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.
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.)
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.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.