Cassia-Cognac Strawberries

桂花草莓

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Yields 2 cups , enough to serve

    3–4

    as a light dessert with cookies.

Appears in

Had Chinese cooks of classic times known our familiar wild or wood strawberry (Fragaria vesca), they would have loved it, both for its felicitous red color and its multitude of tiny seeds (the word for “seeds” in Chinese being a homonym for much-desired “sons”). Here, to make up for lost centuries, is a simple, Cognac-laced dish of fresh strawberries, turned smooth and a blazing ruby by a light honey syrup. It is a very pretty dish that can be prepared in minutes.

  • The main requirement is superbly ripe berries. Judge them by smell. Ripe, luscious strawberries always smell sweet, while a good color can often mask a lifeless fruit. Cassia blossoms, should you find them, are a distinctive touch, but the berries will be delicious without them.
  • The strawberries should macerate 4–6 hours to reach their flavor peak. If they were quite firm to begin, they can be held longer before serving. If they were on the other hand very ripe, they should be eaten quickly.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pint sweet-smelling, firm strawberries

To macerate the berries

  • 2 tablespoons wild-flower honey
  • 2 teaspoons Cognac
  • teaspoon cassia blossoms

Method

Preparing the strawberries

Spray the berries briefly with cool water, then put aside to drain on paper towels. Hull the berries with the point of a small knife, making a neat incision around the stem and cutting away any portions that are white or green. Extract the pithy “finger” in the center of the berry.

Transfer the berries to an immaculately clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. (The jar permits you to evenly macerate the berries without touching them, which is important once they soften.)

Macerating the strawberries

Combine the honey, Cognac, and cassia blossoms, stirring until smooth. Scrape the mixture over the berries, seal the jar tightly, then rotate it gently to distribute the syrup. Lay the jar on its side, and prop it up if it is leaking. Rotate the jar a few turns every 15 minutes for an hour. The liquids will triple and the berries will turn a burning red.

For best flavor, refrigerate the berries 3–5 hours, rotating the jar occasionally.

Serve the berries at room temperature or slightly chilled, in a shallow bowl of contrasting color, with the syrup spooned on top. If you are serving a simple vanilla ice cream, they make a nice accompaniment.

Leftover berries may be refrigerated. Firm berries will hold 2–3 days.

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