Bursting with sweetness and vibrant red juice, strawberries are one of spring’s most delicious and anticipated flavors. They lend themselves easily to all kinds of dishes — from breakfast and salads to a multitude of desserts — and no dinner party this season is complete without their signature shade. Read on for our best tips for working with choosing, storing and working with strawberries, then find some simple ways to prepare them this season, straight from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Seek out small, fragrant strawberries with a rich, glossy red color and fresh, bright green caps. Avoid any tinged with white or green and those that are shriveled or bruised. Smaller berries are sweeter, so skip the giant fruits.
You can keep ripe strawberries for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. To maintain freshness, store them in single layers between paper towels in an airtight container. They will also freeze well; just rinse, dry and hull them, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and freeze until firm. Then you can transfer the berries to plastic bags and keep them for 8 to 10 months. There’s no need to thaw frozen strawberries for most recipes, like sauces, ice creams or dessert fillings.
Prep tips: Wait until just before you eat the berries to wash them — moisture may cause them to mold. To remove the cap and hull, carve away the stem area with the tip of a paring knife or strawberry huller. If they aren’t quite ripe and sweet enough for your liking, toss cut berries with sugar and let stand. The sugar will bring out the juices to make a sweet natural syrup.
Uses: When strawberries are perfectly ripe, there’s nothing more satisfying than eating them raw as a snack or simple dessert. Their delicious sweetness easily lends itself to jams, tarts, ice cream and cakes. Heap them on top of pancakes and waffles for a bright, beautiful spring brunch. Find more ideas below!
Variations: Fraises des bois are wild alpine strawberries, tiny foraged berries that originated in France. They are especially sweet, with an intense aroma that begins to fade as soon as they’re picked. Fraises des bois make a gorgeous presentation when used in tarts, parfaits, or as a simple garnish — and you can also use them as you would strawberries in most recipes. Look for them at your local farmers’ market.
Macerated Strawberries: Steep sliced strawberries in a combination of red wine, sugar and lemon zest. Use as a topping for shortcakes or ice cream.
Strawberry, Goat Cheese and Spinach Salad: Combine sliced strawberries with young spinach, goat cheese and toasted slivered almonds. Toss with olive oil, good balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
Roasted Strawberry and Ricotta Bruschetta: Toss halved strawberries with balsamic vinegar and sugar. Spread flat in a baking pan and roast for 20 minutes in a 300-degree F oven. Spread toasts with ricotta cheese, top with strawberries, and drizzle with good balsamic and freshly ground black pepper.
Quick Strawberry Jam: Puree 1 quart strawberries in food processor and combine in a pot with 1/2 cup sugar. Cook until thick and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Transfer to pint jars; cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.