Gourmet Galley: Fresh Louisiana strawberries delicious in all forms

Berry, berry good

You know its springtime when you see flats or little green baskets full of bright red strawberries in the grocery stores and at farmers markets. Everyone likes biting into a juicy, sweet Louisiana strawberry.

Information from the Louisiana Strawberry Marketing Board and the North American Strawberry Growers Association tells it all in regards to handling and storage of strawberries:

• At this time of year, it is easy to find bright red berries with fresh green caps on. When you cut the caps off, you tear the cells in the berries, activating ascorbic acid oxidase, an enzyme that destroys vitamin C.

• The best berries are the ones you pick or buy from your local strawberry farmers. Those berries are just hours old with little or no handling and little traveling. Look for strawberries that are plump, bright and fully ripe with fresh-looking green caps. The size of the strawberry is not so important; whether large or small, they should all be sweet and juicy.

• If you’re going to pick your own berries, pick early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the fruit is cool. Cover and store the berries — leave them unwashed — in the refrigerator. Don’t crowd or press.

• Remove any bruised or damaged strawberries as soon as you get home and use those in jams, sauces or purees. Hull strawberries and rinse gently just before serving.

• Experts recommend quick freezing of individual berries for long-term storage. That minimizes the “mushiness” associated with freezing berries.

• To freeze, place berries on flat trays in a single layer. Make sure they are well spaced out.

Put the trays into the coldest part of the freezer. Wash firm, ripe berries in ice water before hulling. Before freezing, be sure to drain well on several layers of paper towels. After berries are frozen, store in quart or pint containers or place in heavy freezer bags, tightly sealed. If using freezer bags, try to get out as much air as possible to minimize freezer burn. Seal, label and date containers.

Use frozen strawberries for special desserts, in smoothies, on cereals or as ice cubes in fancy drinks.

• The Louisiana Strawberry Marketing Board says 1½ pounds of strawberries is equal to 2 pints or 1 quart; 1 small basket to 1 pint; 1 pint to 3¼ cups whole berries; 1 pint to 2¼ cups sliced berries; 1 pint is equal to 1²/³cups pureed berries; and 1 cup is about 4 ounces.

These made-from-scratch desserts are sure to satisfy strawberry lovers in your family.

The Fresh Strawberries With Grand Marnier Cream is an adult dessert because of the liqueur.

Corinne Cook is a columnist for The Advocate. Reach her at food@theadvocate.com.