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CSA Strawberry Festival

Written By Culinary Pen on Thursday, June 25, 2009 | 6:50:00 PM

The farm share Carla and I belong to had a nice strawberry festival to celebrate the height of the picking season. Along with a tour of the farm and a potluck dinner, we ended up picking about four quarts of organic strawberries. These strawberries are the most beautiful shade of red, with a sublime and slightly floral/sweet/tart flavor. After eating our fill out in the field, we then had to find something to do with this glut of delicious fruit.

An obvious choice was to make jam. Upon taking inventory of the larder, however, I found we still had a number of jams from last summer; raspberry, blueberry basil, plucot, and one big jar of strawberry ginger jam. Plus I just made two big jars of rhubarb preserves this spring. Two things were clear:
1.) We don't need more jam at this time
2.) I need to find more uses for jam than just toast and bi-annual bread n' butter puddings

So what about a chutney?

I love a good chutney. Classic chutneys are great with overly sharp cheeses you've forgotten about in the back of the fridge. Spiced plum chutney is my choice for dark meat birds--goose in particular. I don't mind peach chutney, but I've never been a big fan of it. And Maya Kaimal makes a killer cilantro and almond chutney that I polished off one evening with some boiled shrimp.

I wanted to keep that rich, fruity intensity of the strawberries in the forefront, but what's chutney without some warming spices? Black pepper was a must, along with a small amount of clove. I added a scattering of cracked cardamon pods to help play up the floral notes, thinking that the cardamon wouldn't mask the strawberries' natural perfume. Lemon juice, orange zest, and a bit of vinegar helped to add some acidity to the sugar I added before the pectin.

Brought to a vigorous boil that I couldn't stir down, the chutney was ready to be hot-packed into waiting mason jars. Processed in boiling water for 10 min, I should now have all the strawberry chutney I'll need to get me through the rest of the summer and into 2010. Flavor-wise, I feel that I really succeeded in preserving the intensity of the strawberries. Part of me would like it to be a bit thicker and stickier, but I'm glad I didn't overcook the chutney and loose any of that bright, fruity flavor just for a thicker jam. I may add ginger, next time, but for now I'm just going to savor my strawberry chutney topped pork chop.

Not that all the strawberries went into the pot. Carla picked over the best looking ones, then we decided what we could reasonably eat in 3-4 days. Then time for a bit of chocolate-dipped dessert!
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