Story and Photos by Holly Leitner
In the early days of summer, with temperatures on the rise, kids just out of school and the lake starting to get busy, there’s a small window of time — if you catch it just right — that’s bursting with one of the best flavors of the season. If you look carefully, you’ll see signs dotting the roadside advertising “Strawberries for Sale,” a sure indication you’ve discovered a true summertime treat.
The pick-your-own-strawberry season can be notoriously short-lived. Usually the berries appear in early June and prime picking time is mid-June, which of course, is weather-dependent. These early producing plants are June-bearing strawberries. They grow in the cooler weather, when the days are shorter, producing strawberries that are bright red and bursting with sweet flavor. These berries make for excellent preserves, or can be used in a variety of recipes, including the selection below, or simply a refreshing snack.
Places to Pick Your Own Berries
Check out this list of farms to plan a day and begin your own strawberry picking tradition. Each location’s website will provide up-to-date information regarding when strawberries are ripe and ready to pick.
- Thompson Strawberry Farm
14000 75th St., Bristol, WI
- Blue Clay Berry Farm
5154 State Hwy. 50, Delavan, WI
- Apple Barn Orchard & Winery
W6384 Sugar Creek Rd., Elkhorn, WI
- Cody’s Farm & Orchard
19502 River Rd., Marengo, IL
- Heider’s Berry Farm
1106 N. Queen Anne Rd., Woodstock, IL
STRAWBERRY RICOTTA BRUSCHETTA
- 1 cup finely diced strawberries
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
- 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- 10 toasted baguette slices
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- Balsamic vinegar (preferably one that is thick and syrupy), for garnish
- In a small bowl, toss the strawberries, mint, olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
- Spread each slice of baguette with ricotta cheese.
- Top with a spoonful of strawberry mixture.
- Drizzle with balsamic and sprinkle with more sea salt.
STRAWBERRY-BASIL ICE CREAM
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 (5-oz.) can evaporated milk
- 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1⁄8 tsp. salt
- 1 (16-oz.) container fresh strawberries, coarsely chopped
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- Whisk together first five ingredients. Cover and chill 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, pulse strawberries, basil and lemon juice in a food processor until finely chopped.
- Stir strawberry mixture into chilled milk mixture.
- Pour milk mixture into freezer container of a 1-qt. electric ice-cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Remove container with ice cream from ice-cream maker and freeze another 30 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to an airtight container or a loaf pan covered tightly with aluminum foil; freeze 3 to 4 hours or until firm.
STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE IN A JAR
- 1 quart fresh strawberries mixed with 1⁄4 cup sugar
- 1 box yellow cake mix, baked according to directions
- 1, 8 oz. container whipped topping
- 1 can vanilla frosting
- Crumble the yellow cake into large pieces.
- Press a small amount of the crumbled cake mix into the bottom of 4 small canning jars.
- In a small bowl, mix together the whipped topping and frosting; spoon a small amount on top of the cake layer.
- Spoon a few strawberries on top of the frosting layer.
- Add another layer of cake, frosting and strawberries.
- Top each jar with a lid and ring. Refrigerate up to 8 hours before serving.
BERRIES WITH TEQUILA CREAM
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 8 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup tequila
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 6-8 cups assorted fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries)
- Fresh mint sprigs for garnish
- Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a 2-qt. heavy saucepan; whisk in tequila.
- Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, 10 to 15 minutes or until tequila mixture thickens and coats back of a spoon. (Be careful not to boil.)
- Place saucepan in a large bowl filled with ice. Let tequila mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chilled, approximately 30 minutes.
- Beat 1 cup heavy cream at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream gently into chilled tequila mixture just until blended.
- Arrange assorted berries in 8 serving dishes; top with tequila cream.
- Garnish, if desired, and serve immediately.
Note: To make ahead, cover and chill whipped cream and tequila mixture up to 24 hours.
- 1 1⁄4 pounds strawberries, chopped
- 2 mini cucumbers (or 1/2 English cucumber), chopped
- 3 Tbsp. red onion, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the five fresh ingredients and combine in a bowl.
- Add the lime juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper and mix.
Note: Change amount of ingredients to your taste.