Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Tips and Tricks
Fruits

Strawberry Tips

From: Homearts Web Page

We went through basket after basket of strawberries to develop this month's recipes. Here, some tricks of the trade to keep them fresh and pretty:

Be choosy. Select ripe, bright-red berries; they don't ripen after picking, so skip the ones tinged with white or pale-green. They should be fragrant, fat, and well-rounded, with a natural shine and bright-green, fresh-looking caps. Don't buy any that are sprayed with water they'll get moldy quickly.

Use or freeze promptly. Strawberries used the day they're bought are the plumpest, sweetest, and most beautiful, but they will keep a few days refrigerated. Remove from basket, then arrange in a single layer on a paper-towel-lined shallow tray. Don't wash or remove caps until just before using; washing removes the natural protective coating, and the caps help lock in flavor, texture, and nutrients.

Freeze (unwashed) berries on a cookie sheet for about 1 hour, until hard; then transfer to a freezer container or self-sealing freezer-weight bag. After freezing, the berries may not be pristine enough for a tart, but will work well in shortcakes, smoothies, and sauces. To serve, rinse without thawing. (Exception: Commercially frozen whole strawberries are already washed.)

Handle with care. Strawberries are delicate, and can crush easily. To wash, place in a colander and rinse with cool water. (Leaving caps on prevents berries from becoming waterlogged, which dilutes their flavor and changes their texture.) To remove caps, gently twist off, or use the point of a sharp paring knife. Pat fruit dry with paper towels.

1 basket= 1 pint strawberries
1 pint= about 3 1/4 cups whole berries (about 12 very large, 26 medium, or
36 small), about 2 1/4 cups sliced, or 1 2/3 cups pureed
1 cup= about 4 ounces
1 20-ounce bag frozen whole strawberries= about 4 cups

Last Minute Strawberry Desserts

One of the best things about strawberries is that they're delicious au naturel whole or sliced or simply prepared with a few other ingredients. Some of our favorite fast ways to serve a pintful:

Balsamic Berries: Toss sliced fruit with 1 tablespoon melted margarine or butter until just coated. Stir in a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of coarsely ground black pepper for a sweet and tangy flavor. Enjoy as is, or spoon over ice cream or angel food cake.

Soft Serve: Turn frozen berries into instant ice cream by whirling in a food processor with 1/2 cup heavy cream until velvety smooth; sweeten as desired.

Supershake: In blender, combine berries with 2 scoops vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt and honey to taste; pour into tall glasses, and serve with straws.

Pudding Perfect: Alternate layers of sliced strawberries with store-bought or homemade rice pudding.

5-Minute Shortcake: Toast slices of pound cake in toaster oven or toaster until lightly golden. Top with sliced berries and sweetened whipped cream.

Filled Flowers: Cut stem ends from jumbo berries. Cut an X in tip of each and gently spread apart to resemble petals. Lightly sweeten mascarpone or whipped cream cheese, and spoon or pipe into openings.

Big Dippers: Dunk plump strawberries, with caps still attached, into plain yogurt, then brown sugar.

Elegant Finale: Slightly sweeten whole, hulled strawberries. At serving time, spoon into goblets and splash with orange-flavor liqueur.

Blender Sauce (pictured above): Puree half a pint of strawberries with sugar to taste and 1 to 2 tablespoons cassis or berry-flavor liqueur. Add remaining half-pint and pulse until coarsely chopped. Serve over ice cream, tapioca or vanilla pudding, sliced peaches, or sponge cake.

Sweetshop Stars: Dip large berries (long-stem or not) partway into melted semisweet chocolate. Place on foil- or waxed-paper-lined cookie sheet to set coating, then drizzle with melted white chocolate. Refrigerate up to 4 hours.

Berry Delicious

*Flavor cinnamon yogurt with orange juice concentrate.  Add some grated orange rind and chopped pecans.  Serve in a small bowl as dip for strawberries.

*Mix whipped cream cheese, chopped strawberries and honey.  Use as a spread for nut breads, biscuits or scones.

*Freeze strawberry-fruit juice blend in an ice-cube try. Combine orange juice, strawberries and a few of the frozen juice cubes in blender; process until slushy.  Pour into glasses and serve with spoons and straws.

*Crush strawberries, along with some maple syrup and a dash of nutmeg. Serve as a topping for ice cream, waffles or French toast.

Last Minute Desserts with Strawberries
One of the best things about strawberries is that they're delicious au naturel-whole or slices-or simply prepared with a few other ingredients. Some of favorite fast ways to serve a pintful:

Balsamic Berries: Toss sliced fruit with 1 tablespoon melted margarine or butter until just coated. Stir in a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of coarsely ground black pepper for a sweet and tangy flavor. Enjoy as is, or spoon over ice cream or angel food cake.

Soft Serve: Turn frozen berries into instant ice cream by whirling in a food processor with 1/2 cup heavy cream until velvety smooth, sweeten as desired.

Supershake: In a blender, combine berries with 2 scoops vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt and honey to taste; pour into tall glasses, and serve with straws.

Pudding Perfect: Alternate layers of sliced strawberries with store bought or homemade rice pudding.

5- Minute Shortcake: Toast slices of pound cake in toaster oven or toaster until lightly golden. Top with sliced berries and sweetened whipped cream.

Freezing Fruit
Since fruit is naturally acidic, avoid galvanized, copper, or iron utensils in preparation. These materials can react with the acid and make the fruit unsafe.

Enzymes in some fruit, such as apples, peaches, pears, plums, figs, and persimmons, cause browning and loss of vitamin C when the fruit is exposed to air. This can be controlled with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or a commercial mixture called ascorbic-citric powder.

Ascorbic acid is most effective in controlling browning. It's available in powder, crystalline, or tablet forms and can be found in most drugstores. If ascorbic acid is purchased in tablet form, crush the tablets. Use it according to the instructions included for each type of fruit pack listed. For crushed and pureed fruit, stir dissolved ascorbic acid directly into fruit.

Ascorbic-citric powder, a commercial mixture of ascorbic acid, sugar, and citric acid, also prevents darkening of fruit. Use the powder according to the manufacturer's directions.

Citric acid and lemon juice are occasionally used to prevent discoloration. But they aren't as effective as ascorbic acid and may mask natural fruit flavors.

Fruit may be frozen in one of three ways: unsweetened, with sugar, or in syrup. Sugar and syrup packs give the fruit the best texture and flavor. Berries, blanched apples, rhubarb, and figs freeze quite well unsweetened. Directions for each type of pack are included in the recipes.

Syrup pack: While a 40% sugar syrup is recommended for most fruit, a lighter syrup may be used for mild-flavored fruit to keep from masking the flavor. A heavier, sweeter syrup may be needed for tart fruit, such as sour cherries.

Use just enough cold syrup to cover the fruit-usually 1/2 to 2/3 cup for each pint. Stir dissolved ascorbic acid into syrup just before using to prevent darkening, if necessary. When using rigid containers, place crumpled wax paper between the fruit and the lid to submerge fruit with syrup. Seal, label, and freeze.

Sugar Pack: Spread fruit in a shallow tray, and sprinkle with ascorbic acid dissolved in water to prevent darkening, if necessary. Sprinkle fruit with recommended amount of sugar, and let stand 10 to 15 minutes to draw out
juices and allow the sugar to dissolve. Stir gently to coat fruit, and package with juices. Seal, label, and freeze.

Unsweetened packs: For a liquid pack, fruit may be frozen unsweetened in water containing ascorbic acid, if needed, or in unsweetened juice. Package as for syrup pack, using chilled liquid.

For unsweetened dry pack, place fruit in containers, leaving recommended headspace, and freeze. Ascorbic acid dissolved in water may be sprinkled over fruit before packing, if necessary. Fruit pieces can be frozen separately in a tray pack, making it easy to measure fruit without thawing. To prepare a tray pack, spread fruit in a single layer; sprinkle with dissolved ascorbic acid, if necessary. Place tray in freezer, and freeze just until fruit is firm; package, leaving no headspace. Seal, label, and return to freezer.

Packaging the Fruit

Food will be more convenient to use if packed in amounts to be used for a single meal or recipe. Freezer containers should be no larger than 1/2-gallon capacity; food packed in larger containers freezes too slowly for a quality product.

Have all the food cooled before packing to help speed freezing. Be sure syrup or juice for liquid packs is chilled before using. Pack food tightly in the containers to leave as little air as possible, but leave recommended headspace to allow for expansion during freezing.

With freezer bags, press all the air from the bag starting at the bottom, working your way to the opening. Twist tightly, and double back the top of the bag. Secure with a rubber band, string, or twist tie.

When sealing food in rigid freezer containers, keep the edge free from food or moisture to ensure a good seal. The lids should be tight fitting and may be reinforced with freezer tape, if necessary.

Stuffed & Dipped Strawberries

Here's the yummiest idea!  I just read somewhere (in a cooking magazine) that, using a plastic drinking straw, you could core and stem a fresh strawberry by pushing the straw from the bottom of the berry up through the top.  But then you have a sort of tunnel through the berry. So, I was thinkin'...

How 'bout you make some pastry cream, enrich it with a bit of cream cheese (it could be fat-free!).  How 'bout you melt some bittersweet chocolate and some white "chocolate".

How 'bout you dip the bottom half of the strawberry in the dark chocolate, pipe the "tunnel" full of the pastry cream, then dip the top half of the berry in the white chocolate.

Just close your eyes and imagine all those flavors bursting in your mouth all at one time!!!

CFF Shared by Judi Moseley <judi@moseleygroup.com>

How to Choose A Melon

CANTALOUPE: Check that the stem end is indented (it means the melon was ripe enough to come off the vine at the proper stage, as cantaloupes should, rather that being chopped off).  The rind should be creamy yellow and covered with a cream-colored netted texture.  The heavier the netting, say some aficionados, the better the melon.

CASABA: Don't expect much aroma from a ripe Casaba.  Instead, look for a golden-yellow rind and a slight softening at the flat end when you gently press it.

CRENSHAW: A ripe Crenshaw will smell sweet and the large (blossom) end should give slightly when pressed.

HONEYDEW: Look for a smooth, velvety cream-white or yellow rind. (Those with stark white rinds tinged with green are definitely not ready for the table.) A ripe honeydew should have a slightly fruity aroma and be soft at the stem end.

PERSIAN: It looks like a large distincly unripe canaloupe with an exotic name, but don't be fooled.  Even when they're ripe and ready to eat, Persian melons have a dark-green, almost bronze color and a densely netted texture.

WATERMELON: To tell if a watermelon is ripe, give it a good thump. If it sounds hollow, it's ripe.  Look for a firm symmetrically shaped melon, be it oblong or round.  Also, the underside, where the melon lay on the ground, should be creamy yellow.  If your're buing a cut section, look for a bright-not dark-red flesh without white streaks (unless it's a yellow-fleshed varity) with shiny black seeds.  Red or yellow-fleshed "seedless" watermelons do have seeds, but they are soft, white and entirely edible.  Once a watermelon is cut, it should be refrigerated.

Peeling Tomatoes

Spear a tomato with a fork and plunge it into boiling water for 30 seconds. The skin will split. Immediately dip the tomato into cold water. Using a sharp paring knife, pull off the tomato skin. Use this method of peeling tomatoes only when you are going to cook the tomatoes, since it softens the flesh. And Elsa wrote for those who have gas stoves, there's a far faster method. Spear the tomato on a fork and hold it over the flame, turning so that it becomes blistered on all sides. Don't wait until the tomato is black just puckered. This skin peels off the tomato quickly and without effort. The boiling method also works for peaches and apricots.

Sun-Drying Tomatoes

Here is Sunset's surefire method of making "sun" dried tomatoes: Select Roma tomatoes that are fairly equal in size. Wash them. Slice the tomato almost all the way through, the long way. Open the tomato up. Repeat, placing the tomatoes on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each side of the tomato with salt (this helps to remove the moisture). Put the baking sheet into the oven at its very lowest setting (about 175 degrees). Leave them in the oven about 8 hours--this last is only approximate. I usually do them late in the evening and remove them first thing in the morning. The tomatoes should be supple. Remove them from the oven and either put them into a plastic bag in the freezer or handle them as the Italians usually do. Pack the tomato halves in olive oil along with halved cloves of garlic, a sprig or two of oregano and others of rosemary. A bay leaf can also be added. Be sure that the tomatoes are covered with oil. Refrigerate them for at least a week so that the flavors blend. The oil is wonderful to makevinaigrettes out of and the tomatos are tops.

Fresh Strawberries

When picking, be sure the cap remains on the strawberry by pinching the stem of the berry between the thumb and forefinger. This procedure will prevent damage to both the fruit and the strawberry plant.

When selecting berries look for the ones that are firm, yet fully ripe. These are the best for all your needs - freezing, preserving, or eating just the way they are.

When storing in the refrigerator, do not remove the caps or wash the berries until you are ready to use them. When caps are removed before use, the berries lose some of their moisture. Washing early tends to bruise them and the berries lose their freshness.

Arrange berries in a shallow container and keep at 35 degrees for best results. They will lose their flavor after a few days and are best when prepared and eaten in the same day.

When preparing (for whatever use) place the berries in a strainer and rinse with cool water. To remove the caps, give the caps a gentle twist or use the point of a sharp knife trying not to remove any of the berry.

When measuring:

     1 basket= 1 pint strawberries
     1 pint= 3 1/4 cups whole berries
     1 pint= 2 1/4 cups sliced berries
     1 pint= 1 2/3 cups pureed berries
     1 cup=about 4 ounces
     1 pint=about 12 very large stemmed berries to about 36 smaller berries
     20 oz. frozen berries=about 4 cups whole berries

Nutritional value: Strawberries are high in Vitamin C and A, and supply 8% of the RDA for Iron. There are only 60 calories in a cup of fresh berries.


 

If you have comments or suggestions, email us at
devriesb@vianet.ca
 

Webpage designed and maintained by Leilani Devries