Last week, I was shopping at my local Amish produce market and I bought a whole flat of strawberries. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know what came over me! They just looked so ripe and juicy and…red. The next thing I knew they were sitting in my shopping cart and I was plunking down some serious cash. I couldn’t help myself! Sigh. On the drive home, I began to have buyer’s remorse. A flat is about eight quarts of berries. That’s close to twelve pounds! What the heck was I going to do with twelve pounds of strawberries?!?!
The first thing I did was pick out the ripest, prettiest berries for us to snack on “au naturel”. That was kind of hard because most of them were very ripe and pretty, and one can only eat so many strawberries before exploding. I cleaned and hulled a bunch more, put them in freezer bags and slipped them in the freezer for those sad times when fresh strawberries are not available. The next thing I did was make some good old Southern-style strawberry shortcake.  Even after all that, I still had almost four quarts left. I thought about making jam and canning it like I did with my scrumptious apple butter , but honestly, I just didn’t have the time – or enough empty jars – to do it. So, I did the next best thing. I roasted them – low and slow – in my oven.
Roasting fresh strawberries is a great way to use them up when you have a big surplus, especially when they’re getting past their prime. Slow roasting them really concentrates their flavor and enhances their sweetness. The roasted berries can be used in a wide variety of other recipes, both savory and sweet. We used them as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, cheesecake and tapioca pudding, as well as an accompaniment to some roasted chicken and in a salad. I didn’t do it this time, but the next time I roast strawberries, I’ll definitely bake them into some muffins or a quick bread too.
Here are some of them dressing up a bowl of homemade tapioca pudding. I wish I’d gotten a shot of them paired with the cheesecake I made the other day, but it was gobbled down so fast that I didn’t have a chance!
My method for roasting these strawberries couldn’t have been simpler. All I did was rinse and hull them, toss them with sugar, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper and pop them in a 250 F. oven for an hour or so. For my lack of trouble, I was rewarded with a gorgeous, ruby red compote bursting with intense strawberry flavor. The pepper added a subtle kick of spice and the balsamic contributed just enough acid to pull it all together.
Another nice thing about this recipe was that while the berries were soft and tender, they held their shape very nicely and still looked like strawberries. Of course, you could certainly puree them and even strain them to make a coulis, but I really liked them just the way they were.
Thanks to this experiment gone right, I’ll never be afraid to load up on strawberries at the market again. In fact, I ‘m really looking forward to applying a few different tweaks to the recipe. Next time, I plan to add some fresh thyme and a splash of rosewater for a little Mediterranean twist. If any of you try it this way before I do, let me know how it goes.
Slow Roasted Strawberries
2 quarts fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar, depending on how naturally sweet your berries are
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 250 F.
Lay berries on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper. Drizzle with balsamic. Toss berries to coat.
Bake for at least one hour, until strawberries are very soft and their juices have thickened.
Remove from oven and cool. Use as a topping for ice cream, yogurt or pudding or as an add-in for muffins, cakes or cookies.