Spring can bring a longing for fresh, seasonal fruit, especially with strawberry season just around the bend.
Late spring and early summer mark the traditional strawberry season, but in today’s marketplace most grocers offer different varieties year-round.
And while there are some delicious off-season strawberries, they often are less sweet and have a tougher texture than the fresh-picked spring and summer berries we long for.
Making the most of off-season berries is a matter of selecting the best and knowing how to use them. Colour alone usually isn’t enough to go by when purchasing winter strawberries, as a berry that is beautifully red on the outside can still be tough and taste dull.
Nevertheless, avoid pale or slightly green berries, which is an indication that they are under-ripe. And when possible, smell the berries to see if they have a sweet, ripe aroma.
Store fresh strawberries in an airtight container in your refrigerator and don’t rinse until you are ready to eat them. They lose their flavour quickly, so it is best to eat them within three days of purchase. If you end up with strawberries that have underwhelming flavour, there are tricks for perking them up.
Toss 500 ml (2 cups) of hulled and halved strawberries with 45 ml (3 tbsp) of sugar and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. This not only sweetens the berries but also enhances their natural flavours.
If you like, just before serving you can add a few tablespoons of white wine, orange liqueur or even balsamic vinegar.
The sweetened berries can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a day or two, but keep in mind that they will get soft.