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When I was a child, strawberries were one of my favorite spring/summer fruits. I loved to cut them up into my cereal, in those days, using half and half instead of milk. It was like dessert in the morning. Now, I’m much more cautious of what I put on my cereal, while I still love the strawberries, the half and half, well, not so much.
One of my favorite things to do with strawberries is to make Strawberry Shortcake. My mother used to buy those sponge cakes they sell in the grocery store. They’re o.k., full of yellow dye I’m sure, and they also got soggy really fast. That was not so good. When I left home to be on my own, I started making sweet biscuits as my “shortcake” and loved my strawberry shortcake so much more. The dense biscuit really holds up to the juicy berries. Now, I use my recipe for Super Simple Scones, without the extra added fruits, to make a creamy, tender Fresh Homemade Strawberry Shortcake.
Strawberries have gotten a bad rap lately, being put on the list of the “Dirty Dozen”; a compilation of foods that show the highest incident of pesticide residues. Amazingly there are more than 60 being found in some commercial crops. This is in some, not all, so while it is BEST to buy organic when you can, there are ways to mitigate the pesticide problem. Thoroughly washing the berries removes 75% of the residual pesticide. Even prior to washing, the levels of pesticide are below the FDA standards, but why not take it well below?
One of the reasons pesticides are so prevalent in strawberries is due to their delicate nature. Strawberries are prone to fungus, and so farmers spray with abandon to stifle that. This fungal growth is another reason that strawberries are so difficult to keep and store, they rot rather quickly, usually within a few days of purchase. One of our Sonoma food personalities, Marcy Smothers (married to the famous Tommy Smothers) just wrote a book called “Snacks”. In it, she talks about how to keep strawberries fresh longer by giving them a bath in hot water. This, she says, abates the bacterial growth. So I thought I would give it a try.
It worked! These are my strawberries after being stored for six days in the refrigerator in a covered Tupperware container. They still look and taste fresh. So here’s what you do: Put the berries, in batches as necessary, into a bowl and put hot (about 120 degrees) water over them, swish them about and leave them for 30 seconds. Drain into a colander and then set to dry on paper towels. Once dry, put into an airtight container and use them, probably within a week. But that buys a lot of time, doesn’t it!
So my Fresh Homemade Strawberry Shortcake is different than many as, as I said, I use sweet biscuits rather than sponge cake. Second, I slice the berries or cut them into chunky pieces and put a couple of tablespoons of sugar on them, this really helps them release their juices, cover and put into the refrigerator for at least half a day. Then, when I’m making my whipped cream, I mince some of the sweet berries and add it to the whipping cream as I’m whipping it, flavor town!
So remember, just because strawberries are getting the bad rap for pesticide residue, they are also full of Vitamin C, fiber, folate, potassium and antioxidants! So wash them and enjoy!
Place the cut strawberries in a bowl, add the sugar and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, overnight is fine.Remove the berries from the refrigerator. Cut the biscuits into halves and spoon the berries and accumulated juice over one half; reserving about 1/2 cup of berries.
Chop the reserved berries into small pieces. Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and using either an electric mixer or wire whisk, whisk until beginning to thicken; add the sugar and reserved strawberries, continue to beat until stiff.Spoon the whipped cream on top of the berries, close with the top of the biscuit and serve!
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