Spring has finally (and I mean FINALLY) sprung here in Baltimore. This means many things: ant colony invasion in the kitchen, pollen covering the car each morning, birds chirping, sun shining…and strawberries will soon be in full bloom. Granted, in other places throughout the country I think they already are because the prices have returned to a reasonable amount over the past two weeks. Plus during my near-weekly visit to the Baltimore Farmers’ Market, I’ve noticed that there are 2 vendors selling a small amount of freshly-picked berries, so even here on the cold east coast, some of the strawberries must be staying strong.
My favorite local “pick-your-own” farm hasn’t reopened so I guess they’re not in full bloom yet…but the time is so close I can taste it. Seriously, if you’ve never picked your own strawberries, you need to do it at least once. Not only do they taste completely different than store berries, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon in the sun, chatting with friends/family while also feeling like you’re earning your treat. Did I mention the sun?? (WEAR SUNSCREEN. I forgot once and I swear I was the same shade as the berries in my box.) Baltimore friends, you have no excuse, I will gladly accompany you any time 🙂
Regardless of where the strawberries come from, my greatest frustration has always been the same: the berries turning mushy and moldy before I get to enjoy each decadent one. Until last month that is…
On one of those rainy days that seemed to consume the month of April, I was “Pinterest”-ing and among other things decided to search for a solution to my strawberry problem. I’ve heard a variety of debates regarding how to prolong the fridge life of strawberries (wash them right away/don’t wash them until you use them; keep them in the ventilated store container/place them in Ziploc with paper towel) but I’d never asked Pinterest. So I did and lo and behold, apparently there is an answer: vinegar. Now maybe this is one of those tricks that everyone else in the world already knows and is simply news to me, but I was floored. Vinegar? That horrible-smelling stuff I just used to clean the coffeemaker? But I had come home from the store with a 2-lb. box of strawberries that morning ($3.99 for 2 lbs…I just can’t turn down a bargain like that!) So I figured it was worth a shot. Here is what ensued:
1) I poured the berries into a large bowl and kept adding water cup-by-cup until the berries were submerged. Then I added about 1/2 cup of vinegar, mixed the bowl around, and left it in the sink.
2) After about 5 minutes, I came back and poured out the water/vinegar mixture. Then I rinsed the strawberries in a colander. Yes, mine is strawberry-shaped. It’s not because I love them so much I have a separate strainer…that just happens to be the one I strain everything in. (Clearly I cook in small portions.)
3) I hand-dried each berry with a paper towel before placing them in a Ziploc bag between 2 other paper towels.
It was a miracle. No joke, these berries last me 13 days and not a single one went bad! I was speechless. Maybe this is common knowledge that the rest of the world has been keeping from me (like the Bed Bath and Beyond coupon secret…you can use multiple coupons in one purchase! And that includes expired ones!! How did I not know??) but I was blown away. I’ve done it twice now since this inaugural exercise and each time, it’s worked like a charm. Granted, I did just buy my latest batch on Friday but still my hopes are high.
Now onto the next question: But Katie, what will I do with 2 lbs. of strawberries? I’m just one person! Well, don’t you worry, I already thought of that. First, you could chop some up each morning to add to your cereal. You have to get those fruit and veggie servings in somehow! Second, you could add them to ice cream or mix them with yogurt to blend a smoothie (if you’re fortunate enough to have a stomach which can handle either of those.) Third, you can dip them in melted chocolate for a delicious dessert treat! (Even I got to do that with my dairy-free, soy-free Enjoy Life chips!) And of course, you can bake with them. There are a hundred different muffins, tarts, pies, etc. you could probably make using strawberries but I have to share this most recent creation of mine which has left me drooling. Well, almost 🙂
Strawberry-Vanilla Pancakes. Yep, you read that right. Why didn’t I ever think of this before??
It all started when I used a Living Social deal to order this delicious pancake mix:
But I learned long ago that gluten-free pancakes need a little something extra to make them delicious. Something about the consistency is lacking without that pesky gluten. My go-to is usually blueberries or chocolate chips. However, on this particular morning I had strawberries on the brain. So I got to chopping…
VANILLA! So before I knew it, I had all these ingredients in front of me. (The yellow bowl has my flaxseed egg substitute. Unfortunately, my “only tolerates eggs when baked in things” stomach is not fooled into thinking things such as pancakes or battered chicken/fish are baked enough. So no eggs for me 😦
Fortunately, I was wrong. They were AMAZING!!! Here is the finished product with some delicious maple syrup and some Katie-safe breakfast sausages (Jones Dairy Farm…I know, misleading because it sounds like it would contain dairy. They don’t!). And coffee of course. I mean, come on now… I think you know me well enough so that should go without saying at this point.
And I even had enough to freeze for multiple weekday breakfasts. Springtime success!
And in case you’d prefer not to do the “taste test the batter” method I used, here is what worked for me. Though I personally would recommend the taste test. It’s more fun 🙂
Now let’s hope the sun keeps shining and I’ll see you soon at the strawberry patch! Or the Farmer’s Market…they each hold a special place in my heart 🙂