As the days lengthen and the sporting calendar has a brief break from league football, the first crops of summer berries arrive. English strawberries and cream are synonymous with tennis at Wimbledon.The berries contain plant compounds called dietary flavonoids, also found in blackberries. Dietary flavonoids may prevent heart disease by helping to dilate blood vessels and by countering the build-up of plaque which can cause blockages in the coronary arteries.
I make a variety of preserves with strawberries from jams to syrups. As the berries are low in pectin, strawberry jam is one of the hardest to make, without the addition of other high-pectin fruits. I make strawberry jam every year, in response to requests from family and friends, and as a refresher for judging it at competitions.
Also, this year I’ll be making strawberry and black currant curd and strawberry syrup. The curd is a vibrant, luscious confection, perfect as a filling in sponges and macarons. Syrups are made from strained fruit juice sweetened with sugar; they can be used in an undiluted form for sweet sauces or for drinks by diluting 1 part syrup with 3-4 parts water, soda water or cold milk.
Strawberry and Black Currant Curd
1. Gently simmer the strawberries, black currants, orange juice and rind in a covered saucepan for about 15 minutes, until the fruit is soft. Rub the mixture through a sieve. Pour the pulp into a bowl large enough to fit over a saucepan of hot water or use a double saucepan.
2. Add the butter and leave to melt. Add the sugar and strained, beaten eggs. Gently cook the curd until it thickens and lightly coats the back of a spoon.
3. Pour the curd into clean, warm jars to the brim. Place a waxed disc on the top of each jar. When cold, add a cellophane cover secured with a rubber band. Store the curd in a refrigerator and eat within 4-6 weeks.
For more curd recipes and their uses see my book Fruit Curds: Make and Bake
Use fully ripe but fresh fruit, gently wash dirty fruit in cold water. For long-keeping this syrup should be sterilized using a water bath method. Alternatively, keep the syrup refrigerated and consume within a week. I bottle my cordial in 300ml bottles from the Bottle Company South
Makes approx 1 litre ( 2 pints)
1. Gently heat the strawberries in a covered saucepan for about 15 minutes, until the fruit is soft and the juice runs freely. Remove the lid and bring the pan to the boil for 1 minute. Mash the fruit and strain it through a jelly bag.
2. Measure the juice and add 345g ( 12oz) of granulated sugar into each 600ml (1 pint) of juice. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, heating if necessary. For clear syrup strain it a second time. Pour the syrup into clean screw-topped bottles.
3. Seal the bottles loosely and sterilise them in a water bath. Stand the bottles on either a trivet or a thick layer of newspaper in a pan deep enough to hold the bottles. Pour in cold water up to the the lower level of the screw-tops. Heat the water, slowly to 88ºC (190ºF) and maintain the temperature for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the bottles from the pan and place them on a wooden board. Seal the bottles and leave to cool.
What’s your favourite recipe involving strawberries?