Who can resist a fresh strawberry pie? Click here for the recipe. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)
With strawberries showing up in the market now, how do you know what to look for? Here are some tips on choosing, storing and using berries, courtesy of Food Editor Russ Parsons:
- Choose the best berries by aroma, not color or size. The flavor of strawberries is complex; only by sniffing around will you be able to get the best. Once you've found the ones that smell the sweetest, check the underside of the box to make sure there's no spoilage.
- Store strawberries at room temperature for as long as possible. The chemical compounds that make up much of the berries' flavor are cold-sensitive, and chilling will diminish the taste.
- Wash strawberries in plenty of cold running water, but do it before removing the green caps. This helps prevent the berries from soaking up moisture and diluting the flavor.
- Remember that sugar draws moisture out of berries. In some cases, this is bad -- if you want the berries to remain firm, sugar them just before serving or they'll go limp. In other cases it is a big help -- sugar strawberries for ice cream well in advance of freezing and you won't end up with ice cubes in your ice cream.
- The red color of strawberries comes from the pigment anthocyanin, which is not heat-stable. If you cook strawberries alone, that lovely crimson color will turn to a bruised purple. But acidity stabilizes the pigment, so add some lemon or orange juice (or bake the berries with rhubarb) and the color will remain red.
Now that you know what to look for, what would you like to do with them? For some ideas, we've included a list of 29 strawberry recipes in the photo gallery above.
If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at email@example.com.
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Total time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time
Servings: Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
Video: Click here to watch Times Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter make this pie.
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water, divided
1/2 cup orange juice, from about 1 large orange
1/2 cup rum
1 sprig mint
3 tablespoons cornstarch
8 cups strawberries, about 2 1/2 pounds, hulled
1 baked 9-inch single pie crust
1. In a medium, nonreactive saucepan, stir together the sugar, one-half cup water, the orange juice and the rum. Gently crush the sprig of mint in your hand to release the oils, and place the mint in the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, about 5 minutes, and continue to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to marry the flavors. Remove from heat.
2. While the liquid is coming to a simmer, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining one-half cup water to form a slurry. Stir the slurry into the pan, then heat the pan over medium-low heat and cook until the liquid thickens (it should just begin to bubble), 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and discard the mint sprig.
3. Arrange the strawberries in the prepared crust. Pour the thickened filling over the berries, then refrigerate the pie 3 to 4 hours to set the filling.
Each of 8 servings: 338 calories; 4 grams protein; 46 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 13 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 19 mg. cholesterol; 22 grams sugar; 222 mg. sodium.