Last year I talked about the goodness of the strawberries I purchased straight from the grower. Alas, we have moved and I no longer have access to those fresh berries, and I had to leave my strawberry plants behind as well. So this year I am relegated to the same berries at the supermarket with which most people are familiar.
Upwards of 90% of the strawberries sold in the United States come from California, and most are the same variety, chosen more for their sturdiness for shipping than for taste or aroma. Nonetheless, starting this time of year even those lackluster strawberries are at their peak of flavor. Still, they do not measure up to the sweetly perfumed varieties grown by home gardeners and small farmers.
So how does one make the best use of what is available to them? The farmer's markets here are but a wishful thought at the moment, and my white chocolate cheesecake begs for a luscious strawberry topping. The answer is simple and easy. Slice your supermarket berries into a bowl. Add about 1/4 cup brown sugar per pounds of berries (any kind will do, but if you use muscavado or another dark brown sugar it's even better) and toss berries to coat. Let the berries sit, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour. Stir in a tablespoon (or two) of Chambord, Kirsch, or your favorite liqueur. Drain the liquid into a small saucepan and simmer rapidly until the liquid is reduced by about half. It should be thickened and syrupy. Let it cool for a few minutes and recombine with the strawberries. Serve over shortcakes, cheesecake, angel food cake or pound cake. Yum.