Sunday, 22 June 2014

A Strawberry Sonata


I don't know whether there's a collective noun for strawberry-themed things. I feel perhaps there should be. In the absence of any obvious, recognised term, I've called this little strawberry celebration, "a strawberry sonata". Variations on a midsummer theme. 

The little crocheted strawberry above, nestling among the strawberries on my rather battered, Cath Kidston, strawberry oil-cloth tablecloth, is from this pattern. I love it and may now crochet a long chain from which to wear it round my neck*. Boho in aim, may be just cranky in reality! (*Done and dusted - see final pic now added in!) The tablecloth has seen better days. (This is a good bit of it.) It has never been quite the same since my month of parrot-sitting a couple of years ago and Raffles, my green African parrot visitor, thought it might make good eating. Only it didn't. Anyway back to my strawberry sonata:

First Movement: allegro. Strawberries, just as they are, from the fields down the road. None in the garden owing to the depredations of the naughty and greedy pigeons. When the berries are as ripe and as juicy as this, you must eat them quickly - they won't keep.


Second Movement: thema con variazioni - theme and variations on unadorned strawberry simplicity. More andante than allegro these, as they take more preparation time and last longer. 

1 Strawberry and cinnamon torte - strawberries are, of course, perfect on their own, when they are as sweet as they seem to be this year. Barely even need the addition of cream. But if you want to do something more with them, this torte is a delight. The recipe, originally published in BBC Good Food over a decade ago, in June 2002, has not deteriorated with age. The crumbly shortbread / pastry is a bit temperamental to get in place on top of the strawberries. I find it easiest to spoon it on in teaspoonful-sized dollops and them smudge the dollops together roughly with the flat blade of a blunt knife but don't bother to fuss over getting it too even - it will just clump together and refuse to cooperate. 



2 Strawberry jam. I used to find strawberry jam quite difficult to make. Tricky to get to set properly and so disappointing when you opened the precious jars, months down the line, hoping for a quick burst of summer sunshine in November or February, only to be greeted by a layer of green mould. Using jam-sugar which has added pectin in it, to boost the low pectin content of the strawberries, seems to have solved this problem. My last year's jam is still fine a year on, even my reduced sugar batch, but I couldn't resist making a few jars this year too.


This version above is plain strawberry, which is my favourite - made yesterday from fruit still warm from the sun. The version below has some raspberries in it to make up the weight after removing the green leafy hulls from the fruit. As it was destined for the local village fête last weekend, I felt I had better label it accurately before being had up by the trades description people, but it is predominantly strawberry and the small quantity of raspberries do no more than emphasise the strawberry taste. 


Third Movement: scherzo - something playful and a bit frivolous. Experimenting with drying a punnet of heavy, ripe fruit into brittle, fragrant fragments, light as air. A conceit perhaps, but not entirely a facetious one. I love strawberry muffins but they make the mixture very wet, veering towards soggy. Not good. So I thought I'd dry some and see if I couldn't obtain the strawberry flavour without the moisture. We'll see! You could add them to muesli or granola too if you like dried fruit in your breakfast cereal and don't have a history of picking all the raisins methodically out of boxes of Alpen, as a child in the 1970s, as, I regret to say, Mrs T did. 


Fourth Movement: a rondo finale. Because. Because I love the colours of strawberries from flower to fruit and where nature leads, art, or at least Mrs T's hooky craft, feels compelled to follow. I haven't really succumbed to mandala mania this summer, or not hitherto, perhaps I should say! More may follow - they are very soothing to hook up and having cut my left hand rather drastically while cutting up a resistant bulb of fennel on Friday with a disobedient knife, making more teensy-weensy hooky flowers for my Flower Festival Flower Arrangement is too awkward to manage at the moment. This pattern is Zelna Oliver's Sunny Flower Mini Mandala that you can find here. I have a use in mind for this that I think you might like but that's for a separate post.



Wishing you a happy strawberry Sunday (sundae) evening!
E x

PS Edited to add a pic of my new hooky strawberry necklace. It's had a few funny looks from the rest of the household but I like it! Simple crochet chain with slip stitches back into it all the way along and a few strategic stitches into the stalk of the strawberry. Voilà! A perfect summery accessory as far as I am concerned!







14 comments:

  1. This post is exactly up my alley. Strawberries are my favorite food and I have decorated my kitchen in a strawberry theme. I'm always looking for new strawberry items and if I can make them, so much the better. Thank you for this pretty post.

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  2. What a punnet of good ideas! I love the mandala... it may have jumped to the top of my fiddling list for my rather bare and lonely coffee table!

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  3. Happy Strawberry Sunday to you to Mrs T, the mandala is very pretty and the hooky strawbug I've just made a felt starwberry for a friend, and have been enjoying the fruit too, tis the season.
    Clare xx

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  4. This is a delightful post, just perfect to bring a lovely weekend to an end. It is a tradition in this house to pack all 4 children in the car and drive to the nearest strawberry farm during the first week of the summer holiday (we break up next week, hurrah!) and pick as many strawberries as we can carry. Then we eat as much as we can and make jam and possibly ice cream with the rest. I am bookmarking this page to remind me of making dried strawberries. Annie always looks out for those in the supermarket but they tend to be unnaturally red and sweetened. Have a lovely week. Cx

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  5. I hope your hand soon recovers. Strawberries always look so enticing. How did you dry your strawberries? Would it work with raspberries do you think?

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    1. I dried my strawberries in a dehydrator gizmo I got from Lakeland. I didn't get it for strawberries or indeed sun-dried tomatoes which I've also tried ( - very yummy!) but to dry my apples because last year so many got wasted before we could eat them. They just won't keep off the tree no matter how carefully I stack them in a cold, dry place on slatted racks. I used as many as I could but there were limits so the idea is to dry them in rings or chunks which hopefully will keep better. Raspberries are supposed to work well but I haven't tried them yet. Herbs ditto. I'm intending to dry my own version of herbes de Provence in it as I use these a lot. Of course they won't be herbes "de Provence" strictly just as the dried tomatoes aren't "sun-dried" but you get the gist! E x

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  6. Oh so Summer! So June! Lovely, lovely things Elizabeth.
    xx

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  7. Everything looks pretty but the jam jars win the prize! Summer is here I am told albeit it's a tad chilly for us on the Pacific NW coast.
    Enjoy,

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  8. Hi, Elizabeth. I've been a bit negligent in my blog reading lately, and I haven't even started to enjoy any local summer produce (I was in Arizona for 10 days and then spent a week painting two rooms in my house--ugh!) , but your blog inspired me to slow down and savor the brief pleasures of summer. Strawberries are in season here, and peaches will be here soon. I am going to go to the fruit stand today and see what I can find. Lots of love. Liz

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  9. Over here in Alabama USA our strawberry pickins are pretty much over. Our season is may! But, I still get fresh ones from who knows where in the grocery, but now I will have math to do to do that yummy good cooks recipe for the pie!! That looks so good, I'm also gonna hook up a pretty strawberry corsage to wear for my knit group Friday morning!!!

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  10. Another strawberry sonata here !
    http://cathskreativehjorne.blogspot.fr/2014/06/kreativ-med-jorbr.html

    Christiane
    xxx

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  11. I'd love to know how you dried your strawberries. I had been thinking I'd like to try it this year as a way of storing them.

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  12. Love your post loving strawberries .... thanks a lot !

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  13. I think that necklace is darling! Oh, aren't strawberries the best fruit!!? They're my favorite. I bet those dried ones will give a luscious pop of flavor when you use them in dishes. The preserves are lovely! What I liked about your table cloth is the pale blue background; what a perfect combination of color on the fabric! It looks very like the topper on your preserve jars -- did you cut it up and use it for that?

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