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06/23/2017

~ Simple & Sweet: Homemade Strawberry Topping ~

IMG_0672Strawberries, one of the first fruits to ripen in the Spring, are considered to be the fruit that announces "Summer is here", and, here in Central Pennsylvania, we've been enjoying our own homegrown and locally-grown farmers-market strawberries for a couple of weeks now.  From pancakes, waffles and French toast, to cheesecake, shortcake and ice-cream (to name a few), the 20-30 minutes it takes to make strawberry topping is well-worth the effort.  It's luscious.

Those who scratch-make this pretty-to-look-at positively-yummy tart-and-sweet topping make it to their own liking.  Some folks hull and toss the berries in whole, then after it has cooked, mash the mixture so it contains uniform-sized bits and pieces.  Some remove and purée a portion of the cooked topping, then, stir the purée back into the chunkier topping for a multi-textural experience. Others strain the cooked topping, to produce a thick, chunky topping in one container, and, a thin, drizzly sauce in another.  In all cases, it can be served hot, warm or chilled.  It's personal.

IMG_4770Simple, sweet & straightforward, here's my version:

All recipes for strawberry topping contain sugar and almost all contain vanilla extract and a bit of lemon juice too.  My recipe contains all three plus a full tablespoon of organic strawberry extract for an even fuller-flavor.  I do, however, do one thing different.  I like to use cornstarch to thicken the mixture.  This shortens the simmer time from about 15 minutes to 3 minutes, which means my strawberries maintain more of their shape and texture.  Mostly I do nothing with my topping after it comes off the stove, except let it cool to room temperature 1-2 hours prior to refrigerating it.  That said, on occasion I purée it with an immersion blender -- halfway until it is almost smooth with little pieces of strawberry in it, or, all the way, until it is completely smooth.  It's your choice.

IMG_06094-5  cups hulled & 1/4" sliced straw berries (1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds after hulling)

1/2  cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2  cup + 2 tablespoons water

1  tablespoon pure strawberry extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1  teaspoon lemon juice, fresh or high-quality Organic bottled lemon juice

2  tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water

2  drops red food coloring (optional)

IMG_0612 IMG_0618 IMG_0621 IMG_0615~Step 1.  Hull and slice the strawberries as directed, placing them in a saucier or saucepan as you work.  Add the sugar, water, extracts and lemon juice.  Stir to thoroughly combine.  Over medium- medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to a steady, gentle simmer.  While mixture it coming to a simmer, in a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water.

IMG_0624 IMG_0626 IMG_0629 IMG_0642~Step 2.  Drizzle the the milky-looking cornstarch/water mixture into the simmering strawberries -- it will change in appearance to clear and glistening as it simmers. Continue to gently simmer the strawberries until mixture is thick and syrupy, about 3 1/2-4 minutes. Stir in 1-2 drops of the optional red food coloring at this time -- not too much, just enough to boost the color a bit.

IMG_0642Remove from heat & serve warm, or, allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 1-2 hours, prior to refrigerating (which will thicken it a bit more) & serving cold.

IMG_0650Simple & Sweet:  Homemade Strawberry Topping:  Recipe yields 3 cups strawberry dessert topping.  Keep stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.  Do not freeze.

Special Equipment List:  strawberry huller (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; 3-quart saucier or 3-4-quart saucepan; large spoon

IMG_4966Cook's Note:  ~ Scrumptious Sweet-Cream-Biscuits & Strawberries (commonly referred to as Strawberry Short Cakes ~.  I grew up eating this classic dessert served on sponge cake -- which makes sense because sponge cake is a specialty of the Pennsylvania Deutsch.  If you grew up in New England, they put strawberries on short biscuits.  This makes sense because this type of short cake, called a biscuit by the British, was brought to America by the English settlers.  "Short" refers to their crumbly texture.  "Cake" refers to the fact that they sweeten them to make them more tender.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

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