Oh strawberries, is there any fruit more synonymous with summer and dessert? I mean, most fruits get whipped into something, but strawberries, they’re everywhere, they go with just about everything (even savory stuff) and they’re available year round for whenever you want some summery berry nom noms. Sadly, most modern varieties bred for large scale commercial production aren’t very flavorful, and even in season they might not be too incredibly exciting. There are two excellent ways to magically transform your mediocre berries into yummy flavorful delights (or transform some already good ones into something magical) macerating and roasting. I like to macerate my berries before roasting, so i felt it best to just cover these methods together in one post/recipe. Let’s get on with it.
425g fresh strawberries, cored and quartered (about 1 lb after cleaning)
36g | 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
5g/ml | 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1g/ml | 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of fresh finely ground black pepper (like 1/16th of a teaspoon)
for macerated berries:
toss all together, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours
for roasted berries:
preheat oven to 350F
strain and reserve juice (if you've macerated the berries)
place berries into a glass or ceramic roasting dish and roast for 45 minutes, stirring once about midway through
allow the berries to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes before adding the reserved juice, allow to sit a few more minutes to soften up any yummy stuff stuck to the pan
use right away, chill and use, or freeze
Macerating is literally just soaking in something, in this case, sugar. The sugar will help draw out liquid, intensify the flavors, and alter the texture to give you that lovely bite that’s less spongy than a fresh strawberries, but still firm. There are a few tricks here to take it next level, one is vanilla to round out the sweet and sour and bring out the natural muskiness of the berries. Second, lemon juice….just a little bit! The lemon helps bring in a clean bright acidity that ramps up the natural acids in the fruit. Third trick may freak some of you out, it’s black pepper. Yes. Black. Pepper.
“He’s gone mad!! Mad I Say! Run for your LIVES!!”
Nope. Gotta trust me on this one if you’ve never tried it (chances are you may have had this combo many times before without knowing it.) Black pepper does something mystical to strawberries, somehow bringing out the flavors on a whole new level without having to use enough for anyone to say “Hey! Is there PEPPER in here?”
I’m sure there’s probably some chemistry mumbo jumbo behind all this to explain everything….but what you need to know is that it works. You need to do it. Don’t chicken out. (If you don’t believe me, do a quick search for “black pepper and strawberry” and you’ll have TONS of people telling you this)
After the berries have been macerated you can use them for anything you want, classically for strawberry shortcake, or top ice cream with them, or your morning oatmeal. Or. OR. You can roast them and change them, yet again, into something just slightly more wonderful.
Roasting really concentrates the flavors, giving you more bang in each bite, it also brings some lovey caramel notes to the game, creating a richer, almost savory element, a creaminess and breaks down most of the acids, leaving you with a sweet nuanced berry blast of flavor. Now, you can either roast them with the liquid from macerating, just dumping it all into the pan and into the oven, which will give you more intense flavors and caramel notes, Or you can do as i do, strain the berries and add the liquid back to them after roasting. Why? because you end up with the best of both worlds, you get the light floral and acid notes from the raw macerated juice, plus the rich caramel tones of the roasted. It’s the best, i swear, so so so good.
OMG just LOOK! see? perfect. The other added benefit of reserving the juice and adding later is that it helps to deglaze the pan after and get you more of that flavor that you might have just washed off down the drain [hang your head in shame!]
Roasted strawberries can be used in any place you would normally use macerated ones, but it’s especially at home with creamy items, ice creams, panna cotta, lassi, smoothies, etc…Those caramel notes brought about by roasting are simply divine with creamy stuffs.