It’s strawberry season in the Okanagan. Is there anything better than the aroma and taste of a perfectly red berry fresh from the garden? Make sure to head to the Farmers’ Market this weekend — they should have a great selection available for the next while.
There are so many wonderful ways to use this pretty berry. I love slicing them onto my salads, especially fresh spinach salad, with goat cheese and sliced almonds. Since they freeze so well, make sure to grab a couple of baskets to hull and freeze into zip-locs to have on hand for baking and smoothies. An Australian friend shared a strawberry trick for a hot summer day. Drop a frozen strawberry into your glass of wine or bubbles — it looks beautiful and keeps it cool.
I have a large bowl of strawberries macerating in the fridge right now with a vanilla bean to make strawberry-vanilla jam later today. If you don’t feel like making jam the old fashioned way, why not try a batch of freezer jam? Easy and delicious, it is a great way to capture the freshness of the season to enjoy in the winter months.
The Bench Market in Penticton is my go-to lunch spot when I am in town. Owners/sisters Dawn Lennie and Debbie Halladay, with in-house chef Stewart Glynes, offer a range of eat-in options as well as gourmet take-away items that are all absolutely delicious. Exciting news for The Bench: they are expanding and building a new kitchen facility to meet the demand for their catering and takeaway options.
Dawn shared this delicious strawberry recipe with me a while ago and I just had to share it again. The lovely red chunks of strawberry with the speckled poppy seeds that pleasingly pop in your teeth make this a sweet treat for breakfast or afternoon tea. Check out their menu at www.thebenchmarket.com.
The Bench’s Strawberry Poppy Seed Muffins
4 cups flour
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 ½ tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. poppy seeds
1 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen strawberries, roughly chopped
Measure dry ingredients. Add strawberries and toss to coat.
Combine eggs, melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla. Fold with dry ingredients.
Should be heavy batter consistency. Don’t over mix. Divide equally amongst 15 greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 for approximately 25-30 minutes.
And while you are waiting for the muffins to bake, whip up a batch this yummy jam. The zip-loc containers work great for storage.
Low-Sugar Strawberry Freezer Jam
Crush 8 cups (2 L) strawberries as above. Stir in 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) sugar; let stand for 15 minutes. Stirring constantly, gradually add 1 pouch (45 g) Freezer Jam Pectin; stir for 3 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Ladle into five 1-cup (250 mL) containers, leaving 1/2-inch (1 cm) head space. Cover with lids. Refrigerate for up to three weeks or freeze for up to one year.
Jennifer Schell is the editor of B.C. Food and Wine Trails magazine.