03 May 2009

Strawberry Seduction

The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.

That old saying is dead wrong.

We've been in the midst of springtime strawberry madness, ever since our first fling experimenting with gariguette strawberries. We've since dived head-first into these relatively pale, small, but surprisingly flavorful berries.

Going back to using the passoir à grosseiles food mill/strainer/toy type thing, our first order of business was to turn a 280g basket of gariguettes into syrup for desserts, beverages, etc.

After hours of cooking down, straining, filtering, and cooking down some more, it's a bit disappointing to find that a heaping basket of strawberries yields less than 100ml of concentrated syrup.

Then you taste it, licking a tiny little drop off the the tip of your finger, and it's as though about 100 berries just invaded your mouth, overwhelming your tastebuds and palate like a big strawberry monster.

Despite past (successful) attempts on both of our behalves to survive on a liquid diet, we then decided to try something more solid: Jam. Of course, we had to go that extra trendy, Parisian route and make it a confiture de gariguette au poivre noir – with black pepper. During the cooking process, the generous pinch of black pepper (in about 1.5 basket's worth of strawberries, macerated in sugar the night before) seemed a bit much and gave the rapidly reducing mixture a cough-inducing bite.

But after canning and cooling, the pepper mellows out into a sublime foil to the extreme sweet and tart supplied by the powerful little strawberries.

And that hint of pepper somehow rounds out the combination of strawberry jam, salted butter, and freshly toasted baguette. The sweet and savory makes this simple, quick breakfast item feel almost like a meal. Other than, you know, that whole part about wanting more, and more, and more...

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