Strawberries are the most recognizable summer food. It just feels like a warm, balmy day when you bite into a strawberry’s flesh. Here in the east, strawberries are about to be out of season. The pick-your-own farms are enjoying these last few weekends of a busy season. So don’t you wish you could save those perfect strawberries for a later date? Because, let’s face it, strawberries are kind of amazing. One of my favorite ways to keep fruit for weeks on end (if it lasts that long in my fridge) is to make preserves. Juicy mouthfuls of fruit surrounded by sticky sweet syrup. This recipe is not just any preserves recipe, however. It has a pickling twist with vinegar and spices like coriander to give just enough of a bite in order to off-set the sweetness of the strawberries and their syrup.
This recipe comes from the new cookbook Seven Spoons. If you’re a food blog junkie, I’m sure that you have heard of Tara O’Brady and her new cookbook. Also her blog of the same name. If you haven’t heard of Seven Spoons, don’t worry. I’m here to give you the scoop! Otherwise, I’m a little late to the party. Bloggers have been writing all about the best recipes from her book including her legendary ginormous chocolate chip cookies. But I just received my copy and had to make this strawberry preserves recipe asap. Though it was hard to choose my first recipe to feature after perusing the book.
Seven Spoons is a beautiful book that offers more of a global take on meals, snacks, and essentials. The photos are amazing, and the recipes have a personal touch from Tara: she almost always introduces what makes each recipe choice special. This makes Seven Spoons a great cookbook not only to cook from, but to read. Those are my favorite class of cookbooks. I also like that she offers notes on the side of each recipe with substitution ideas to make your shopping easier. Her instructions are a bit conversational which makes it hard to follow along as you go. In other words, this is not a book where you can start the recipe before reading through all of the instructions. Although, you shouldn’t be doing this in the first place, so maybe this will correct all of our bad habits.
Tara O’Brady’s Seven Spoons offers new ideas for your eating pleasure which is difficult to find in a cookbook these days. Instead of going back to the classics, Tara spins new ideas and old to help spice up your food repertoire. Which makes me want to be best friends with her. (Tara are you up for it?! I’ll provide praise, you bring the snacks)
The magic of this recipe features sugar and vinegar left to their own devices when sprinkled and poured over hulled strawberries. The vinegar loosens up the flesh of the fruit by disrupting the cell walls of the strawberry. This makes the fruit softer and opens the door for sugar to do its thing*. Once the gates have been opened by the vinegar, the sugar can interact with the fruit and draw some of the liquid out. Essentially, the sugar on the outside of the fruit encourages the fruit to send some of its water into the environment in order to have similar water pressure inside and outside of the strawberry. Cells do not like a difference in concentration between their walls/membranes. (our cells do the same thing) This is called osmosis. The exiting liquid causes a syrup to form around the strawberries. As the fruit sits, the syrup begins to form over time. It’s actually a rather dramatic process that you can watch happening by the minute!
*You can see the effect of sugar without the help of acid, but it causes the reaction to happen more quickly
In addition to this vinegar creating a slightly different taste in the preserves, a spice bag filled with sage, pepper, coriander, and lemon seeds makes the recipe a must-try for all of your leftover strawberries at the bottom of your bag!
Pickled Strawberry Preserves
Adapted from Seven Spoons
1 teaspoons black peppercorns, plus a few cracks of black pepper for finishing
½ teaspoons coriander seeds
2 large bay leaves
2 pounds strawberries
1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
⅓ cup white wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon unsalted butter
1. Juice the lemon into a bowl. Take the seeds from the lemon and put into a triple piece of cheesecloth (or a self-fill tea bag) along with the bay leaves, peppercorns, and coriander seeds. Bundle up the cheesecloth with a string, give it a few whacks with something heavy to loosen up the spices, and place it in the bowl of lemon juice. Cut the lemon in chunks and put those in the bowl of lemon juice as well. Cover with a tea towel and set aside.
2. Hull your strawberries and quarter them if they are large. They should be of similar size, and only leave whole if your strawberries are tiny. Place the hulled strawberries into a separate larger bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and sugar followed by the vinegar. Toss/stir to evenly distribute the fruit and sugar mixture. Loosely cover with a tea towel and let sit at room temperature for three hours. You can also refrigerate overnight, but you should stir occasionally, so beginning the recipe in the morning and finishing in the afternoon is the best way to do it.
3. After you have let the bowl of strawberries and bowl of spices/lemon sit for three hours, set a colander over a large pot. Pour the strawberry syrup mixture into the colander scraping the sugar from the bowl. Tip the fruit back into the bowl and set the colander aside. Add the lemon chunks and spice bag to the pot of strawberry juice and discard the remaining lemon juice. Finally, add the butter to the pot and bring to a medium bowl. Cook, stirring, until the juice has become more clear and thickened—about 8 minutes.
4. Add the strawberries to the pot and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. The fruit should be softened but still whole. When finished cooking, remove from heat and carefully fish the lemon chunks and spice bag out of the pot and discard. It will be extremely hot! Grind some fresh black pepper into the strawberry preserves and mix to combine. Pour the mixture into jars, seal, and immerse into an ice bath to cool quickly. Once cooled, refrigerate. My recipe yielded about 1 ½ canning jars worth of preserves. Enjoy! I spooned mine over Greek yogurt, but it would be excellent any way you desire! Including with a spoon out of the jar…
Full disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review, but all opinions are my own!