Trashed Strawberries Are Our Treasure
I’m not shy. I have no trouble engaging complete strangers in conversation. Maybe that’s why I interview people and entertain in the front of the classroom for a living.
But still I felt awkward going from stand to stand at the farmers’ market Saturday, asking for donations for the cooking and canning classes EMO’s Interfaith Food and Farms program runs to help folks stretch their tight budgets and learn to make delicious meals with food bank staples.
Then I happened to ask Boones Ferry Berry Farm (near Woodburn) if they had any mushed or overripe berries we could have to cook up into jam. They gave me their “trash” bag, chock fill of syrupy, slightly squishy berries that smelled and looked delish, though were perhaps not quite pretty enough for discriminating consumers. But no one would know the difference when they cooked down into jam.
Fellow master food preservers (and dear friend) Rebecka now heads this cooking class, working closely with Jamming for the Hungry’s Sara Power (who was also in our Master Food Preserver Program). Chef Intaba previously ran these classes when I first moved to Corvallis. These are my girls! That’s where I met Norma, my good friend from Texcoco, Mex., and the mother of three adorable children: Jerry, Michele and baby Dennis.
We made low-sugar strawberry jam (and took jars home), strawberry smoothies with yogurt and silken tofu (a food bank staple that often befuddles folks) and a fresh strawberry vinegar for a vinaigrette I helped demonstrate. See the recipe below. I also mixed the vinegar with seltzer for a bracingly tart drink that might be good with simple syrup. Like those Asian drinking vinegars popular at Pok-Pok or old-fashioned shrub drinks. But buyer beware (of stomach ulcers apparently) with the “vinegar cure.”
Also, if your jam is starting to foam if you cook it, we learned that adding a pat of butter helps, and may keep the jam from turning gray. I still might go strawberry picking next weekend, perhaps at nearby Greengable Flower Farm, where they are $1 a pound.
Yield: Makes About 2 cups
Active Time 15 minutes
Total time: 1 1/4 hours
1 pound strawberries, trimmed (3 cups)
2 cups white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider, rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar…anything but dark balsamic or plain distilled white vinegar)
Pulse berries in a food processor until finely chopped and very juicy. Transfer to a bowl and add vinegar. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a jar, discarding solids (don’t strain if you prefer a thicker, pulpy dressing). Keeps in the fridge covered and chilled for a week.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Strawberry Vinaigrette for Mixed Greens Salad
1 cup olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup strawberry vinegar (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
A drizzle of honey to sweeten it up
salt and pepper to taste
Blend ingredients together in a blender, or just shake in a covered jar or beat until mixed and smooth.
Yield: About 1 3/4 cups
*Note: Traditional vinaigrettes have a ratio of 3 parts oil (or other fat, such as warm bacon fat) to one parts vinegar (or other acid, such as citrus juice)