Looking for a way to preserve strawberry flavor in its purest form? We’ve got two words for you: strawberry puree. It’s about as close as you can get to the flavor of biting into a fresh strawberry, minus the actual berry. The puree also delivers an intense strawberry aroma that will have you dreaming of lazy summer afternoons in the berry patch.
Use strawberry puree to flavor cakes or frosting, layer into pastry, or enhance a strawberry pie. You can also spread it on waffles, stir it into oatmeal, or drizzle it over ice cream. It tastes fantastic added to smoothies and makes a lip-smacking berry-balsamic vinaigrette.
Our favorite method of making strawberry puree is adapted from James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum. She stresses the importance of separating the berries from the juice and reducing the juice to a flavor-dense syrup, which is then blended back into the strained berry flesh. The result is pure strawberry heaven. (Of course, you can also create a quick-as-a-wink strawberry puree by simply processing fresh berries in a food processor or blender, though this will produce a runnier puree with a more diluted flavor.)
Easy Strawberry Puree
1. Gather ingredients: 5 cups fresh strawberries, fresh lemon juice, and sea salt. (This will yield about 1¼ cups of finished puree.)
2. Place berries in a bowl and thoroughly rinse.
3. Freeze berries overnight (or longer) in a freezer bag to help release juice from the fruit. If you don’t plan to make the purée right away, use a straw to suck the air out the bag, creating a vacuum seal.
4. Place frozen berries in a colander over a container to catch the juice as they thaw. Occasionally use a potato masher to break up the fruit and release more juice. Thawing will take several hours.
5. Strain out (and save) any solids in the juice. Pour juice into a deep saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally. As water evaporates and juice thickens, stir more frequently. Remove from heat when it has the consistency of syrup (before it caramelizes).
6. While the juice is heating, puree the strained berries (including the bits taken from juice) in a food processor or blender. Pour into a bowl. Mix in the syrup created from cooking down the juice, then add 2 teaspoons lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt.
7. Pour puree mixture into a jar or container. You can refrigerate the puree for up to 10 days or freeze for longer. (See following slide for details on freezing.)
8. To freeze, spoon puree into ice cube trays and place in freezer. Once frozen, put cubes in a freezer bag and vacuum seal it by sucking air out with a straw. Write the date on the bag. Frozen puree will keep for up to a year.
Photographs and Article by Julie Martens Forney.