A Syrup to Hail Summer…and the Strawberry Fields!

June 25, 2007 at 11:00 PM (dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, Inedible pleasures, sights, strawberries, sugars-sweets, syrups, USA, vegetables/ fruits)

…Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn’t matter much to me
Let me take you down, ‘cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real, and nothing to get hungabout
Strawberry Fields forever…

-The Beatles

strawberry-soda.jpg 

    Summer has now officially begun- astronomically speaking- for those in the northern hemisphere: we have just passed through the longest day of the year, when the north pole is most oriented toward the sun. On the eve of the 23rd of June, the Midsummer’s Eve festivals of nearby Door County, in tandem with the lands of Scandinavia, kick off the night with bonfires, grilled food, and plenty of alcoholic drinks to wash it all down. The merry-making continues again on the 24th- Midsummer’s Day. I have never attended these myself, but I’ve heard tales…and I imagine that, since these two dates fell across the weekend this year, this pagan holiday dating from pre-christian times was especially riotous…

    But I celebrated in my own way: on Saturday I went strawberry-picking, with a good friend and my mother, at a local “pick-your-own” strawberry farm. (We also scavenged their nearby asparagus-field for any last remaining stalks. I know we’ve heard enough about that vegetable, but it is so much better than what is available in the supermarkets, and it’s season is so short…so, those without access, please forgive my enthusiasm)

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The field director… a nice woman who keeps track of the picked rows with a flag-system.

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Diligent strawberry-enthusiasts at work…

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The plant flowers and produces the berries right next to the ground; straw keeps the berries from touching the damp soil and decomposing, which they do quite quickly after reaching their prime. (Wild strawberries also grow in Wisconsin, and though more difficult to pick, I have had the pleasure…)

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Only that darker-red one in the center would be picked now- though it would best after another day or two on the plant; the remainder ripen one-by-one; therefore the flag-system keeps a rotation going until the season ends…

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Our final cache about to be tallied by one of the sons: just under 25 lbs. Enough to have a few now and the rest preserved for special treats throughout the coming year…

    I admit, though, that I am quite fond of strawberries, as if you hadn’t guessed… and to kneel on the ground to search the plants for the low-growing fruit, is small consequence for the reward: beautifully ripe, sweet berries with just a hint of tartness left in them at their peak. Already there are plans for jam and strawberry short-cake, but, this year, I’d like to try something new with a few of them: a strawberry syrup with which to make cool sodas for the hot days ahead, to drizzle over ice-cream, pancakes or waffles…or to flavour coffee drinks or even hot cocoa when cool nights eventually return.  And I suppose alcoholic refreshments could be [clears throat] uh…concocted with it as well…

So, that’s what I did…

Strawberry Syrup

(with by-products of seedy pulp and a thick puree)

5 C fresh strawberry puree (rinse well, remove calyx, puree in a blender or food-processor or pass through a coarse sieve)

2 C water

1 3/4 C sugar (more if you like it sweeter; I don’t)

pinch of salt

pinch of citric acid

1)Place the puree, water and sugar in a saucepan and, over low heat, slowly bring to boil. Stir, lower heat and maintain a gentle simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, cover and allow to cool until warm.

2)Pass this mixture through a fine wire sieve into another pan; this will remove the seeds and some of the pulp: you will have about 1/2 C of fiber-rich, sweet solids remaining in the sieve. This can be chilled and eaten by small spoonfuls…I thought of making a halvah with sooji rava, but… I didn’t.

3)Now, take the strained mixture and return it to the stove; again, bring it slowly to a boil, then remove from heat. Pour this hot mixture through a triple-layer of cheesecloth (I lined a large colander with the cheesecloth set over another pan). Allow this to drip through for about 4 hours. Give the contents in the upper chamber a stir and allow it to drip for another hour. At this point you should have about 1 1/2 C of thick puree that will no longer offer any liquid. This seedless, thick puree can be used for flavouring a cheesecake, making strawberry ice-cream, used as a dessert-sauce, halvah-making, etc… (I promptly froze it)

4)To the potent syrup now twice-filtered- you should have a little over 4 C- add the salt and citric acid. Store in the refrigerator.

5)To compose a strawberry soda, place a small amount in a glass; fill with carbonated water and ice-cubes.  How shall I compare thee to a summer’s day!

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I’d like to thank these two lovely people for such a nice time… 🙂 ; behind them is the over-blown asparagus-field that we attacked next! We found enough for a few last dishes of the season- then it’s farewell to the beloved spears until next spring…

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6 Comments

  1. Suganya said,

    You have all these farms nearby. I envy you. I dont have any nearby. I look at yr pictures and *sigh*..

    Still, I notice you manage beautiful food! I imagine you could do wonderful things with them!

  2. Anita said,

    (sigh)…if only we could work out a trade between the strawberries and the mangoes…life would be perfect…but it never is. Strawberries are another favourite fruit of mine – right up there with them mangoes. and I hardly get any 😦
    I’ll have to find out where they grow them in India (in the foothills and also near Bombay, I think) and go and holiday there when ’tis the season…(sigh)

    That’s the problem with both fruits- the excellent ones are so tender that they don’t ship well; you have to be there, under the boughs, kneeling on the ground. How nature can extract reverence and piety!

  3. Anita said,

    Gosh, Strawberry Fields bring on too much emotion – even Suganya ended with a wistful sigh!

    I have totally taken them for granted all of these years- truly! But with things near to us, we often do…

  4. bee said,

    come pick them in my yard, pel. the raspberry plant has taken over the patch, and i can’t get to the strawberries under them because the raspberry bush is so thorny. your drink looks lovely.

    There is no point in arguing with a raspberry-bush; instead, pull off its leaves now and then- they make a wonderful tisane(“tea”)! But I imagine you may already know that….thanks for the compliment!

  5. Cynthia said,

    Hey, you can bring that syrup here and we can make some wicked alcoholic concoctions. What say you? 🙂
    I owe you some emails. Will get to them soon.

    No rush dearie; friends may come and go as they please…lovers could learn much from friendships! If you know where we could find a nice porch that has weathered many ocean-breezes and sees strolling passers-by, ask that porch to set aside a chair for me to rest my pelican-wings…

  6. sharmi said,

    I and friends are planning to go farm picking for strawberries and blackberries next week. your pics made me more exiting.

    I hope you enjoy yourself and have a great time! I look forward to seeing your talents applied to them Sharmi! 😉

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