It’s strawberry season, and there are so many wonderful ways to enjoy them. There’s fresh out of the basket, my favourite way to eat any fruit. But then there are also classic strawberry dishes, like strawberry shortcake or paired with rhubarb in a crisp, and new classics such as in smoothies or chia seed pudding. For my family, pancakes just aren’t pancakes without a topping of sliced strawberries, which is how my children enjoyed the strawberries my Mom picked from her garden and froze for them to enjoy all winter long.
All that said, I was looking for something different and new, at least to me. I had heard about picked strawberries a few times, and was intrigued enough to investigate further. In 2015, Dana McCauley of Food Trends TV via Food Bloggers of Canada identified pickled fruit as a hot new trend. Not being one to jump on a trend right away, here I am a year later, giving these a whirl.
It takes very little time to make a quick pickle … just prepare the fruit and whatever herbs you’re using (if any) and boil up a brine. Combine, cool and refrigerate, and voila!, you have pickled strawberries. They’ll be ready to eat in about 24 hours. I’m still experimenting with ways to use these, and no doubt you’ll see them cropping here on the blog, and also on my Facebook and Instagram feeds, where I showcase what’s happening in the kitchen without necessarily making it to the blog. I’ve enjoyed them on salads, and I have a gimlet in mind that I’d like to try soon too.
I bet you’re wondering how they taste. I just ate one, pickled almost two weeks ago. The texture is firmer than the original berry, with a certain crunchiness like — what else — a pickle. The sweet taste of strawberry is still there, of course, but it’s accompanied by the vinegary tang of the brine and the heat of the cracked pepper. I couldn’t really taste the thyme, so I’ve adjusted the recipe to use more than in my first attempt. All in all, these pickled berries are an unusual and attention-getting treat!
A few notes about making quick pickled strawberries:
- Small berries, less than an inch across, work best for quick pickling. Rather than cut larger berries, I bought two baskets and selected the smallest berries to fill one quart basket.
- When you pour the brine over the berries, it won’t look like enough. But sure enough, the berries release some of their juices and shrink down, until they’re pretty much covered.
- I looked at quite a number of recipes online, and the longest suggested storage period was two weeks in the refrigerator. Next time, I think I’ll make a half batch, as I’ve been hard-pressed to get through the entire batch ( or else I’ll recruit more pickled strawberry eaters!).
I think these berries would be a hit for summer entertaining, whether used in salads, cocktails, or as an accompaniment to cheese and charcuterie platters. They’re tasty, fun, and unique enough to get your guests — and their palates — buzzing!
Quick Pickled Peppered Strawberries
© Marlene Cornelis, Urban Cottage Life 2016
I checked out numerous recipes on the Internet and slightly adapted this one from Simple Bites, where it was adapted from Marisa McClellan’s book, Preserving By the Pint. Recipes do get around and change a bit as they pass from person to person!
- 1 1-quart basket of small strawberries (less than 1 inch across)
- 8 stems fresh thyme
- 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns
Stem and wash the berries. Place them in a 1-litre Mason jar along with the stems of thyme. (I like to place the thyme against the sides of the jar for visual appeal.)
In a small pot, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let the brine cool for a few minutes, then pour over the berries.
Allow to cool uncovered, and then cover and refrigerate. Allow the pickling at least 24 hours to take effect before using the berries. Store up to two weeks in the refrigerator.