Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Strawberry Picking at Murphy's: Binbrook, Ontario

A few summers ago, one of my friends from school introduced me to Murphy’s farm. We had been looking for a place to pick strawberries and with this one located in nearby Binbrook, it was the perfect option. We filled a basket full of berries and turned them into delicious homemade strawberry pierogies. When we decided to go back this year, I instantly started planning out my future strawberry creations.

Although we are now into the very early days of July, there remain many delicious strawberries to be picked across Ontario. On Saturday, we headed back to Murphy’s to pick ourselves some strawberries, enough to make jam and a few other tasty treats. The farm is quite large with several strawberry patches to choose from. 

This year’s berries, though somewhat smaller, were extremely sweet and juicy. We couldn’t help but taste a few along the way! We filled up two big baskets worth and went out to buy jam jars and our other jamming needs. Having never made jam before, we looked up a number of recipes before settling on this one. We ended up using half brown sugar and half white sugar as well as added a bit more lemon juice than was called for. After several hours of hulling, mashing and boiling...voila! Jam!

I didn’t stop there, however.

For breakfast the next day I made strawberry-banana crèpes with nutella! They were light and sweet and the creamy chocolate of the nutella was the perfect contrast to the bright strawberry flavor. I added the banana because I pretty much always add bananas to crèpes – it just makes sense. 

My basic crèpe recipe goes something like this: 1 cup of milk, 1 egg, a cap of vanilla extract and about the same in vegetable oil get mixed in a large bowl. I take a ripened banana and smush it a bit in my hand while it is still in its peel then remove the peel and mash it into the mix. Then I start to add flour to the mix, a tablespoon at a time - usually between 6-8 heaping tablespoons depending on the consistency. Basically you want a well mixed batter (without any flour lumps but there will obviously be some banana lumps) that is still pretty runny (but not too runny). It's gotta be runny enough that it will spread across your pan easily and very thinly but not so runny that it doesn't hold its shape. Pour batter into an oiled pan on medium heat and let the batter spread to the edges to form a thin crèpe and there you have it! Because they are so thin they really don't need a whole lot of cooking time and often don't even need to be flipped (if thin enough!)*

Next on the list were strawberry tarts using my best friend Chelsea’s foolproof recipe. I have never been a great baker and I used to be even worse! Chelsea, however, is an incredible chef and baker and shared her sour cream pie recipe with me several years back. I modified it slightly to fill 12 little tarts and it turned out beautifully. The recipe is basically 1 cup of sour cream, 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup white sugar and 1 egg all whisked together until well-combined, then poured over top of fresh berries in a pie shell (or tart shells). It gets topped with a crumbly mixture of 1/4 melted butter, 1/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup brown sugar. These measurements are for a whole pie, so when making tarts, I cut it all in half. You throw the pie/tarts into a hot oven (450) for 10-15 minutes then turn it down to 350 for an additional 15-20 (tarts) or 30-45 minutes (pie) or until the crumble is golden on top and it doesn't jiggle too much when you give it a shake. It's pretty much the easiest pie recipe and everyone will love it. 

Finally (and in my mind, la crème de la crème) is the simple but always delicious strawberries with cream. This is a special treat for me because my grandmother (my memère!) used to make this for me in the summer after dinner. It’s really just a bit of sugar, some fresh strawberries and cream. The tart strawberries get mellowed out by the sugar and cream and once you are done all the berries, drinking the leftover is the best part. Bon appétit and happy picking!

*Disclaimer: I am notoriously awful at sharing recipes, particularly the kind that involve me essentially going by feel like when I make crèpes. I hope my directives aren't too vague and that your crèpes and tarts are edible delicious!