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Strawberry time at Cabot

Only delicious strawberries are grown in Cabot. I know this for a fact. All the strawberries sampled from each grower at StrawberryFest were wunderbar! So, of course, a couple of quarts made it home. Well, most of them anyway. There was some sampling while en route. Our contribution to the church potluck the next day was Strawberry Cobbler made with strawberries bought at the festival.

The strawberry harvest is well under way at Cabot, and for those who did not make it to StrawberryFest but want to get some fresh from the patch, there are three places to choose from in the area: Barnhill Orchards, Holland Bottom Farms and Cabot Patch.

From the intersection of Arkansas Highways 89 and 321 (Mt. Carmel Road/Bill Foster Highway - distances according to GoogleEarth):

Barnhill Orchards is 4.75 miles south at the junction of Sandhill Road with Arkansas Highway 89.

Holland Bottoms Farm is 1.2 miles west on Arkansas Highway 321 (Bill Foster Highway).

Cabot Patch is a half-mile east on Arkansas Highway 321 (Mt. Carmel Road), at the intersection of Diedrich Road.

So, with strawberries plentiful, a few strawberry recipes are needed.

Getting away from Strawberry Shortcake, probably the first that comes to mind is Strawberry Jam. For me, there is Strawberry Jam, and then all others. Then, in a class of its own is homemade Strawberry Jam.

Homemade Strawberry Jam is quite easy; the secret is fruit pectin, which is available in the canning section of grocery stores. There are instructions included for a wide range of jams and jellies. Try it, and you might discover a new passion.

Or, use a refrigerator/freezer jam/jelly recipe.

Whether or not there is a difference between brands of fruit pectins is a matter for debate; I use Sure-Jell because that is what I have always used and had no need to change.

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FREEZER STRAWBERRY JAM

These are the “Quick and easy freezer jam and jelly directions” included in the Sure Jell box. It takes about half the time of cooked jam; it does not “set” as firmly as cooked but it retains the flavor of fresh fruit.

The directions also warn that reducing sugar or using sugar substitutes will result in “set” failures - the jam or jelly will not firm up.

If a low- or no-sugar jam is needed, look for the fruit pectin intended for such recipes.

My preference for jams is to puree the fruit for no chunks - opposite of the directions, which call for bits of fruit to remain. Make your own call about it. But if this is your first time to make jam, then follow the directions explicitly.

From the Sure Jell instructions:

1. Use one- to two-cup containers with tight fitting lids.

2. Prepare fruit as directed. For berries, crush 1 cup at a time, using a potato masher for best results. If using a food processor, pulse to very finely chop. DO NOT PUREE [emphasis in the original] - jam should have bits of fruit.

3. Measure exact amount of prepared fruit (or juice) along with lemon juice (if called for in recipe) into a large bowl.

4. Measure exact amount of sugar into separate bowl - REDUCING SUGAR OR USING SUGAR SUBSTITUTES WILL RESULT IN SET FAILURES. Use “Sure-Jell for Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes Fruit Pectin” [quotes mine to set apart the entire product name] for no- or low-sugar jams and jellies.

5. Stir sugar into prepared fruit or juice. Mix well. Let stand 10 minutes; stir occasionally.

6.Stir 1 box pectin and 3/4 cup water in small saucepan. (Pectin may start out lumpy.) Bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

7. Stir pectin mixture into fruit or juice mixture. Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes. (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

8.Pour into prepared containers, leaving 1/2-inch space at top for expansion during freezing; cover.

9. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours until set. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks; store in freezer for up to one year. Thaw in refrigerator.

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TRADITIONAL COOKED STRAWBERRY JAM

This is the Sure Jell recipe, which is likely similar to any set of directions in any other brand.

Cooked jams “set” firmer than freezer jams, but lose the taste of fresh fruit.

Do not results are a firmer jam or jelly tasting of cooked fruit.

Again, do not reduce the sugar called for, or use a sugar substitute, doing so will lead to “set” failure.

If a low- or no-sugar jam or jelly is needed, find the pectin intended for such recipes - it will be next to the regular fruit pectin in the canning supplies at the grocery store.

1. Bring boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer.

2. Wash jars and screw bands in hot, soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

3. Prepare fruit as directed. For best results with berries, use a potato masher to crush 1 cup at a time. If using a food processor, pulse to chop. Do not puree - jam should have bits of fruit.

4. Measure exact amount of prepared fruit (or juice for jelly) into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Stir in lemon juice and water (if required) as indicated in chart.

5. Measure exact amount of sugar into separate bowl.

6.Stir one box of pectin into fruit or juice in saucepot; adding 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine will reduce foaming, but is not necessary.

7. Use high heat and constant stirring to bring mixture to full rolling boil that does not stop bubbling when stirred.

8.Stir in sugar quickly, return to full rolling boil and then boil exactly one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam.

9. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads.

Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly.

[If you are not into the extra effort of home canning, omit the canning steps but be sure to keep the jam refrigerated. It should be good for three weeks in the refrigerator.]

Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if needed. Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process jams 10 minutes; jelly 5 minutes. Adjust processing time according to Altitude Chart on reverse side. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

10. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours (or time indicated on recipe).

Store unopened jams and jellies in cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year. Refrigerate opened jams and jellies up to 3 weeks.

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Getting away from the sweet stuff. This one from Southern Living sounds pretty good.

CHICKEN AND STRAWBERRY SALAD

1/2 cup poppy seed dressing

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 pounds chopped cooked chicken (about 3 1/2 cups)

2 celery ribs, sliced

1 pint fresh strawberries, halved

1 avocado, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1 (10-ounce) package mixed salad greens

Garnishes: avocado slices, whole strawberries

Preparation

1. Whisk together dressing and mayonnaise in a large bowl; cover and chill 30 minutes.

2. Add chopped chicken and next 5 ingredients to dressing mixture, gently tossing to coat. Serve over mixed salad greens. Garnish, if desired.

Rae McManus, Cheneyville, Louisiana, Southern Living - May 2005

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In “What’s Cooking, America?’ comes this salad.

CUCUMBER AND STRAWBERRY SALAD

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar (or to taste)

Fresh chopped mint leaves (as much or little as you prefer)

White pepper to taste

2 cups thinly-sliced cucumbers

15 whole fresh strawberries, stems removed

Granulated sugar

In a bowl, mix together the rice wine vinegar, sugar, mint leaves and white pepper. Add the sliced cucumbers.

Place in your serving dish and let marinate at least 20 minutes before serving. May be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

When ready to serve, add the whole strawberries to the serving dish. Spoon some of the marinade over each strawberry, and sprinkle some granulated sugar over the top of each strawberry.

Either serve in the serving bowl or divide among individual serving dishes.

Makes 4 servings.

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Ranging around a little brings up this one from the University of Illinois Extension.

STRAWBERRY SALSA

1 cup coarsely chopped strawberries

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 green onion, finely chopped, top included

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons dried currants

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Chill, serve with grilled chicken or fish. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

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Another from the University of Illinois Extension that seems to be worth trying out.

STRAWBERRY SAUCE

This sauce can be used to spoon over yogurt with fresh strawberries, ice cream, pound cake or your favorite dessert. Great as topping for pancakes and waffles too.

2/3 cup sugar

1 pint strawberries, washed and hulled

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Place sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan, stir and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.

2. Allow the syrup to cool completely. Hasten cooling by setting pan in a shallow bowl of ice water.

3. Place half the berries in the jar of a blender; add lemon juice and all the cooled syrup. Puree until smooth.

4. Press through fine sieve to remove some of the strawberry seeds, if desired.

5. Coarsely chop remaining strawberries and add to strawberry puree. Serve.

6. Can be stored refrigerated, in tightly covered containers for up to 4 days.

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Cannot stay away from dessert ideas - From the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

STRAWBERRY CREAM PIE

1 package (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed (plus extra for garnish, if desired) (1 8-ounce container equals 3 1/2 cups)

1 prepared 9-inch Graham cracker piecrust

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled, rinsed and patted dry

In a large bowl, combine the vanilla pudding mix, sour cream, milk, and orange rind. Add the whipped topping and beat with a wire whisk for 1 minute or until well blended. Spoon half the mixture into the pie crust. Press the strawberries, stem-side down, into the mixture, then top with the remaining mixture. Freeze the pie for about 1 hour or refrigerate for 3 hours before serving. Garnish with additional whipped topping and/or strawberries. Yield: 6 to 8

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Found at http://italianchips.com/strawberry-recipe/

VERY EASY OAT AND STRAWBERRY DESSERT

For the crust:

11/2 cups of flour

1/2 cup of sugar

1/2 tsp of baking powder

3/4 cup of rolled oats

1/2 cup of cold salted butter

1 egg white

For the filling:

2 cups of strawberries

1/4 cup of sugar

1 tbsp of cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cover a baking pan with parchment paper (24x24cm/9.4×9.4in or 20x20cm/8x8in).

Put the crust ingredients into the kitchen robot and work the ingredients until it becomes a crumbly mixture and the butter is reduced to small pieces. Reserve 1/4 for topping.

Create a layer on the baking pan pressing this mixture.

Combine strawberries, sugar and cornstarch until the strawberries have absorbed all the sugar.

Spread them over the crust layer and complete the topping with the 1/4 of the crumble mixture.

Bake for 50 minutes or until the top is golden.

Let it cool for 5 minutes into the pan before removing to a rack to cool down.

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