June and Strawberries
Half a dozen people, more or less, have been credited with the saying, “Doubtless, God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did;” and the declaration regarding this most delicious and wholesome of all berries, goes without questioning, no matter by whom it was first uttered. The strawberry, whose name is probably derived from the common and ancient practice of laying straw between the plants to keep the berries clean, is a native of the temperate latitudes of both hemispheres–Europe, Asia, North and South America–and though well known is of but comparatively little value in Southern Europe. This is the reason, doubtless, that the old Greek and Roman poets have omitted to sing its praises.
In olden times the variety of strawberries was very limited, and the garden was chiefly supplied by transplanting from the wood. This was the earliest species cultivated, and is mentioned in the street cries of London of over 400 years ago.
The garden of the Bishop of Ely at Holborn was celebrated in 1483 for its strawberries, a fact alluded to by Shakespeare in Richard III, when Gloucester says:–
“My Lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn,
I saw good strawberries in your garden there;
I do beseech you send for some of them.”
Old Tusser, in his “Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry,” points out where the best plants of his time were to be procured, and turns them over, with an authoritative air and farmer-like contempt for small things, into feminine hands :–
“Wife, into the garden, and set me a plot
With strawberry roots, the best to be got;
Such growing abroad, among thorns in the wood,
Well chosen and picked, prove excellent food.”
The strawberry, aside from its delicious flavor, possesses still other claims to popular favor. It is very easy of digestion, never growing acid by fermentation, as most fruits do, and it is also of medicinal value. The great Linnaeus is reported to have cured himself of the gout by partaking freely of strawberries–a delightfully aesthetic cure, and a most flattering testimonial to the efficacy of the dainty scarlet fruit.
So easily grown are these luscious berries that the poorest owner of a few feet of ground may revel in an abundance of “Strawberries upturning soft cheeks to the sun.” Rosy, blushing berries, eaten from the plant, or as a luxurious concomitant to a perfect breakfast on one of Lowell’s “perfect” June days, are certainly to be regarded as Arcadian dainties with a suggestion of Paradise.
The following tested and sure recipes for making use of the berries, I would fain share with a public that will be appreciative after using. First on the list, then, comes the time-honored and delicious Strawberry Shortcake.
With one quart of flour, mix thoroughly, by sifting, two heaping teaspoonfuls of baking powder and a teaspoonful of salt. Rub in one-quarter of a pound of butter until very smooth, then add two eggs beaten to a froth with one- quarter of a pound of sugar. Add milk or water to make a soft dough, and bake in a very quick oven. Cut open while hot with a knife that has been heated, butter, and spread between the layers the berries which have been sweetened to taste. Sprinkle pulverized sugar over the top, or cover with a meringue made with the white of an egg and a tablespoonful of sugar.
Strawberry Sauce for Puddings
Beat one large tablespoonful of butter to a cream. Add one and one-half cupfuls of powdered sugar and the beaten white of an egg. Beat all together until very light, and just before serving add one pint of mashed berries.
Strawberries and Whipped Cream
Place a layer of strawberries in a deep glass dish and sprinkle with sugar. Add another layer of berries and sugar until all are used. Whip together one pint of cream, the whites of three eggs and one cupful of pulverized sugar flavored with strawberry juice, and pour over the berries.
Select large, fine berries, leaving the stems on. Dip in beaten white of egg, then in fine sugar. Dry them; dip again, first in egg, then in sugar, until the icing is of the required thickness.
Soak one tablespoonful of gelatine in two tablespoon-fuls of cold water about an hour, then add the same amount of boiling water, and stir until dissolved. Strain and add a pint of strawberry juice, a pint of sugar and one and one-half pints of cold water. Freeze.
Place a layer of strawberries in a deep glass dish, and over them sprinkle a layer of pulverized sugar. Add more berries and sugar until all are used. Over all pour orange juice in the proportion of three oranges to one quart of berries. Let it stand for an hour. Sprinkle with pounded ice, and serve.
Thoroughly beat the yolks of three eggs with one heaping cupful of granulated sugar. Add one cupful of boiling milk and stir the mixture in a double boiler for four or five minutes. Then add to the hot mixture one pint of very rich cream and the juice of a quart of thoroughly ripe berries. Remove from the fire and cool, then freeze carefully, and serve with dainty white cakes flavored with bitter almond.
Canned Strawberries (Wiesbaden Method)
Select two lots of berries; large, perfect ones for canning, and inferior ones from which to make the sirup. Put the latter in a colander and pour a very little cold water over them, then to these berries add one-half pound of sugar to each pound of berries, and allow them to stand in a covered earthen jar over night. The next morning drain off most of the juice from the berries and add to the juice one-quarter of a pound of strained honey. Boil this sirup until reduced to one-third the original quantity. While this sirup is boiling, rinse cans, inside and out, with hot water and till with the large whole berries. Fasten the lids on part way, and set in dripping pan on wet towels on the back of the range to keep warm. When the sirup is boiled down one-third, pour quickly over fruit and seal air-tight If you do not care to use the honey according to the Wiesbaden method, use about one-half pound of sugar in its place. It usually takes about three and three- quarter pounds of the large berries to five pounds of the berries to be used for the juice only.
Light and cool desserts are much more acceptable in warm summer days in many ways. The house-keeper is better pleased if she can arrange for dinner in the cool of the morning, and summer fruits are always attractive in any way they may be served. I will venture to give a few recipes that are often used in my own house, hoping they may be of use to others. They may all be used as given, or raspberries may be substituted in place of strawberries.
One quart of strawberries, carefully freed from sand, should be placed in a quart mold. Soak one-fourth of a box of gelatine in one-half cupful of cold water for two hours; then add to it one and one-fourth cupfuls of boiling water and stir it well until the gelatine is entirely dissolved. Add one cupful of sugar, the juice of one lemon, and one-fourth of a cupful of light wine. Strain this and pour it over the berries. Place the mold in the ice to harden. When ready to serve, dip the mold into warm water, turn the jelly on a dish, and heap whipped cream about it. If one objects to wine, the juice of another lemon, or of an orange, may be used in the place of it. It is better to prepare this dish the day before it is wanted, as jelly requires several hours to become hard in warm weather. Soft custard may be used in place of the whipped cream if preferred.
For these we require one quart of strawberries, one quart of milk, six eggs, one-half cupful of sugar, one tea-spoonful of vanilla or lemon extract, and one teaspoonful of salt. Put the quart of milk in the double boiler to heat, reserving one-half cupful. Beat four whole eggs and the yolks of two with one-half cupful of sugar, and add the half-cupful of cold milk. Pour this mixture into the boiling milk, stirring the milk constantly while pouring, and until it begins to thicken, when it should be at once removed from the fire and poured immediately into a cold pitcher. Add the salt, and when cold add the flavoring. Some glass custard cups or small tumblers should be partly filled with strawberries. When ready to serve, fill up the glasses with the cold custard. Beat the whites of the two eggs that were reserved from the custard to a stiff froth, add two tablespoonfuls of sugar, then pile it on each glass, and a large strawberry on the top. Or it can be served in one large glass dish, if preferred.
Place one quart of strawberries in a glass dish, and sprinkle over them one-half cupful of sugar. Put one pint of milk in a double boiler; while this heats, beat well together the yolks of three eggs, one-half cupful of sugar, and one-fourth cupful of flour. Stir this into the boiling milk and cook it twenty minutes, stirring often. Remove from the fire and add one-fourth of a teaspoonful of salt. When cold, pour this over the strawberries. Beat the whites of the three eggs to a stiff froth, add three table- spoonfuls of sugar, and heap it on the top of the pudding. Decorate with large strawberries, and the result will be a very delicious, handsome pudding. It may be flavored with vanilla or lemon, if desired.
Slightly crush two quarts of strawberries, and add two cupfuls of sugar. This should stand for two hours. Then add one pint of cold water and the juice of one lemon; mix it well, and freeze as you would ice cream.
Crush one quart of strawberries and sprinkle over them one-half cupful of sugar. Let this stand in a cold place until time to serve. Beat the whites of two eggs to a stiff dry froth, add two tablespoonfuls of sugar, and stir this into the crushed strawberries. Pour it into a glass dish, and decorate with fine whole berries.
For this dish, the crown of all. I use one and one-half quarts of strawberries, one cupful of sugar, one pint of flour, one and one-half teaspoonfuls of baking powder, one- half teaspoonful of salt, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, one-fourth of a cupful of butter, and a scant half-cupful of milk. Slightly mash the berries and sprinkle over them one cupful of sugar. Measure one pint of flour after it is sifted. Add to it one and one-half teaspoonfuls of baking powder, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, and one-half teaspoonful of salt, then sift again. Rub into the flour one-fourth of a cupful of butter. Mix it with a scant half-cupful of milk. Butter well a Washington pie plate, place the dough upon it, smooth, and press it evenly into the plate with a spoon. Should the dough stick to the spoon, dip a clean spoon in flour and smooth with it. Bake in a quick oven until done–about twelve or fifteen minutes. Remove it to a china plate. Split the cake carefully with a sharp knife. Butler the lower half well and cover with a part of the mashed berries. Place the upper half of the cake on this, the crust side on the berries. Butter this and cover it with the remainder of the fruit. Before serving, heap whipped cream over it, and you have a dish fit for a king. The cake is not to be despised if it be served without whipped cream.