Short & Sweet
Though it can be fleeting, our state’s strawberry season surely is sweet.
BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY | STYLING/PHOTOS BY BROOKE ECHOLS
Due to our state’s size and varied growing zones, strawberry season across the entirety of Alabama can last for several months, beginning in the southern section and spreading to the north. But in each specific spot, it’s rarely that long. Some years, it’s only a scant few weeks. But no matter its duration, it’s always greeted with enthusiasm. The ruby gems are a sign that winter is really over and spring is in full swing. Plus, they herald more good things to come; as one of the first fruits to arrive each year (peaches and other berries come later), their heady scent and juicy, candy-like flavor whet our appetites for the abundance of fresh produce that later spring and summer will bring.
Fervent fans of the fruit have likely been dreaming of their first bite into the season’s inaugural ripe strawberry since sometime in early February, when Valentine’s Day paraphernalia resembling the berry’s plump, curved shape brings them back to mind. Their appearance’s similarity to hearts is no coincidence to those who truly love them.
And for the wholly devoted, not just any ole strawberry will do. A perfect strawberry should be shiny and cardinal red. It should carry slightly lighter shades of this exterior hue inside; there should be very little flavorless white core. It should be soft but still a bit firm between the teeth, and it should flood the tongue with simple sugar and a tiny tang at the end of the taste.
Even an average strawberry is a treat eaten straight out of hand, but if you’d like to incorporate them into your cooking, we’ve got you covered with these reader-submitted recipes.
Cook of the Month
Arneather Gaines, Black Warrior EMC
Strawberry Jam Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chopped pecans
1 eighteen-ounce jar strawberry jam
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch round cake pans. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture well after each addition. In a small bowl, stir the baking soda into the buttermilk. Set aside. In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients; mix well. Fold in the pecans and 1/4 cup of the jam. Set the remainder of the jam aside. Mix well. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of each layer comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Cool the layers in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then unmold the layer on wire racks to cool completely. After the layers have completely cooled, transfer each layer, one at a time, to a serving platter. Spread the remaining strawberry jam between each layer and on top of the cake’s edge. Garnish the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar. (I sprinkle confectioners’ sugar between the layers as well.) Makes one 9-inch cake.
1 pack graham crackers, crushed
5 and 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
8 ounces cream cheese
2 and 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup frozen strawberries, blended
Crust: Mix together melted butter and crushed graham crackers. Pat into 9-inch pan.
Filling: Blend cream cheese. Add butter, honey and vanilla. Then mix in blended strawberries (don’t blend them in though). Pour filling into crust and freeze overnight. Top with a strawberry after it’s frozen. Cook’s note: Don’t put in the refrigerator. This cheesecake thaws very quickly.
Caleb Pittman, Joe Wheeler EMC
Strawberry and Satsuma Salad
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
4 satsumas (clementines or oranges can be substituted)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
2 and 1/2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 ablespoon finely chopped fresh mint, plus a sprig for garnish
Place strawberries in a bowl. Peel and separate the satsuma pieces from 3 of the satsumas and add to the bowl with the strawberries. Over a separate small bowl, squeeze the juice from the remaining satsuma. Add the lemon juice and brown sugar to the freshly squeezed satsuma juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the strawberries and satsuma segments and gently toss to combine. Sprinkle with fresh mint. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Olivia Vacalis, Baldwin EMC
Strawberry Oatmeal Bars
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup strawberry preserves
½ cup flaked coconut
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add butter and vanilla; stir until crumbly. Set aside 1 cup. Press remaining crumb mixture evenly into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan. Spread preserves over crust. Combine coconut and reserved crumb mixture, sprinkle over preserves. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until coconut is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 3 dozen.
Mary Lindley , Joe Wheeler EMC
2 cups fresh strawberries, crushed
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 tablespoon grated dark chocolate
Fresh lemon balm, optional
In a large bowl, combine strawberries, sugar and lemon zest. Fold into whipped cream. Spoon into decorative glasses and garnish with grated chocolate and lemon balm sprigs, if desired. Serves 4.
Linda Persall, Cullman EC
Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake mix
2 twelve-ounce cartons Cool Whip (lite or sugar free works best)
1 pint to 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced (or 16-ounce bag frozen sliced strawberries)
Toasted pecans, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
¾ – 1 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of strawberries)
3 egg yolks (whites used in cake)
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare cake mix according to package directions, reserving egg yolks for custard. Custard: combine flour, sugar and salt in double boiler. Beat egg yolks, add in milk and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened (not quite as thick as for banana pudding.) Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat. Cut cake into bite size pieces and place one half of the cake in the bottom of a trifle dish. Place half of the strawberries on top of the cake and pour half of the custard on top of the strawberries. Spread one container of Cool Whip on top of mixture. Sprinkle half of the toasted pecans on top of the Cool Whip. Repeat for second layer.
Martha Belser, Tallapoosa River EC
Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling later
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 jumbo eggs (or 3 large)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
14 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
Set oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-inch spring form pan. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt: set aside. Cream the soft butter and sugar together in a stand mixer for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl a couple of times. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the vanilla. Stir the sour cream and buttermilk together and then add the flour to the mixing bowl alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until combined, but don’t over mix. Fold in the strawberries and turn into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top. Sprinkle the surface of the cake liberally with granulated sugar. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake no longer jiggles in the center and the top is golden and slightly crackled. You can insert a toothpick in the center to test. Let cool briefly, and then unlatch the spring and remove the outer ring. I like to run a spreading knife along the edge first to loosen any parts of the cake that are sticking to the pan. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.
Marsha S. Gardner, Baldwin EMC
Strawberry Velvet Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup vegetable oil
13-ounce box strawberry Jell-O
½ cup boiling water
5 ounces frozen strawberries in syrup (1/2 of a 10-ounce carton, thawed)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
18-ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ stick butter, softened
1 sixteen-ounce box confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon strawberry extract
2 tablespoons strawberry preserves
Combine cake mix, eggs (one at a time) and oil. Beat on medium speed until well blended. To the side, mix Jell-O and boiling water. Stir until dissolved and add to cake mixture. Mix well and fold in strawberries and extract. Pour into a greased tube or Bundt cake pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour or until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool before frosting.
Place the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and strawberry extract in a large mixing bowl and beat with mixer until smooth. Fold in strawberry preserves and stir until well blended. Add a bit of red food coloring to the frosting, if you desire. Frost cake and serve.
Mary McGriff, Cullman EC
Easy Strawberry Pie
1 fourteen-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 lemons, juiced
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup chopped pecans
8 ounces Cool Whip
1 ten-inch pre-baked pie crust or 2 8-inch pie crusts
Combine condensed milk and lemon juice in a bowl and blend well. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in the strawberries and pecans. Fold in the whipped topping. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill, covered, until set. May prepare the day before and freeze. Yield 6-8 servings.
Celeste Spivey, Pea River EC
Fresh Strawberry Cake
1 box white cake mix
1 package strawberries, washed and thinly sliced
1 pouch strawberry glaze
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
16 ounces Cool Whip, thawed
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ cup white sugar
Bake white cake mix according to the directions on box. Let cool. Using a piece of kitchen twine horizontally cut the two layers in half so you have 4 layers. In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese, cool whip and both sugars. In a separate bowl, mix sliced strawberries and glaze. Begin assembling the dessert with a layer of cake, top with cream cheese mixture, then strawberry glaze. Repeat process with all cake layers. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Kisha Cantrell, Tombigbee EC
Keep ‘em sweet & sound
Strawberries are a delicate fruit, so the key to keeping good ones just right is careful consideration when handling and storing them.
- Store them in the fridge (unless you are using them within one day).
- Keep the stems on until right before eating. This will prolong freshness.
- Don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. Any water left on strawberries will bring on mold.
- Be on the lookout for overly ripe or already spoiled berries in your bunch. If you find any, discard them. They’ll make the rest of the strawberries spoil more quickly.
Send us your recipes for a chance to win!
Themes and Deadlines
July: Grilling | April 5
Aug.: Weeknight Suppers | May 10
Sept: Onions | June 14
3 ways to submit:
Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
Please send us your original recipes (developed or adapted by you or family members.) Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.
To be eligible, submissions must include a name, phone number, mailing address and co-op name. Alabama Living reserves the right to reprint recipes in our other publications.