All is right in the world when strawberry season has arrived in northern Michigan! It is now that we know the warmth of summer us upon us, and we’ll soon be jumping in lakes and relaxing on beaches. Plus, we can rest assured that there will now be an onslaught of sweet and flavorful local fruits to pull us right through to apple season and the cooling of the weather. This, my friends, is summer!
So, take a moment as soon as possible to pick yourself up some fresh, local strawberries and bite into those beauties! Strawberries that are left to ripen on the plants outdo those grocery store berries that were picked green and have been ripening in their plastic containers for weeks– in an absolutely unbelievable way. They are so sweet and flavorful that, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself “accidentally” eating all the berries you bought for cooking projects and have to head back out for more. No one should be complaining about that mistake, of course, because more berries always equals more happiness.
While Michigan doesn’t rank among the top nationwide producers of strawberries, they aren’t too hard to find these weeks when they are in season. Stop by your local farmers market and someone is bound to be selling some, or make a day of it and go pick your own! U-Pick Michigan lists the big “u-pick” operations throughout the state for your convenience. The best part about picking your own berries is surely all the berries that can go into your mouth while you pick more to take home!
Strawberries are perfect for enjoying right from the container, sliced on top of ice cream or yogurt, drizzled in an aged balsamic vinegar, or in the classic strawberry shortcake. But if you’re feeling just a little more adventurous, I’m sharing some of my simplest strawberry recipes below that will have anyone you share with singing your praises for days. Just be sure to invite them over as your crisp is finishing baking… because your house will smell absolutely amazing.
Classic Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Crisps are a simple and classic dessert that I firmly believe everyone should have up their sleeve. They are really simple to make, hard to mess up, and awesomely delicious. You can follow this basic recipe with strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and more with great success – so don’t forget about it once the strawberries are gone!
Crisps are best served warm (you can pop it in the oven to heat it back up before serving) and topped with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
1 quart strawberries, greens removed and halved
about an equal amount of rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
pinch of salt
Stir together fruit, sugar, and vanilla in an 8×8 baking dish and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, oats, and salt and give it a quick stir. Add the cubed butter, and use your hands to rub the butter into the flour mixture. Just squeeze the butter and flour between your fingers over and over again until it is fully incorporated, and looks crumbly.
Once the topping is ready, sprinkle the cornstarch evenly over the fruit and stir it in until evenly dispersed throughout.
Now, pour the topping evenly over the fruit, spreading it to all the edges, but not packing it down. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling away. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before eating.
Strawberry Coconut Popsicles
While many folks leave popsicles behind as they grow up, I’m a firm believer that popsicles are perfect for all ages. If you don’t agree, just add a bit of rum to the strawberry mixture and I’m sure we’ll be on the same page before long! If you don’t have popsicle molds, just use paper cups. Let them freeze for about 45 minutes, then stick popsicle sticks into the semi-frozen mixture. You just want it to be solid enough that the sticks won’t fall over.
1 quart strawberries, greens removed
1 tsp vanilla
1 – 14oz can of coconut milk (use the full fat kind)
1/4 cup maple syrup (sugar would work too!)
Puree the strawberries and vanilla with a blender until totally smooth. If you’re picky about seeds, strain through a fine mesh sieve.
In a small bowl, whisk together coconut milk and maple syrup until no clumps of coconut cream remain.
Using a small measuring cup or spoon (or just pouring), layer strawberry puree and coconut milk into popsicle molds. Unless you use a small spoon and do this very very gently, they’re going to swirl together, and that’s alright! I usually aim for two layers of each in every popsicle.
Let freeze until fully solidified (overnight will do it), then enjoy!
This one requires an ice cream maker, but I’ve heard from many sources that it’s the best strawberry ice cream folks have tasted so I felt compelled to share. It’s nice and creamy with a really intense strawberry flavor!
4 cups strawberries
1 scraped vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar (I like to use just a bit less than a cup)
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vodka
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Puree strawberries, vanilla, and sugar until totally smooth. Mix in lemon juice and vodka, then strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds.
Whip cream until it forms stiff peaks.
Fold in the strawberry puree until fully combined, and churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy strawberry season in Michigan? Any favorite recipes?