The hillside below Ditch Camp is a strawberry field. Early in August, with every slow step up the pasture, a bright red treasure peaks out from under the lush leaves and blades of high mountain grass. For no more than a week, this bountiful harvest blossoms, providing food and forage for the deer, the squirrel, the marmot, the chipmunk, and innumerable birds that call that hillside home.
And with the first frost, perhaps no more than a week later, the fleeting and precious bounty has passed, and the only red we find is the frost tinged leaves of the strawberry plant, the first to turn color in fall.
Now, of course, the whole hillside is brown. Frosts have been heavy and the sunlight is lower, weaker, softer and fading each day.
Sure, I’d love to brag about my home grown varieties. But I can not. For several years, I tried to plant cultivated starts. June Bearing. Every bearing. All kinds of varieties from all kinds of nurseries. Nope. Although these wild ones manage fine, some years producing their minute “bumper crops” as they did this year, other years no more than a creeper leaf and flower all summer long… the ones in my garden, well, here at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet and a growing season averaging four frost free weeks on a good year… Nope. Not yet at least.
Last night we savored a treat of strawberries and cream. Obviously, not home grown. And not the wild kind – those tiny treasures bursting with flavor that we find running wild in summer throughout the mountains – but a milder, mellower, and of course, much larger variety. The supermarket kind, grown some place I can only imagine is of minimal elevation and maximum growing season, a place with plenty of water and not too much snow. Probably none. A place far away, so it seems…
But, oh! An ode to that simple, sensuous, spectacular strawberry! Even if it is bought from a store. So lovely alone, unadorned and wanting for nothing. But paired with a bit of cream? I can think of no dessert finer. The effortless perfection of sweetness, taste and texture. The ideal way to end a meal.
And so I share with you now my three favorite ways to savor Strawberries and Cream. I hope you try and enjoy.
- Whipped Cream. Using one cup of heavy whipping cream mixed with a half cup confectioners powdered sugar. I whip the cream in a medium sized bowl with a large wire whisk. Take turns whipping by passing the bowl around the table as your arm gets tired. I suppose you could use a blender or some electronic device to do the heavy work, but that spoils the fun. When cream is whipped, dip in whole strawberries, one at a time. Extra whipped cream can be consumed with a spoon.
- Heavy Cream. Similar to above, but even more simple, and honestly, I suppose this is my favorite. We call it “strawberry soup” in our household, and this is as good as it gets for a finale to a good meal. I cut each strawberry into a bite size morsel, about ½ inch diameter. Place in a medium bowl. Stir in ½ cup confectioners powdered sugar to coat each piece of strawberry, then pour over the top 1 cup heavy whipping cream. Scoop individual servings into small bowls with a ladle. Eat with a soup spoon.
- Sour Cream. This one is fun finger food. Messy and a bit decadent, but worth cleaning up from when you are done. In one bowl, you have sour cream. In another, brown sugar. Take a whole strawberry. Dip it in the sour cream. Really slather it on. Then roll it around in the brown sugar. Then nibble…