthy drizzle of honey.

One block up from Counter Culture, Strawn’s Eat Shop, still sells a blockbuster strawberry dessert that first graced their menu in 1944.

Strawn's Pie Shop in Shreveport, Louisiana

Strawn’s Pie Shop in Shreveport, Louisiana

Only Louisianans knew about Strawn’s until 1994 when a Southern Living featured their famous ice box pies in their magazine.  Food Network also featured the pie on March 10, 2003 in “The Best Of . . . .”

My first experience at Strawn’s came in 1967, when my mother and I moved to Shreveport from Livingston Texas.  Every Saturday, my friends and I would go to Strawn’s and order a hamburger and wedge of pie.  I always wondered why I bothered with the burger when all I really wanted was a slice of Strawn’s famous strawberry pie.

I have already shared the recipe for Strawn’s pie years ago in a previous column, so let me offer two new recipes—a muffin and an alcoholic drink–that you might enjoy as we edge toward summer.

Strawberry Muffins with Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Muffins with Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Muffins. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffin cups with paper cupcake liners. In a large bowl combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 salt. Stir well until all ingredients are well blended.

In another bowl, whisk together1 1/2 c. buttermilk, 1/3 c. melted butter, 2 slightly beaten eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour liquid mixture in and 1 pint chopped strawberries. Using a large spoon, gently fold ingredients; do not overmix.

Spoon the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with about ½ teaspoon sugar, if desired. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Strawberry Mojitos

Strawberry Mojitos

Strawberry Mojito.   Mojito is a Cuban drink.  Some say that it was introduced to Cuba by Sir Francis Drake during his Caribbean explorations in the 1500s.  My favorite strawberry mojito recipe comes from the Hot and Hot Fish Cookbook, a favorite culinary text, by Birmingham, Alabama chefs Chris and Idie Hastings.

Combine 1 tsp. sugar and 6 fresh mint leaves in a martini shaker and muddle until the mint leaves are bruised and fragrant. Add 2 medium-sized strawberries (trimmed and cut in half) and muddle until finely chopped—the mixture will appear slightly pureed.

Add  1 1/4 oz. light rum, 1 1/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice, and stir or shake until combined.  Fill a highball glass with ice and pour the strawberry mixture over the ice.  Add enough 7-up or Sprite to fill the glass and stir gently. Garnish with a fresh strawberry or lime wedge and serve immediately.

Note on muddling: To muddle is a bartending technique which involves combining ingredients, usually in the bottom of a mixing glass, by pressing them with a muddler (or pestle) before adding the majority of the liquid ingredients.