SARASOTA, Fla. -- Strawberry season technically begins in December, but the height of this luscious period is now upon us. February, March and April boast perhaps the largest and sweetest examples of these all-American beauties. Although us Northerners have fond memories of picking our own strawberries as a child (red stains dotting our T-shirts and the corners of our mouths), some insatiably sweet varieties are readily available outside of “pick your own” farms -- though the farmers’ varieties typically outweigh the plastic-clad strawberries found at the local grocery store.
Here in Sarasota, Sweet Charlie’s are readily found without having get your hands dirty. Overholt’s Produce on Bahia Vista, (pen from December to Easter) is one of my favorite bi- weekly stops for juicy sweet berries.
Color is the essence of a great berry. You’ll want to look for darker berries, with the deeper color indicating a sweeter (and most likely locally grown) berry. Make sure that you refrigerate the fruit right away -- but honestly, fresh strawberries are best when consumed within 24 hours of picking.
If you must save them for later, you’ll want to store your berries on a dry paper towel in the refrigerator overnight, unwashed. Remove stem when you are ready to slice. When you’re ready to eat the berry, simply gently wash with cool water and remove the cap after the berry has been drained. If you plan on freezing fresh strawberries, the same rules apply. Place them into a plastic bag and freeze unwashed with the green caps in place.
An all time favorite 1960’s classic, I prefer to serve mine with a sliced shortcake biscuit to the side or scone to ensure every drop.
2 pints strawberries, washed and stemmed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 pint vanilla ice cream (I prefer Haigen Daiz for the rich fat content)
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons zest of orange
6-8 whole berries
buttermilk shortcake biscuits
1. Slice the strawberries. In a large bowl, toss three-quarters of them with the sugar and orange liqueur. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to macerate.
2. Put the ice cream in the refrigerator to soften.
3. Put the cream and half the macerated strawberries in a cold mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, whip to soft peaks, about 12 minutes. Fold in the ice cream.
4. Distribute the cream among 6 tall martini glasses. Mix the plain sliced berries with the remaining macerated berries and place on top of the cream. Garnish with a whole berry- stem on and zest of orange
Makes 6 to 8 servings.