Let’s say you were given 3 one dollar bills and one quarter – and the bills had slight tears and the quarter was dented. Would you throw these in the garbage? Probably not! You could take it all to the bank and exchange it for a new, undamaged currency, but in all reality, you are just going to use it and pass it on to the next person.
Like currency, strawberries also have a value. An average pound of strawberries is about 18 pieces and the current Tampa price is about .18 cents a berry. This means that each plastic container has the value of about $3.25; the aforementioned 3 one dollar bills and the one quarter. In a perfect world, every strawberry we receive would be perfect until the time we use them. However, this is not a perfect world and the reality is that some strawberries (and other berries) get damaged in some way and are not up to our standards for using – that is, not to our standards for using in their raw state that is.
So what do we do with them? If your answer is to throw them away, then realize that you are just throwing away money.
Walk into any professional kitchen across the world and you will see the culinary team using every product to its fullest extent, regardless of its condition. Bones, vegetable scraps, separated butterfat, bacon grease, expired herbs, old bread and a number of other byproducts are repurposed to create other items. Strawberries, and other berries for that matter, are no exception. Now, before we get to how to use them, it is important to know how to prep them for use.
When you see any berry not meeting the standard for being used raw, the first thing to do is hull them if they have a stem, like a strawberry. The next step is to rinse them in cold running water. This removes any dirt or loose particles from the berry. Next, lightly dry the berries using a paper towel to remove any excess water. And finally, place the berries into a Ziploc bag, date and freeze for future use. The result is not only having the product to create other items but also not tossing money (and food cost) into the garbage.
Easy? Yes… and these actions are the actions of a culinary professional acting fiscally responsible.
As stated… bruised, expired, ugly and less than perfect berries are no candidates for fruit trays, parfaits or other dishes but they are perfect candidates for other items of culinary expression. Here is a list of simple creations that can be achieved using leftover berries (of any kind or a mix) either straight away or right out of the freezer.
This is a very simple list; these are only suggestions. The possible creations are limited only by your talents and imagination!
Coulis – The obvious and easy choice. Berries, sugar, water and a touch of acid creates a sweet accent to dessert dishes. Adding a mirror glaze to the mixture will allow you to freeze and use it as needed for dessert squeeze bottles.
Dressings – Instead of buying berry vinaigrette, simply add a puree of berries to a balsamic dressing or champagne vinaigrette to create a bright flavorful taste to a bowl of leafy greens.
Savory Sauces – A touch of raspberry or blackberry to a demi adds a fruity flavor to offset the rich umami flavor of the demi. The addition of a bit of strawberry to barbeque sauce adds an additional light sweetness to play off the dark sweetness of molasses.
Gelée – A gelée is a jelled liquid made with gelatin. This can be made into sheets or into moulds. After it is set, it can be used to in a layered parfait or as a condiment on a cheese tray.
Preserves/Jams – With the addition of sugar, pectin and other flavorings, there is almost an endless bounty of options. Try a Blackberry Star Anise Jam or a Raspberry Jalapeno Cilantro Preserve.
Protein Drinks – Healthy requests are very popular today and there is no better way to hit that berry flavor than adding real berries to a mix.
Yogurt Mixes – Combine plain yogurt with rough-chopped berries to create a smooth, while textured, breakfast treat or dip for fruit.
Tart/Pie/Cobbler Filing – Along the same lines as the coulis mentioned above, but with a 50/50 split between whole and pureed berries and tightened with a cornstarch or arrowroot. Add to a petite pie crust and brush with apricot glaze. Garnish with fresh berries and mint and you are done.
Ice Cubes – A Texas hot weather favorite. Pureed and crushed berries poured into an ice tray and then frozen. Pop them out and use them as the ice cubes in a crisp glass of sparkling water. A nice treat for your team members working in a hot kitchen.
Syrups – A puree of berries added to agave syrup or to maple syrup creates a new flavor for pancakes or waffles.
Mousse – Make the traditional mousse and then add some berries to create a berry mousse.
Infused Liquor – Add a large amount of berries to a bottle of vodka or bourbon and allow it to sit at an ambient temperature for two weeks. Pour the liquid through a strainer and then enjoy.
Cocktails – Place the berries into the bottom of a tall glass. Add sugar and mint and muddle. Top with your favorite clear liquor and soda.
Popsicles – Simple syrup, lemon juice and pureed berries, a glass with plastic wrap and a popsicle stick. You do the math.
Muffins/Pancake/Waffle Batter – Add rough chopped berries to a batter and take it to the next level.
Truffles – Make the traditional truffle mixture of chocolate, vanilla and heavy cream and add rough chopped berries. Roll and dust.
Sorbets – It is just simple syrup and berry puree combined and then mixed in a sorbet machine. For those who are feeling adventurous, try Blueberry and Basil Sorbet.
French Ice Cream – Add the berries to a completed French Ice Cream mix and churn. Freeze and then serve.
Frosting – Folding in a puree of a berry to a buttercream frosting or a sour cream frosting adds a nice touch to what could be a boring dessert.
Get the idea? There is so much you can create with that $3.25 than just tossing it in the garbage!