Berry picking season: not so sweet

Yesterday I went berry picking, one of my favorite summertime activities. I love the peacefulness of the field, the beauty of the ripening berries and the meditative quality of picking-picking-picking until the bucket is full. I spend a lovely hour or so, joined by good friends, and the payoff is the sweetest, freshest fruit, free of pesticides and ready for my jam pot. But yesterday, I tried a new farm, where the owner had strict rules which included a set appointment, a minimum poundage requirement, and a no-tasting while you pick policy. You pick them, you pay for them, you eat them—in that order. The bushes were loaded with lovely ripe strawberries and my two buckets were full, totaling nearly 10 pounds in under an hour. After I paid I finally allowed myself a taste and… the berries weren’t very sweet. Ten pounds of not so sweet strawberries. I can’t bear to make jam out of these sub-standard berries, but with a tart lemon glaze, they made a fantastic fresh fruit tart. The rest are frozen, waiting to be made into smoothies. And next week, I will go to my usual farm source where I hope life will be sweeter.

This recipe involves a great deal of patschkieing as my mother would say—a lot of fussing. But I will make it again. It is an elegant, light and fresh dessert and makes a great presentation.

Strawberry Tart

For the crust:

  • 2 c. flour (I use part whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 2/3 c. confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2/3 c. cold butter
  • 2 Tbs. cold milk

Mix together the dry ingredients, place in food processor and pulse in the butter until it is the consistency of coarse sand (or cut together as you would for a pie crust, using a pastry cutter). With the processor running, slowly pour in the milk until just blended. Turn out onto a board and knead just until the dough balls together. Press the dough into a 12″ fluted tart pan, prick all over the bottom and sides with a fork, and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow crust to cool.

For the cream layer:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 c. warm milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

In a medium sauce pan combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Very slowly add the egg yolk mixed together with the warm milk, stirring continuously. After the mixture thickens remove from heat,  transfer to a bowl and mix in the butter. After it has cooled, stir in the vanilla.

For the lemon glaze:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. orange juice
  • juice from 2 lemons

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, stir constantly over a medium heat, until it is thickened. Transfer into a bowl to cool. If desired, thin more with orange or lemon juice.

To assemble the tart:

Spread the cream  over the crust, top with carefully arranged sliced strawberries, then gently top with glaze. Refrigerate until serving.

2 thoughts on “Berry picking season: not so sweet

  1. What a ridiculous policy. There is Pontius Berry Farm – White Heath – nice people. They have a web-site as well. Don’t know how sweet their berries are but the people are sweet

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