April is famous for more than those proverbial showers. It’s also the month when spring offers up its firstborn crop: strawberries. The plants are so prolific, they even put bunnies to shame when it comes to being fruitful. A single plant can produce a pound or more of juicy berries—a statistic that is particularly impressive when looking out over your local strawberry farm.
Whether picking them from your garden or a local patch, or buying South Carolina strawberries from the market, you’ll want to properly store your sweet stash for maximum shelf life. (That is, if you can stop yourself from gobbling them up in a day!) A few pointers to keep in mind: Do not wash the berries until you are ready to use them. When storing them, space berries apart in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate. Do the same for freezing strawberries. Once frozen, you can pile them into plastic freezer bags. This keeps them from sticking together, so you can take a few out at a time and indulge.
Got visions of cream-topped strawberry shortcake or straight-from-the-basket snacking dancing in your head? Of course, you do. While there’s nothing at all wrong with that, it’s worth noting that the strawberry is one of the most versatile fruits around. That’s why it’s the darling of South Carolina bed and breakfast proprietors, who love creating beautiful dishes with fresh strawberries. These recipes, from three of the state’s most beloved establishments—Bloomsbury Inn, Sunrise Farm and Pettigru Place—enjoy star status among guests. So, pick some strawberries, pick a recipe, pick a day and treat your family like guests at your very own bed and breakfast. Not inclined to step up your strawberry game? Then, plan a stay at one of these gorgeous inns and indulge at their sumptuous tables.
Fresh Strawberry Soup
Bloomsbury Inn*, Camden Katherine and Bruce Brown, proprietors According to Katherine, the buttermilk “pushes this soup over the top!"
Ingredients: 2 pints fresh South Carolina strawberries ¾ cup orange juice, not from concentrate ¼ cup sugar 4 cups buttermilk 2 small containers of good quality vanilla yogurt (for thickening) 1 tsp. real vanilla extract mint sprigs, optional freshly whipped cream
Katherine’s technique and tips: Wash strawberries very well in cold water. When drained, hull them. I use the side of a teaspoon to hull berries because that is what Grandmother Sallie Rose did. My blender is not large enough to hold all the ingredients, so I use half the ingredients in one batch and the other half in the second batch. Of course, I mix them together to hold in the refrigerator. Place ingredients in the blender and blend and blend until it is all smooth. Pour into an airtight container and chill until ready to serve. Chill at least four hours. Serve in a champagne glass or a fruit dish or a soup bowl. The soup is beautiful, but garnish with a little dollop of fresh cream and a sprig of mint. At Bloomsbury, we serve this as the breakfast fruit course (whipped cream and mint) or a luncheon starter (strawberry topped) or a light, after-dinner dessert (with chocolate shavings)—yes, it is so versatile.
*The Bloomsbury Inn is no longer being operated as a Bed and Breakfast.
Sunrise Farm Fresh Strawberry Bread with Strawberry Butter
Sunrise Farm Bed and Breakfast, Salem Greg and Suzanne Humphreys, proprietors Suzanne says: “A guest favorite at Sunrise Farm B&B is the Fresh Strawberry Bread made with local strawberries and served with strawberry butter. Yum!”
Ingredients: 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1 cup whole wheat flour 1 tsp. baking soda 1 tsp. salt 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon 1½ cups sugar ½ cup brown sugar 4 large eggs, beaten 2 cups strawberries (fresh, chopped) 1½ cups canola oil 1¼ cups chopped pecans or walnuts (plus extra for topping) demerara cane sugar for topping (optional)
In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients together (excluding the brown sugar). In a large bowl, combine the eggs, brown sugar, strawberries and oil. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until blended. Fold in nuts. Spoon into two greased 5-inch by 9-inch loaf pans. Sprinkle with extra nuts and cane sugar, if desired. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. (Test each loaf separately.) Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn loaves out of pans and allow to cool before slicing.
Strawberry Butter ½ cup butter, room temperature ½ cup confectioners' sugar 1/3 cup strawberry preserves Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Keep refrigerated for up to one week.
Girl Scout Cookie Lemony French Toast with Fresh Strawberries
Pettigru Place, Greenville Lori Donaldson, proprietor Says Lori: "Lemon and strawberries are a perfect sweet/sour pair. You also don't want syrup on this—the strawberries are juicy enough!"
(Note: If you’ve already depleted your hoard of Girl Scout cookies, substitute any iced lemon shortbread cookie.) Ingredients 8 slices thickly cut French bread Lemon curd (store-bought is fine) 4 eggs splash of milk or cream 3 cups Girl Scout Lemonade cookies, crushed fine in the food processor 1 pint fresh South Carolina strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced Sugar (for sprinkling on strawberries)
Cut deep pockets in the bread and fill each with one tablespoon lemon curd. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and cream. Dip bread into egg mixture and then into cookie crumbs. Toast on a griddle at medium-high heat until hot throughout and golden brown. Generously top with sliced strawberries tossed with a little sugar.