Strawberry season — finally! There’s nothing on this green earth like the scent of a strawberry still warm from the field. And that color, that glowing ruby red right through to the center — now that’s a perfect strawberry.
The girls loved the smell of the berries, but had no interest in eating them. Libby is fond of the mint that I used as a garnish, though, which may be a problem; the mint grows in a pot on my deck, Libby’s favorite spot. Cleo’s more interested in the pot itself. She likes to remove the plants and chew on the planters. Life is always an adventure with Cleo around.
Luke and I are capable of demolishing an entire small watermelon in one sitting, but none of us actually eats all that many fresh strawberries at once. We seem to be more in love with the idea of strawberries than with the berries themselves, so I tend to find ways to cook with them. Since strawberries are the very definition of summer, I like to focus on light and refreshing recipes.
Strawberry sorbet is one of the easiest and fastest dishes to make. It’s exactly the same technique as I used for the blueberry sorbet, and it works for all sorts of fruit (I can’t wait for peaches and nectarines later in the summer). The small amount of sugar and citrus in the sorbet only serve to intensify the essence of the fruit.
Last year, I had the pleasure to be one of the editors for the recently released Homemade Soda by Andrew Schloss (Storey Publishing). It was thanks to Andrew that I thought to try blending some of the strawberry sorbet with sparkling water. I like my sorbet to be mostly fruit with just a touch of sugar syrup, so when I combined the slightly tart sorbet with decidedly unsweet club soda, a bit of extra sugar was called for.
The resulting drink is refreshing and light and really pretty in an almost girly way, yet it’s not at all sugary. Of course, if sugary is what floats your boat, you can certainly add as much sweetener as you want. A bit of minced fresh mint, or a squeeze of orange juice, is also a wonderful addition.
I’ve been wondering about making simple syrup with healthier sweeteners. Has anyone tried using honey or stevia to make a simple syrup? How did it work?
JULY 29, 2011 update: It didn’t occur to me until 5 am today that there’s actually no need to make the sorbet; you can simply purée the strawberries, stir in some club soda and add simple syrup to taste. The advantage to using sorbet is the texture: the drink is thicker, with some substance to it.
If you’re a purist, you can force the strawberry puree through a strainer for a clear soda. I like the chewy bits, myself.
makes about 1 quart
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 quart fresh strawberries
Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is clear and glossy. There’s no real need to bring to a boil. Set the syrup aside to cool, then pour it into a jar and pop it in the fridge until it’s really cold.
Rinse the strawberries, hull and halve them, and puree them in a food processor or blender. Squeeze in the juice of the orange: juice from a half will boost the strawberries’ flavor; juice from the whole orange will add a distinctive touch of citrus. You can also add a bit of the zest if you wish.
Add the simple syrup. Use enough to make the mixture taste just a tad too sweet; when it’s frozen, the flavors are more subtle. Give it a whirl just to blend and put it back in the fridge to get really cold. Follow the directions on your ice cream maker to create the rosy sorbet.
Strawberry Sorbet Soda
½ cup strawberry sorbet
½ cup sparkling water or club soda
Blend the sorbet and water in a food processor or blender (I used a stick blender), pour over ice, and serve. Adjust the amounts to your taste. Add a sprig of mint, or a splash of fresh orange juice if you wish. If you like a sweeter drink, use lemon-lime soda or ginger ale instead of club soda.