Sure, strawberries by themselves are delicious, especially when in season, picked at the perfect freshness. Mother Nature has done all the hard work, ripening the fruit, concentrating all the sugar and flavor. Adding a few flavors to strawberries, along with sugar, helps pull their natural juices out, macerates them and creates a self induced sauce. This Cuisine à la Bière version uses a Hopped Sugar, a splash of Witbier, and pinch of salt, creating Hopped Strawberries.
As strawberries are so sweet, the addition of lemon, either the juice or zest of the citrus fruit, adds a sour, tart and element of acid, to balance out the natural sugars of this berry. Instead of using citrus, I wanted to play with the same flavors of citrus, that are often found in beer. Depending on the hop variety, this flower cone can contain the same flavor chemical that makes grapefruit (cascade), lemon (sorachi ace), orange (Amarillo), tangerine (Cashmere, Mandarina Bavaria or Mosaic) and the list goes on and on. Using the hops flavors, not in beer, but to be blended with sugar, creates a whole new flavor combination and opens up so many flavor possibilities.
The type of strawberry will also impact the flavor profile of this recipe. Not all strawberries are created equal. The French variety of strawberries are small, but packed with an almost perfume like aroma. Sometimes called Fraises des bois (strawberries of the woods or wild strawberries) are one to be on the lookout at Farmer’s Markets, as you’ll rarely find them in a supermarket or grocery store. These and other varieties of strawberries are very seasonal, not like other varieties of strawberries, that are available almost year around. My favorite type of strawberry is the Chandler. I first had this variety at Swanton Berry Farm, located north of Santa Cruz, off the coast in the tiny town of Davenport. These strawberries are the strawberries of food memories and dreams. Right in flavor, full of natural sugar, deep red and showcase the extreme flavor of a berry! Chandler aren’t the preferred strawberry, as they are more fragile and don’t last as long as other strawberry varieties last on a store shelf. If you were to grow a strawberry, I would highly recommend this option.
A tip on picking the best strawberries, not depending on the variety. When you cut through a strawberry, you will usually see a white cone shape, that parallels the outside shape of the berry. If this ‘ring’ is white, that means the strawberry has more water than sugar. The deeper red this ‘ring’ is, to where it almost disappears, means the strawberry will be full of sugar and ultra sweet. As you eat this seasonal fruit, test this out.
These Hopped Strawberries are perfect over pancakes, waffles or used in a Hopped Strawberry Shortcake with Witbier Curd. The possibilities are endless and with the right hopped sugar and ripe strawberries, this recipe can be used on many other recipes and create an amazing beer pairing with a variety of beer styles. This recipe can also be puréed and strained through a sieve, to create a hopped strawberry coulis or fruit sauce | purée without any seeds. This version of hopped strawberries can be used with a cheesecake, fruit dessert recipe or layered into a Sour Cream Pound Cake. So many options and possabilities!
Remember, Eat Beer!
Makes: 2 pints of strawberries, enough for 12 shortcakes