How do you like your strawberries?

It is the first fruit of the season that allows for picking, one that had led to a farm by the mountains many years ago, one that still results in the first drive of the season to the farm, and one that invariably gets my wife talking about one of her favorite fruits in America.

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“Come here, let’s focus on these bushes” says a father to his daughter, “let’s distribute ourselves and pick as many as we can” says another parent, “pick only the reddest ones, and leave the others to ripen on the bush” says one other person to his child, and I looked at another couple and said “ …good idea to use a large container instead of many individual pint-sized ones to collect the picked fruit”. Everybody was eager to pick fruit and they did so at a steady pace as the slow crunching sound of car tires rolling up the hill on the narrow, winding, dirt road, kept increasing. I felt good that I was almost done before the crowd. I had arrived at opening time only to find a bunch of cars already parked, but the rows upon rows of bushes were still filled with fruit that I didn’t have to squat and move too long to fill-up my containers. I walked around a bit before I got back into my car for the drive home when it struck me how absolute and distinct the fragrance of strawberries were, just as much as it seemed to remind my wife who, the minute I opened the door to the house said, “I smell strawberries”.

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The school project was to make a collage about the UK for which my grandmother helped collect pictures. Of the pictures that still stay in my mind is a bottle of cream from Devon, one that had family immediately reminisce about their trip to England as they described just how luxurious and delicious clotted cream was.

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Clotted cream and regular heavy cream

Clotted cream as the name suggests is literally cream that is prepared in a manner that results in clots on the surface, and in a testament to the lovely grass that the cows graze on the cream also has a slight golden-yellow tone to it. While regular cream has a butterfat content of 30-36%, clotted cream has butter fat in the range of 55 to 60 %, thereby remaining a soft creamy solid at room temperature, and needless to say a small amount goes a long way.

Recently, the county of Cornwall in south-west England filed for and was granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status for the clotted cream it produces. The application in support of origin cites literary sources from the 17th century that refer to travelers praising Cornish clotted cream or clouted cream as it was called back then. More recently, the neighboring county of Devon that is also popular for its clotted cream cited research that revealed the production of cream to have originated in a Devon abbey around the 11th century1. This finding only accelerated attempts by the county to also file for PDO status that apart from being a matter of local pride also brings along positive economic consequences.

The traditional and the most popular context one might say in which this cream is used is with strawberry preserve, and scones. Should there be any doubt as to the star in this dish, the name cream tea – routinely used in the UK to refer to something that can be eaten, and not to be confused with cream in tea - puts it to rest.

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As it turned out one of the first desserts my wife taught herself to make after we got married, and the first time I had tasted them homemade, were scones served with plenty of strawberry preserve and clotted cream.

While scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve may be widely recognized as an English tradition, the people of Devon and Cornwall who take pride in their contribution to this tradition disagree on the presentation: in Devon, the proper way to assemble a scone involves first spreading the clotted cream followed by adding strawberry preserve while in Cornwall the cream goes on top of the preserve1.

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At home, I like the combination of strawberry preserve and clotted cream on scones regardless of the order, while for my wife the cream and scones are just vehicles for the strawberries that are front and center the focus.

How do they compare: the traditional manner of eating a dish versus choice based on individual taste preference? When does one give way to the other? And, should it?

 

Reference:

1. BBC UK news article, 19 May 2010

Related post:

Strawberries and cream 

9 thoughts on “How do you like your strawberries?

  1. Jeff

    These are the most beautiful strawberries I've ever seen. The scones look delicate and perfectly golden. The first time I ever had scones and clotted cream was at the Old Parsonage on Banbury Road - I think they served it in Cornwall fashion, with plenty of Darjeeling and Earl Grey tea. Makes me very happy to remember that, and to study the beautiful colors in the photos here. Thank you, Bala, for sharing something so joyful to look at as I imagine it is wonderful to taste, and as always, evoking distant but fond memories.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you very much, Jeff!
      I am glad to know that memories are invoked, and gladder still to read about them - thank you for sharing!
      I do agree that the tea plays into the rich flavors of this dish very well.

      Reply
  2. nirmala

    Thanks for sharing your experience of picking strawberries from the mountain side farm transforming it into delicious preserve and complimenting it with freshly baked scones topped with clotted cream.
    It surely brings back fond memories of the mouth watering warm scones served in style.The pictures are awesome.

    Reply
  3. ravi sankar

    Bala - Your article brings beautiful memories of strawberries. I remember you once served us berries and cream for breakfast with berries (straw and back berries ) you and Pavi had picked the previous day. It was spectacular. I also remember two years ago Thoma and I went picking fresh strawberries and he made this amazing preserve - again bring back memories. I will post pictures from my next strawberry venture for your blog - fingers crossed - we have two bushes in our garden - the variety here is very much smaller though - not as spectacular as your pictures.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you very much!

      Yes, I remember enjoying sharing berries with you over breakfast in July of 2011, though they were raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. The strawberries were the day before over dinner as a preserve. And yes, I do remember visiting you later when Mrs.Sankar mentioned your strawberry picking trip and even served the delicious strawberry preserve that Thoma had made.Thank you for sharing!

      In the late-eighties, I remember conversations of you and Mrs. Sankar in the context of strawberry picking.

      To have strawberries grow in your garden, not to mention the lovely setting, must be a treat. I look forward to seeing pictures and wish that the two bushes in your garden yield the juiciest of berries.

      Reply
  4. Bala

    An email comment from a reader:

    In college and once or twicy in grad school, my girlfriend and I made strawberry pie from strawberries we would pick at a "you-pick-it" place (popular in Oregon). We would puree and, I think, simmer strawberries with sugar to taste, then strain and use the liquid to make jello from unflavored gelatin. We'd place hulled, whole uncooked strawberries pointy-end up in a pie pan with a simple pie crust and cover with gelatin, then allow to set in the 'fridge. We ate the pie cold with whipped cream.

    Reply
  5. Elisabeth

    This is my favorite post of yours yet! I like my scones and clotted cream like Pavi-a vehicle to bursting sweet radiating joyful berry flavors! I like fruit on top and cream with the scone. I think it's important both to enjoy a cultural tradition and to identify how one likes theirs best, because it does change the flavor where the clotted cream goes. One can always try again if they can't decide.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you very much!

      I agree. I'd try a dish the traditional way and then tweak it if necessary to personal taste. I also think it is reasonable that sometimes one might not want to have a dish the traditional way based on one's taste preference.

      I also agree that the order of the cream changes flavor perception though not as much as the proportion of cream to preserve.

      I like the scones served both ways.

      Reply

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