Sunday, January 24, 2010

Strawberry Fields For Summer

Beerenberg farm is famous throughout australia for their jams, marmalades, chutneys, sauces, and pickles.  You can find their products in most grocery store isles throughout the country.  However, every year between October and May thousands of people visit the farm  to pick fresh strawberries.
Last summer I visited the farm, located just outside of Adelaide in Hahndorf,  for the first time.  I arrived in town by bus.  The farm is a short stroll from the town's center.  There is actually a bus stop just outside the farm, but I wanted to stop in town for a bite to eat.
After checking in at the main store, and paying a small fee (probably to pay for all the berries that just happen to make it to your mouth), I was sent through a beautiful rose covered walkway to the strawberry patch.  The pickings were a bit slim on the edges of the field, however for those who braved to venture into the center of the patch the reward was well worth the effort--some of the largest, most succulent berries that I had ever seen.  Of course as you enthusiastically fill your container, or as in my case containers, you need to remember that you will be returning to the shop to pay for the strawberries.  At about AU$9.00 a kilo it may seem a bit expensive, but the quality really is out of the world.

As you can imagine I have returned to the Strawberry Farm several times over the past two seasons.  As the summer wears on the berries may not be as big and lush, but they are perfect for making this Fresh Strawberry Pie from Cooks Illustrated.

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Serves 8.   Published May 1, 1998.

For the glaze to be the right consistency, you must start with 1 1/4 cups of strawberry puree. Varying that amount will yield glaze that is either too thick or too thin. Likewise, be certain that the glaze mixture has cooled before adding the berries; if it is too hot, the berries might begin to cook and soften. Pectin for lower sugar recipes is important here because this pie does not have enough sugar for ordinary pectin to set properly. Serve the pie with softly whipped cream.

2 quarts fresh strawberries , washed and hulled; one quart halved (4 cups); remaining quart sliced lengthwise into 4 to 5 slices (see illustration below) (4 cups)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon powdered pectin for lower sugar recipes (such as Sure Jell)
Pinch table salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 prebaked 9-inch pie shell (see related recipe)

1. Puree 1 pint (2 cups) halved berries in blender or food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade, scraping down sides as necessary, until smooth (you should have 1 1/4 cups; spoon off any extra). Bring puree, sugar, pectin, and a pinch salt to boil, stirring occasionally, in medium saucepan over medium heat. Increase heat to medium-high; boil hard until sugar and pectin are dissolved, about 1 minute. Off heat, skim foam from surface with large spoon.

2. Meanwhile, mix cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water in small bowl until absolutely smooth. Off heat, add cornstarch slurry to strawberry mixture, then return to boil, stirring constantly, over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and, continuing to stir constantly, simmer until mixture becomes thick and clear, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in cinnamon, lemon juice, and vanilla. Transfer glaze, reserving 1/4 cup for topping, into large bowl; cool to room temperature, at least 15 minutes.

3. Using a rubber spatula, fold sliced strawberries into large bowl of glaze, turning several times to coat thoroughly. Turn glazed berries into pie shell; spread evenly and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Place berry halves in concentric circles, flat side down and pointed ends toward center, starting at center and working toward the outer edge. Stir 2 tablespoons water into reserved 1/4 cup glaze to thin; brush over berry halves to finish pie. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2, and up to 6, hours. Serve.

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