Buying, storing and cooking with strawberries
Strawberries taste of summer and they’re here for the picking until the season ends in February.
Relatively high in fibre, they are an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of folate and potassium and are deliciously low in calories too. Eat within two days to help preserve their nutrients. Here’s how to buy and store them, along with tempting ways to use them.
How to buy, wash and store
Strawberries do not ripen after they are harvested, so it is important to pick them at the right stage of maturity - when the berry is fully red, without green or white areas. While strawberries will continue to turn red after they are picked, the flavour will not intensify nor will they become sweeter. Strawberries that are deep red and dull are overripe and may be mushy. Ugh! The scent of the berries can also be an indicator of quality.
When picking them yourself, gently snap the pedicel (stem) from the plant and take care to avoid bruising. Cool the picked berries as soon as possible, and store (unwashed and with stems attached) in the refrigerator, in a single layer in a paper towel-lined tray, covered with plastic wrap or with a lid. Any mouldy berries should be removed immediately to stop it spreading.
Strawberries should be washed just before eating or preserving to prevent them turning mushy. To wash, rinse thoroughly under cool running water, drain in a clean strainer and pat dry with a paper towel. Then remove the stems. When buying, try to choose locally grown strawberries as they will have the best flavour. If you plan on eating your berries that day, you do not need to refrigerate them.
Freeze them whole or puree, or juice to use later
Freeze them whole: If you don't have plans to eat your strawberries within a few days, your best bet is to freeze them. Remove the stems, leave them whole, or halve or slice them if you like, then freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. When frozen, store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Then they are ready for baking with or to blend into your favourite smoothie like this strawberry and apple one or make a strawberry and banana cream milkshake (pictured above).
Freeze as a puree: Wash just before freezing. Rinse under cool water, drain and pat dry. Remove leaves and stems. Crush berries, press through a fine sieve, or purée in a blender or food processor. Sweeten to taste, ensuring the sugar is dissolved. Pour purée into containers, leaving the appropriate headspace to allow for expansion before sealing with a lid.
Freeze their juice: Wash and crush berries in a jelly bag. Sweeten juice to taste, if desired. Pour into freezerproof containers. Allow for expansion. Do not freeze right to the top. Seal with a lid.
Make an easy dessert
Strawberries are delicious as is (or with a little caster or icing sugar and cream) but if you want to take things a little further, here are some quickly prepped ideas.
- Quick cream cheese and strawberry tart
- Strawberry sundaes
- Macerated strawberries
- Strawberry and limoncello tiramisu
- Raspberry and strawberry cream
Plan ahead with a frozen dessert
Light and cool for a summer's day - no icecream machine required with these.
- Berry semifreddo
- Strawberry ice
- Strawberry sorbet
- Strawberry mousse
- Strawberry and marshmallow parfait with strawberries
- Strawberry jelly with elderflower and green currant ice
Make an icecream sandwich for your next barbecue
Make a berry cheesecake
Bake with them
Get out the cake forks for strawberry tart, shortcakes, cakes and muffins.
- Strawberry tart
- Strawberry shortcakes
- Strawberry syrup cake
- Strawberry roulade
- Strawberry pinwheels
- Strawberry fare muffins
- Strawberry and cranberry loaf
- Spiced cupcakes with strawberry icing
Make a trifle
Mmm… strawberries and meringue
You don’t need to convince Kiwis about this one and it’s almost time to start whipping up those festive pavs again. Peter Gordon reckons his mum Timmy makes the best pavlova he’s ever had. She tops it with a no-cook strawberry compote.
Strawberries and chocolate
It’s a cinch to chocolate dip your own strawberries. Here’s how: Ensure you have big, unblemished berries with stalks attached. They should be at room temperature and perfectly dry or the juices will ruin the chocolate. Take about 150g of dark chocolate to about 500g berries. Break the chocolate into pieces (some people add a couple of teaspoons of butter for a silkier texture) and melt in a glass bowl over a pot of just simmering water, stirring, until melted. Or microwave the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second intervals (stirring between). Tip melted chocolate into a coffee mug and holding the strawberries by the stem, dip them into the liquid. Knock them gently against the side of the mug a little as you remove them to allow the excess to drip off. Place on a baking paper-lined sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes until set.
For other great chocolate and berry pairings, try this chocolate sour cream cake (pictured above) covered with berries for an afternoon tea treat or a strawberry and white chocolate mousse with mint sugar or a chocolate ganache tart with fresh strawberries and cream.
Strawberries and balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is magic with strawberries and not just in salads either. The vinegar takes backstage, making the berries even sweeter. Try the pairing here:
- Strawberry salad with venison, pistachio and balsamic
- Mint and balsamic marinated strawberries
- Strawberry galettes
- Avocado with strawberry and white balsamic vinegar
Strawberries also love…
Almond, apple, banana, other berries, cardamom, champagne, cinnamon, citrus, dairy: cream, icecream, mascarpone, sour cream and cream cheese, custard, honey, melon, mint, peach, pineapple, rhubarb, vanilla and, more surprisingly, basil, black pepper, coriander and spinach (try strawberries and spinach in a smoothie with yoghurt). What about serving these strawberry bocconcini balls with mint for your next drinks party?
Spread the love with jams and syrups
Strawberries make delicious jam but, because they do not contain much pectin, you may want to use a jam-setting sugar (Chelsea does one). Or else add the juice of an acidic fruit, such as lemon, to your berries and sugar. Without pectin or an acidic fruit, your jam could be too runny to spread. Runny is good on top of icecream (see our spiced strawberry syrup or bottled strawberries above) but it's not so good on toast. These jams will do the trick:
For more ideas on what to do with strawberries, see our strawberry recipe collection.