There is one thing that makes me crazy at restaurants, and that is non-seasonal menus. It makes me want to go yell at everyone involved with the food and menu. And I’m not a yelling kind of person. Just ask my kids. Or maybe don’t.
One menu item that infuriates me is a green salad topped with strawberries. In January. And it’s snowing outside.
Why? And where are you getting these strawberries? And what are they costing you? Because they’re certainly not locally harvested in January. Not in the northern hemisphere.
Strawberries are all about spring. Spring. Time. Add roasted butternut squash and warm lentils to your winter salad, maybe with some goat cheese. But save the strawberries for strawberry season.
Speaking of strawberry season, the featured photo is of some of my just-picked strawberries from last year. I especially love the smaller, wild strawberries because of their sweetness and almost perfume-like quality. But you won’t find me putting any of my garden-ripened berries in vinegar or vodka. I like them just picked, warm from the sun, even if there’s still a little dirt on them.
Store-bought berries are good for infusing vinegars and vodkas. As long as you can taste them and you know they’re sweet. A strong aroma is usually a good indication of their ripeness as well.
And just as an aside, the sweet strawberry vodka from last spring is my most favorite infused vodka I’ve ever made. Check it out if you’re interested; there’s still time.
But back to vinegar, I have actually never flavored my own vinegars. I typically add the flavorings when I make vinaigrettes. But in the spring, along with some fresh strawberries on a salad, I decided the layered effect of having a strawberry-infused vinegar was a must this year. Especially when just seasoning a simple salad with only oil and vinegar. No garlic, or mustard or other strong flavors to impede the deliciousness of strawberry.
I bought a quart of good strawberries, gave them a slight rinse, then let them drip dry on a towel. I thought about mashing or even blending the strawberries to a pulp, but since I wanted the resulting vinegar to be clear, I decided to simply slice them.
I placed the slices in a clean bottle with a wide neck, and added no more than 1 teaspoon of white sugar. Then, using a funnel, I poured white balsamic vinegar into the jar. I used 2 – 8.5 ounce bottles for the quart of strawberries.
After giving the closed jar a gentle shake, I placed the jar in my pantry, and decided that one week should be sufficient, but I’ll give the vinegar a taste to see if a week is a substantial amount of time first. Stay tuned if you’re interested!
Just in case you’re wondering, I chose a white balsamic instead of the traditional dark-brown color. I am a huge fan of balsamic vinegar – the aged and the less aged both. But they are brown. And this is just my personal opinion, but I have never liked the look of, for example, a pasta salad tossed with balsamic vinegar. It’s just not pretty. Since I wanted to use the strawberry vinegar for more than just my one salad in this post, I wanted it pink instead of brown.
If you don’t love the sweetness of a white balsamic vinegar, simply use an apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or a sherry vinegar.