How to Use a Flat of Strawberries in Five Days or Less

Zuzu accompanied me to the Oak Park Farmers’ Market last Saturday morning in exchange for the promise of a powdered doughnut. (I wish I had taken a picture of her face covered in powdered sugar — she looked like a half-made up Geisha girl) We were in the market for cherries, but we quickly learned that we were in a lull between the very early varieties of cherries, which had come and gone, and the regular cherries, which had not ripened yet. So, in short, there were no cherries, not even for ready money. What there were was strawberries. Strawberries were selling for $10 for two quarts, or $30 for a whole flat of strawberries, which is eight quarts. That’s like getting two quarts of strawberries for free. So, guess which option I chose? Zuzu carried the asparagus, the green onions and the scraggly bunch of basil, which inexplicably cost $3.50, while I staggered to the car under the weight of a flat of strawberries.

Strawberry balsamic jam in process

Strawberries are notoriously perishable, so I got to work on using up my eight quarts right away. First, I made a batch of strawberry-balsamic jam that used up two quarts. This jam is absolutely delicious. I personally don’t care for plain strawberry jam because I find it to be too sweet. That’s why I usually prefer to make strawberry-rhubarb jam or another hybrid. But the strawberry-balsamic jam was a revelation. You don’t taste the balsamic at all. What the vinegar does is prevent the jam from being too sweet and at the same time enhance the strawberry flavor without any vinegary bite. I actually liked the jam so much that I made a second batch on Sunday morning, using up another two quarts of berries. That was four quarts of berries down with 16 jars of jam to show for it. Not bad. Not bad at all.

For my next trick, I made a strawberry shortcake for Father’s Day dinner. My children’s wonderful father does not have much of a sweet tooth and he is very disciplined about what he eats — just like my own beloved father — but he has a soft spot for an old-fashioned fruit dessert, like strawberry shortcake. This shortcakes were made with a really rich, sweet shortcake biscuit — it’s almost like a cream scone — macerated berries and whipped cream. It was heavenly. The recipe made eight shortcake biscuits and there were only three of us eating them. So, there was shortcake for dessert two days in a row. That was one quart of strawberries the first day and another one the second day ’cause we like lots of berries on our shortcakes. Six quarts down, two to do.

Strawberry Shortcake

Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts
Makes 8 shortcakes

2 quarts strawberries
2 TB sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup butter, melted
Whipped cream (for serving)

Hull and slice the strawberries and toss them with 2 TB sugar and 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice. (Zest the lemon before squeezing it since you will need lemon zest for the shortcake biscuits.) Refrigerate the berries for at least 30 minutes so that they have time to release their juices. This is called macerating the berries — not to be confused with masticating the berries.

To make the shortcakes, combine the flour, baking powder, cornmeal, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a bowl and whisk together. Pour in the cream and mix with a fork until the dough begins to come together. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it against the bowl 8 or 10 times, but do not overwork it. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and using a knife or a pastry blade, cut it in half. Cut each half in half and repeat until you have eight pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Dip the balls of dough into the melted butter and then roll them in a shallow dish filled with sugar. Place each ball on a Silpat-lined or greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes until cooked through  and lightly browned. Cool.

To serve, slice each shortcake biscuit in half. Place bottom of biscuit on a plate. Top with a generous serving of macerated berries and a spoonful of whipped cream. Place top of the biscuit at a jaunty angle on top of the whipped cream. Add another dollop of whipped cream on top and a sliced berry or two.

By Tuesday, the strawberries were not looking so hot. I began serving them at every meal. My family was all, “we’re sick of strawberries, Mom!” But their complaints fell on deaf ears. We were going to eat those strawberries, dammit. Luckily for my kids, who were on the verge of developing diverticulitis, I agreed to host my kaffeeclatch on Wednesday morning. For the ladies, I whipped up a batch of strawberry lemonade that used up my last quart of berries. This lemonade is not too sweet, not too tart and very refreshing. I bet it would be great spiked, but since the kaffeeclatch meets at 9 am, we didn’t try it that way. With our strawberry lemonade, we ate homemade bread with butter and strawberry-balsamic jam. It was a perfect combination.

Strawberry Lemonade

1 quart strawberries
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup simple syrup*
4 cups cold water

Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender. Then force the puree through a strainer to remove some of the seeds. Pour strawberry puree into a pitcher and add the lemon juice, the simple syrup and the cold water. Stir to combine. Serve cold. Because this is a thick concoction, you can serve it over ice or cut it with sparkling water.

*To make simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan and heat it on the stovetop, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Simple syrup will keep for ages in your fridge.

I really, really hope there’s cherries at the farmers’ market this week!


  1. megryansmom says

    I could eat strawberries every day and never tire of them. My latest binge is some ricotta cheese and sliced strawberries for lunch.

    • Emily says

      That’s a terrific lunch. Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook has a recipe for open-faced sandwiches with strawberries and goat cheese and just a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top.

    • Nicole says

      We are doing a bulk order of strawberries from a local farm and between 10 families we ordered 55 flats 3 of which are mine we got a great deal of $13 a flat we will be making strawberry jam, strawberry ice cream, frozen strawberries for smoothings and strawberry lemonade concetrate.

  2. Jacky says

    Why do kids insist on the powdered donuts? I’d even prefer the cinnamon sugar, less messy. Everything looks yummy. We hope to make out first trip to the market this weekend.

  3. ericka says

    that strawberry shortcake looks amazing! we always go strawberry picking in maine and wind up with TONS of strawberries – I will have to use that recipe in a couple of weeks 🙂

    • Emily says

      It’s the best shortcake recipe ever. I cannot say enough good things about Rustic Fruit Desserts. Everything in the book is a winner.

  4. Angela Watts says

    Those shortcakes sound delightful. I always have issues with them turning out too dry for my tastes or tasting like salty flour. Will have to try that and the balsamic strawberry jam. I adore Alton Brown’s spiced blueberry which uses cider vinegar. Served with soft goat cheese and crackers its a perfect snack.

  5. Polish Mama on the Prairie says

    I love strawberries as well! Have you made strawberry soup? Delicious. I also stuff pierogi and potato dumplings with strawberries and freeze them for easy desserts later (just boil until done and serve with sour cream and sugar)

    I will have to make some strawberry balsamic jam. A friend of mine always made it and a spicy strawberry relish for me but since she’s too far away now, I guess it’s time to make it alone.

    • Emily says

      I love the descriptions of your Polish delicacies. Sweet pierogi with strawberries? That sounds amazing. You know, my paternal ancestors came from Poland — Krakow to be specific — so I feel like I should learn some of these foods.

  6. Lisa says

    Would you mind sharing the recipe for the strawberry balsamic jam? It sounds divine and I’d love to try making it! Thanks!!

  7. cortney says

    mashed strawberries with basil leaves on chicken then baked is always a favorite here, as well as fresh strawberries with madelines (or toasted pound cake) creme fraiche and a balsamic drizzle steals the show for a favorite dinner party dessert.. Love the jam, I think I’ll have to give it a whirl this summer.

  8. Polish Mama on the Prairie says

    Ooh! I just remembered, once I had organic strawberries stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with balsamic vinegar (reduction, if I remember right, and maybe a mint leaf)… That would be my “last meal” right there…