The bright warm sun of June and the glittering emerald green of our region testify to the fruitful joy of life. The solemnities of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus conspire with Mother Nature, impelling and enabling our metaphysical senses. The celebration of the apex of our Catholic faith, the Eucharist, and the love that made all things, occurring in June — the apex of late spring in the Pacific Northwest, ushering in summer — is so very fitting. Thank you, Jesus!
Since she was a child, my mother has observed a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Pictures of Jesus and Mary and their loving hearts have been ever-present from my earliest memory. They have become part of our family DNA. Some years ago we were at a Mass at which I was helping with music. Afterward my mother asked why I held my hands in a particular way during the prayers of the priest and the faithful — with one hand open near my chest and the fingers of my other hand pointing at my heart. I hadn’t realized my hands were assuming the posture of Jesus’ and Mary’s hands pointing toward their sacred and immaculate hearts. It was not a part of the pictures I remembered noticing, but they surely and truly knew me — they know and love us all.
Late spring is a time of beautiful reds. Radishes, lapin and early robin cherries, deep blushing rhubarb, and intensely sweet and flavorful local strawberries exultantly proclaim the immeasurable love of Christ and his Most Sacred Heart. Unlike other farm produce, I enjoy picking berries and cherries. Once you acquiesce to their world at ground level, they yield easily to a careful deft hand, with the rewards more than making up for any inconvenience.
For your eating pleasure I offer a personal preparation that is employed frequently in our seasonal fare. Enjoy on its own, or incorporate into a favorite recipe. Can or freeze batches when strawberries are plentiful, for those winter days when a reminder of the June to come feels necessary. Happy eating!
First strawberries with balsamic reduction
2 pounds fresh ripe strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, cut into ¼-inch slices tip to end
½ cup cane sugar (or more to taste)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 strips lemon peel
¼ cup wild honey
kosher or flake sea salt
2 cups heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks that hold their shape, kept cold in refrigerator
12 fresh mint leaves, chiffonade, ½ teaspoon reserved for garnish
9 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade, ½ teaspoon reserved for garnish
In large bowl, sprinkle sugar over berries and toss gently by hand to coat. Let stand for 20 minutes, allowing juices to collect. In small saucepan bring balsamic vinegar, wild honey, and lemon peel to a boil, immediately reduce heat and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and remove lemon peel. Add accumulated juices from macerated berries to balsamic mixture and once more bring to boil, immediately reduce heat and let simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture is slightly more viscous. Let cool to room temperature.
Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons cooled balsamic reduction over macerated strawberries. Add pinch of salt, mint and basil and toss gently to combine. Serve alongside the bowl of whipped cream and accompanying serving bowls. Or spoon macerated berries and some of their juices into individual serving bowls with mint and basil garnish and an embarrassing dollop of fresh whipped cream. Accompany with crisp butter biscuits and strong coffee.
Find locally grown berries at your neighborhood farmers market, fruit stand or U-pick.
Enjoy atop panna cotta, crème brûlée, tapioca pudding, ice cream or any custard.
Pair with crisp, chewy, mallowy meringues and whipped cream for the best Eton mess!
Use as a foundation for the best jam or strawberry rhubarb crisp.
Northwest Catholic - June 2018