You’ll find me loathe to buy strawberries in winter. Goodness knows you can find heaps of them in the supermarkets but who want the cottony, over-toothy rind that barely smacks of strawberry taste and has a vastly insipid colour within, let alone without? The heights of real strawberry season (for Canada) has peaked and is now on its downward trend but the berries are still quite nice–even shipped in from California. They even taste like strawberries. The bite feels right on the teeth.
Perhaps I tasted wonderful strawberries in the past. I must have for I have a defined idea of what a real strawberry tastes like off the plant. I just don’t recall from where this pinnacle strawberry taste hails. What I do know is that I only tasted that perfection two times in recent memory—a roadside wild strawberry of pinky-nail proportions and gigantic taste and the carton of Plougastel strawberries during a French summer—red, thumb-sized beauties that could outshine any supermarket monstrosities.
I live in the land of those wild strawberries now but the weather has not cooperated for taste and little fingers and paws often get to them before I do. So, for now, I have to make do with the acceptable strawberries of the grocery store while they are in season.
Strawberries are far more season appropriate than split pea soup so I aimed to make a Victorian fruit juice for the summer time. I hit a snag the first time I wanted to make it because the store had already run out of strawberries by the time I got there. So I had to wait until yesterday for the next shipment.
Strawberry Water, as it is known in the Whitehouse Cookbook, is a refreshing summer’s drink. It’s fairly sweet so it would probably satisfy a child’s cravings but it doesn’t taste fake. It really tastes like strawberries. Organic, plant-ripened strawberries would be the best so I had to make do with the strawberries that still had some harder interior white bits.
This isn’t a “take it out of the freezer and have on the table in a few minutes” kind of summer drink. It will take some time. I’d probably need to do it again without the camera constantly clicking to get an accurate measure of time but it was probably closer to 15 to 20 minutes. It makes you appreciate the time people actually spent on these kind of projects. It makes you want the very best whole food with which to make your meals. It makes you question how our society ever got convinced that “fast and cheap” became acceptable on the family table.
Take one cupful of ripe hulled berries; crush with a wooden spoon, mixing with the mass a quarter of a pound of pulverized sugar and half a pint of cold water. Pour the mixture into a fine sieve, rub through and filter till clear; add the strained juice, of one lemon and one and a half pints of cold water, mix thoroughly and set in ice chest till wanted.
This makes a nice, cool drink on a warm day and easily to be made in strawberry season.
STRAWBERRY WATER (Modern Interpretation)
2 cups ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and cut in half (use smaller, riper berries if you can)
1/2 lb white sugar (just over a cup)
2 cups cold water
6 cups cold water
Put strawberries into bowl and a bit of the sugar. Begin to mush the strawberries with a wooden spoon (pestle would be best). Gradually add in the sugar bit by bit as you mush the strawberries. Add some of the water in while you mush as well. Mash complete when most of the strawberries are fully crushed and the all the sugar and water are completely mixed in. Place a fine mesh sieve over a new large bowl. Pour in strawberry mash and press the juices through. Do not insist on the entirety of the mash to get through the sieve as the juice must be clear. If the juice is cloudy, you might dispose of the mash and run the juice through the sieve once more, or, more exactingly, line the sieve with cheese cloth to make sure the re-sieved juices run clear. Add juice to pitcher. Set aside. Juice the two lemons, running the juice through a sieve to keep out seeds and pulp. Add lemon juice to strawberry juice. Add 6 cups of cold water to strawberry juice. Mix juices and water together with a wooden spoon. Place pitcher in the refrigerator for two hours. Serve cold.