I definitely have spring fever — even if the weather isn’t cooperating — so the old Beatles tune comes to mind. Except those strawberry fields won’t be available for picking until the beginning of June. #)(*)$(#*@*!
Ok, I’ll calm down and tell you about strawberries to come in Wisconsin instead. I didn’t know this, but the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of strawberries. And the USDA lists Wisconsin as 7th in the top 10 state producers. Makes you feel healthy just knowing that, right?
If you’re like me, you either already have a favorite grower to pick from near you, or you delight in finding new places to pick. The Wisconsin Berry Growers Association (WBGA) has done the homework for you if you’d like to find a new place (for raspberries and blueberries, too). Just click on the Find A Grower section of their site, plug in your zipcode, and find where to pick.
If you live in central or southern Wisconsin, our season is roughly from June 1-July 10. They’re a little behind in northern Wisconsin, with their picking season June 15-July 15.
Both Skelly’s and the WBGA sites offer tips about picking, handling, freezing, plus recipes. The best time to pick strawberries? Early in the morning or early in the evening when it’s cooler. That timing is better for the strawberries and for you.
Skelly’s is not only popular as a strawberry picking site – but also because of their jams, pies, turnovers and to-die-for strawberry donuts. Scott Skelly said he can’t even estimate the amount of berries they use in all their products, but “it is a lot.”
I asked Scott if Wisconsin Bites could have a version of Skelly’s strawberry donut recipe, for readers to try at home. Unfortunately for us, Scott said their donut recipe actually involves a 50 lb. bag of commercial donut mix “plus a lot of other tasty ingredients that make them so good.” That means no donuts for us.
So, I’m offering a strawberry recipe that my friend Pam McCarthy Kern and I were inspired to bake. It’s a good one to make the night before. And I’m hoping if you get to Janesville, you’ll just stop at Skelly’s or the farmer’s market and just buy — and enjoy — a strawberry donut!
Strawberry Chocolate Shortbread Bars
From: Pam McCarthy Kern and me
Inspired by Southern Living Magazine
Serves: 4 dozen
Time: 20 minutes to assemble; 1 hour for baking, 5 hours for cooling.
1 cup strawberry preserves (or more, if you like)
1 cup bittersweet chocolate
2 cups flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter (cold)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup slivered almonds
16 oz cream cheese
Garnish: whipped cream, strawberries and mint sprigs
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease 13 x 9 pan.
Stir flour and powdered sugar in bowl. Then use pastry blender to add butter until a crumbly consistency. Mix almonds in with your hands, then press into cake pan and bake for about 28 minutes.
Then melt chocolate in microwave and finely spread over shortbread. Let cool.
While base is cooling, whip together sugar and cream cheese. Add eggs and beat until smooth.
Once base has cooled, spread strawberry preserves over chocolate layer. I like a lot of jam. :)
Follow with cream cheese mixture. Bake 28-30 minutes more until set.
Let cool for an hour and then put into refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
To serve, add a dollop of whipped cream, a strawberry slice and a mint sprig to each piece.
Speaking of mint…stay tuned for next week’s recipe.
BITE THIS: Wisconsin Bites hit 1,000 followers yesterday! Yay! Thanks for getting WB off to a good start!!