Poor Strawberries—Here’s the Easy Rescue!

It's entirely possible that there is no flavor more delightful and compelling than strawberry.I’ll never forget my first taste of wild strawberries. I was 13 and was sent to the Putney Work Camp in Vermont to learn some work ethics and outdoor skills. The first overnight hike, carrying what seemed like an unbearably heavy backpack, was not very much to my liking until I discovered just before falling asleep that my sleeping bag was on a bed of wild strawberries. The sweet intense sting of the tiny berries was so amazing I almost forgot about the raw egg someone had slipped into my sleeping bag after hearing me brag about how my father had made it for me (another lesson learned!). A few years ago, at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, I discovered the best strawberries since that night in Vermont so many years ago and a subsequent trip to France one June. They are called “day neutrals” and are a cross between the French fraises de bois and our often watery, flavorless, over-sized variety. But what to do when now, at the height of strawberry season nearing, when the berries are sometimes disappointingly flavorless. This happened last weekend and here’s my restoration solution. It's quite shocking to discover how a little sugar and time can transform and bring out the flavor that a strawberry was born to possess. For 1 cup/4 ounces/113 grams of hulled, sliced strawberries add about 1 teaspoon of sugar (don’t get fancy here—just superfine or granulated). Toss lightly, cover, and allow to sit for a minimum of 30 minutes—longer is better still. They will keep at room temperature for several hours or in the refrigerator for several days. When ready to serve, drain the berries, placing the liquid in a lightly oiled microwave safe cup. Watching carefully, microwave on high until the juices are reduced to thick but still pourable syrup. Allow it to cool until just warm or room temperature and gently stir them back into the berries. Fabulous over Haagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream!