I hate goodbyes. I prefer saying “see you next time,” because goodbye has such a definitive ring that it sends me straight into the doldrums. Particularly when I’m bidding farewell to things I love. Like strawberries. Sure, here in California we’ll likely still have them in season for another month or so, but the best? They’re on their last leg.
I know so because my primo strawberry stand at the farmer’s market declared this weekend’s pick as the last they’ll bring to market. And, if they’re not selling, there’s no point in buying because they’ve got the nicest berries in town. But I know myself and I’ll probably still get a craving. So, I’ve come up with this quick-pickle berry recipe as a way to indulge in berries even when they aren’t at their prime.
Throwing strawberries in a pickle livens them up and boosts their flavor. I know, you’re thinking it’s an odd idea. That’s because it is a bit strange, but you’ve had strawberries drizzled with good balsamic vinegar, haven’t you? (If not, just nod quietly then run off and try some now so you can appreciate the fabulousness of that pairing.)
Well, pickling strawberries in red wine vinegar has a similar result. The sweetness of the berry gets mellowed out and the result is berries with subtle floral flavors and a touch of vinegary zing. They shine in an appetizer with cheese (as pictured above), but they’ll work pretty much anywhere you’d use fresh strawberries.
Quick Pickled Strawberries Recipe
Makes 2 1/2 cups
1 pound strawberries
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons agave nectar or honey*
Black peppercorns or another seasoning (such as a pinch of fennel seed, coriander seeds, or mustard seeds)
Hull and halve strawberries lengthwise. Toss with salt in a medium nonreactive bowl and set aside about 10 minutes.
Add red wine vinegar, agave nectar or honey, stir to coat, then set aside at least 5 minutes. Use the coarsest setting on your pepper grinder and crank a few times to crack pepper over the top. (Alternatively, place black peppercorns in a resealable plastic bag then lightly tap with a rolling pin until just cracked.)
Stir to coat and taste. The strawberries should be pickled enough that they taste a tad sour but not so much that you pucker. The pepper should make them spicy but not so much so that it’s overwhelming (if you start sneezing, you’ve added too much). Add more of either as needed.
*If your strawberries are really sweet, start with 2 tablespoons agave or honey and add more as needed so the strawberries are slightly vinegary and floral tasting but are not necessarily sweet.
-Use as a condiment on a cheese plate
-Serve on crackers with chevre, ricotta, or truffled goat cheese
-Combine with chopped cucumbers and herbs for a quick salad
-Skewer with mint or basil and mozzarella for a twist on caprese salad
-Combine in a salad with spinach or arugula, toasted pistachios or almonds, and some torn fresh basil, parsley, or tarragon
-Spoon over mascarpone or ice cream instead of balsamic strawberries
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