I’m not a Florida native, so it took me some time to wrap my brain around the fact that strawberry shortcake is something to eat at Christmas rather than the 4th of July. Where I’m from, summer is when you go berry picking.
Not so here. January is a bonanza month for local strawberries. And, they’re oh, so good.
I began my annual strawberry search by trekking out to Goodson Farms Produce Market, 12405 County Road 672, Balm. As soon as I got out of my car, I saw them. The berries. Rows upon rows of ruby red strawberries. The season is here.
Goodson’s has quarts and flats of them for sale. But you can’t make the drive out there without ordering somethin’ strawberry. The strawberry shortcake is divine. But there are other delights, as well. Try the chocolate dipped strawberries or strawberry pizza with its light, flaky crust. The latter is my weakness.
Goodson Farms is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For information, call (813) 634-7790.
Next I headed south to Morgan Farms Produce Stand, 2005 Morgan Farm Road in Ruskin, where 50 acres of sweet, sweet strawberries glistened in the sun. This season the farm’s various varieties include the Camarosa, with its brilliant, red interior; the hardy Festival, which is perfect for shipping; and firm, yet juicy Radiance.
In addition to yummy shortcakes, they offer strawberry milkshakes to die for.
Morgan Farms hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., seven days a week.
And if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, take a drive over to Hydro Harvest Farms, 1101 Shell Point Road E., Ruskin. Picking your own berries sure beats the heck out of shoveling snow and its a great way to outdoors with the kids. As I walked through Hydro Harvest’s rows of vertical hydroponic towers, I remembered how delighted my 2-year-old granddaughter Lila was the first time we brought her to pick strawberries. We taught her to look for the red ones to pluck and fill the basket she proudly carried around.
I loved how she could see where the things she eats come from, and she, of course, loved the berries!
Have you always wanted to preserve your winter bounty of strawberries but never quite had the know-how or courage to do it yourself?
At noon on Jan. 18, Hydro Harvest’s Terrie Lawson will demonstrate how to make jams and pickles using the hot-water-bath canning technique. For information or hours of operation, call (813) 645-6574.
Strawberries only keep about a week in the refrigerator but that’s usually not a problem around my house. They get eaten up long before they go bad.
You always can freeze extras in airtight containers. Don’t soak them in water, though. Like mushrooms, strawberries absorb moisture and become waterlogged. A quick rinse in water is all you need do to clean them.
I didn’t have to think long about what to make for this week’s recipe. One of my favorites is strawberry pizza, which is a sure sign at our house that strawberry season is here.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
1 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup fresh strawberries, mashed
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
8 - 10 fresh strawberries, sliced
To make the crust, combine flour, sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Form into a ball with your hands and press into a 14-inch, ungreased pizza pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, then cool.
For filling, combine cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Spread over the cooled crust.
For topping, combine strawberries, sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until thick and glossy. Cool, and then spread on top of cream cheese filling. Slice fresh strawberries crosswise to make rounds that resemble pepperoni, place on pizza and serve.
Serves 6 to 8.
Source: Adapted from www.yourhomebasedmom.com