How to Make—and Use—Pickled Strawberries
The first rule of strawberry season is to shove every single strawberry you encounter into your mouth until you collapse, stain-fingered and sated, into a blissed-out heap on the floor. The second is to exercise just a teeny bit of restraint (once you've gotten your fill) and preserve as many as you can so you may enjoy their sweet pleasures long after their brief season fades.
If you jam, freeze, dehydrate, sauce, macerate, compote, or otherwise preserve strawberries, they're usually still pretty sweet. But how about those of us who possess an acid tooth? Luckily, pretty much anything you can jam, you can also pickle, and that is especially true for strawberries.
The natural sugar and fairly sturdy flesh take brilliantly to a bath of 1 1/2 cups of your favorite vinegar (white is fine, but feel free to get fancy—since this is a quick pickle, the pH doesn’t matter as much), 1/4 cup of whatever sugar you dig, 2/3 cup water, and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt (that part does matter). While that’s all coming to a boil on the stove, wash and hull a pound of strawberries. If they’re those big, monster berries (there’s a few in every basket), cut them in half. It’s also fine to slice the berries if you’re feeling like you need to do something with your hands, but that’s entirely unnecessary. Pack the strawberries into a clean 1-quart jar or 2 pint jars, and pour the liquid over them. They’ll keep for about a week.
Picked strawberries are delicious straight out of the jar, but they’re also a glorious pop of tangy-sweet brightness in salads and on sandwiches in lieu of pickles or tomatoes, and weirdly wonderful in a peanut butter sandwich, or gobbled up with cheese and crackers.
But they’re also—stay with me here—just gangbusters in drinks, especially when they’re frozen individually. If they’re at fridge temperature, muddle a few at the bottom of a glass, maybe even with a few mint leaves, top with ice, and add the bubbly water of your choosing, maybe even with a splash of the brine. If some gin or tequila made it into the mix, who would any of us be to argue?
And if they’re frozen (remove them from the brine), they’re ideal for using as the ice cubes themselves, releasing a tart little thrill into your drink as they melt. They're also a welcome addition to smoothies in their solid state, pairing happily with nut butters, bananas, and especially a big mess of healthy greens.
Though frozen, sour strawberries might sound a little funky, it's not that much of a pickle. Just deploy them anywhere you would appreciate a little color and brightness, and you'll be so happy you did.