Simple summer sauce sweetens sour strawberries

There are strawberries. And then there are strawberries.

First to arrive on the scene are the pale, still slightly sour supermarket variety, packed into their clamshell containers, which still aren’t pliable enough to keep the berries from bruising and molding, sometimes before even leaving the store. With two young children whose appetites for fruit are practically insatiable, however, these seem like a treat after months of apples, pears and citrus.

But they can’t compete with locally grown strawberries, not to mention the patch in our backyard. Small, sweet, juicy berries warmed by the sun are treasures that my sons hunt for among the ruffled leaves.

If I had my way, we’d fill in every border and flower bed with strawberry plants, but they probably still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy our summer cravings. So I buy a basket or two of California berries, whenever the price makes them hard to pass up.

Hitting their stride, those commercially farmed strawberries are available now in the 2-pound clamshells for $3.50 apiece this week at Food 4 Less. Grabbing the sweeter, organic ones for snacking, I also bought the conventionally farmed berries, figuring that I could improve their flavor profile in a pie or other dessert.

Simple strawberry compote is something I’ve been simmering up for the past month every time we have store-bought strawberries past their prime. I spoon it onto plain yogurt or even vanilla ice cream if the boys are due for a real treat. This more sophisticated take also would improve sour, soft or otherwise undesirable strawberries. It also can transition well to the freezer, stashed right by the ice cream.

Tribune News Service photo

Strawberry Sauce

2 pounds strawberries, hulled

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Couple of drops of red food coloring (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the strawberries, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice Bring to a gentle boil, stirring continuously, and let strawberries cook for a good 5 minutes, or until they are soft.

Turn off heat and use a potato masher to completely mash berries. If you’d like to bump up sauce’s red color, add a couple of drops of food coloring.

Pour mixture into a fine-mesh strainer placed over a bowl. (You also could use a food mill.) Use a spoon to stir fruit so liquid is forced through. Set pulp aside if you want to add some back to finished sauce.

Skim as much foam off sauce as you can. Then pour sauce back into same saucepan. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn off heat and let sauce cool for 5 minutes. Pour into a glass jar or container. If you like, add a spoonful or two of pulp back into sauce. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serve either straight out of fridge or warmed up in microwave over ice cream.

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime,” by Ree Drummond (William Morrow, 2015).

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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