Whether picked fresh or put in a pie shell, Wisconsin strawberries make for some sweet eatsIt's the time of year to say good riddance to the oversized, overpriced and under-flavorful strawberries shipped in from California and other gentler climates.
By: By Chris Martell, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
It's the time of year to say good riddance to the oversized, overpriced and under-flavorful strawberries shipped in from California and other gentler climates. The local crop is ripening, and it's being quickly seized by Wisconsinites.
"People go gaga for strawberries because it's the first fruit of the summer," said master food preserver Polly Reott of Madison. "I also think Wisconsin strawberries are the best there are because of our superior earth: the glacial trails and the micro-environments that you have near Lake Superior and in Door County."
Reott really likes berries from those areas, she said: "It's almost worth the six-hour trip to Bayfield just for the strawberries."
But that's not to say strawberries grown in this part of the state are the poor cousins. "All Wisconsin strawberries have a wonderful taste," Reott added.
Strawberry pie, of course, is a go-to recipe. And eating them straight from the bowl is always a good option.
"People like them just by themselves, or in recipes that have been around forever," said berry grower Cindy Secher of Carandale Farm in Oregon. "If you just pour some sweetened condensed milk over fresh strawberries, it's to die for."
What is new, however, is the surge of interest in keeping Wisconsin strawberries around throughout the year. That's where preserves come in, Reott said.
"Strawberry jam is good for your Armageddon cabinet," said Reott, who sells strawberry jam and other preserved products at local farmers' markets. She also has a "Brandy Old Fashioned Jam" she provides to the Old Fashioned restaurant in Downtown Madison.
Reott is among a growing group of master food preservers who donate their time to share what they know through classes sponsored by local nonprofits and other organizations.
"We are creating an army of people to teach others how to safely preserve foods," she said. "It's a domino effect and a huge number of people want to take classes."
New techniques in food preservation help to make it safer for consumption, she noted.
"Scientific research has shown that the way our grandmothers preserved food isn't safe," she said. "But most people don't know that."
Reott also leads private in-home parties centered around food preservation: At one upcoming event she will teach a group of women how to preserve strawberries (cost is $100 for the two-hour session).
"Strawberry jam is one hot ticket," she said.
(c)2012 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
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