The strawberries are here! The strawberries are here! They’re ripening and available at local farm stands and farmers markets and your favorite U-pick field is probably open or opening soon — to avoid disappointment, call to check on availability and field conditions before heading out.
Sandy Spoto Callahan, of Baldwinsville, will pick berries nearby and make a fresh, whole-berry pie or two before the season is out. “I have been picking/purchasing berries from Reeves Farms on Route 370 since grade school,” she says. “It was an end of the school year tradition.”
Local chefs and bakers are excited, too. Here’s what a few of them plan to do with local strawberries as soon as they get their hands on them.
Debbe Titus, owner, Half Moon Bakery and Bistro, Jamesville: Titus uses rhubarb from her own garden and homegrown strawberries, usually from Navarino Orchard in Navarino, to make Strawberry-Rhubarb Crunch for her customers (see recipe, below). Half Moon Bakery and Bistro is at 6500 E. Seneca Turnpike, Jamesville. Information: 492-0110, thehalfmoonbakery.com.
Eric Rose, chef (and adjunct professor of hospitality management at Onondaga Community College): Rose lives in Baldwinsville, which gives him easy access to Reeves Farms. “Andy Reeves is the keeper of the best strawberries in the east,” he says. One of Rose’s favorite things to make with local strawberries is Strawberry Gelato (recipe below), a family recipe that he has tweaked over the years. Rose’s sons give him thumbs-up when he makes Strawberry Nutella French Toast Roll-Ups, which is a bit like having dessert for breakfast. He uses a recipe from the food blog Recipe Tin Eats. Find it here: recipetineats.com.
Abigail Henson, owner and chef, LoFo, Syracuse: Organic strawberries from Cobblestone Valley Farm, Preble, Reeves Farms, Baldwinsville, and Navarino Orchard, Navarino, are likely to show up on the menu for breakfast-brunch, lunch and dinner at Henson’s Armory Square restaurant. Henson and executive chef Luke Szabo prefer strawberries in their natural state — or as close to it as possible. “Let them speak for themselves without much manipulation,” Henson said. “Just de-stem, slice, toss with a splash of sparkling Brotherhood (Winery) Chardonnay, tuck into a crepe, top with a crumble of 2 Kids Goat Farm goat cheese, toasted almonds and a drizzle of local honey. If you’re not into the idea of breakfast, throw (berries) onto a bed of rainbow chard or spinach, top with the same toppings and add some grilled shrimp or chicken. So easy, so delicious, and your family or guests will swoon.” Henson is also a fan of of strawberries in beverages and cocktails: “I think back to one of my favorites from when I lived in Florence — a strawberry capriosca. Lime, brown sugar, muddled strawberry, crushed ice and a splash of vodka or soda water (or both). Use your imagination — it’s just about getting that perfect hint of sweetness of summer’s start and sour of citrus balanced in the glass.” LoFo is at 214 Walton St., Armory Square. Information: 422-6200, lofosyracuse.com.
Two annual events mark peak of the picking/eating season:
• Transfiguration Church, 740 Teall Ave., Syracuse, will hold its annual Strawberry Festival from 4 to 7 p.m. June 18. The menu includes kielbasy and sausage sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, salt potatoes and strawberry shortcake or strawberry sundaes for dessert. Information: 479-6129, transfigurationchurchsyr.org.
• FarmshedCNY holds its third annual U-Pick Organic Strawberry Party from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 21 at Cobblestone Valley Farm, 2200 Preble Road, Preble. In addition to U-pick organic strawberries (priced by the pound), local farmers and a roster of local food producers will be on hand, offering cheese, baked goods, coffee and more. Admission is free; pay for picking, refreshments. Information: facebook.com/farmshedcny.
Note: Central New York is ripe with places to pick your own strawberries. Visit pickyourown.org for lists and clickable map of Onondaga and other counties. It is always a good idea to call ahead for field conditions and availability of berries.
From Chef Eric Rose
- 1 pound strawberries (rinsed, hulled and halved)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Put strawberries in a food processor with lemon juice and sugar. Puree until smooth. Add milk and cream and mix until blended. Chill in refrigerator until cold.
- Pour mixture into an ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer instructions. Freeze until ready to use. Garnish gelato with a chiffonade of fresh mint, if desired. Makes about 4 cups.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crunch
From Debbe Titus, owner Half Moon Bakery and Bistro, Jamesville
(Adapted from “Farmhouse Cookbook”)
- 1½ cups rolled oats
- Mounded 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups lightly packed light brown sugar
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small pieces
- 2 cups strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
- 4½ cups rhubarb, diced small
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use an 8-by-8- inch square glass or earthenware pan. You can also use a 9- or 10-inch pan, but the “crunch” won’t turn out as thick.
- For the topping: In a food processor, place oats, flour and brown sugar. Pulse/process briefly to blend. Add the butter pieces and pulse/process until mixed. The mixture should look coarse and grainy, not lumpy. Don’t over-mix, as oats will lose their texture.
- For the fruit: In a large bowl, toss strawberries, rhubarb, flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the water and mix.
- Place the fruit mixture in the baking pan. Cover with topping mixture, patting it down to form a “crust.” Don’t push too hard — just lightly pat it down.
- Bake approximately 45 minutes until it is bubbly around the edges and the topping is lightly browned and crisp. (If baking in a convection oven, plan on approximately 30 minutes.)
- Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or real whipped cream.