Tis the season for strawberries and more market goodies

April 29, 2022

May 7 is opening day for this year’s season of the Historic Lewes Farmers Market. Vendors will be ready by 8 a.m. for your visit to their tents at George H.P. Smith Park. You can check the market website,, to see who will be there and what will be offered for sale. Some of the participants have preorder services, with contact information listed – that is, if you already know what you want.

I’m hoping to see fresh-picked strawberries on Saturday morning, as their short harvest season runs from May through early June. The berries from California have been adequate, but there’s nothing quite like the bright-red juice bombs from a local farm. Unlike those that arrive at the grocery in plastic clamshell boxes a little bruised from their travels, the ones you’ll find at the HLFM will have only traveled a short distance.

In anticipation of the market’s opening, I thought I would give you a strawberry recipe this week, specifically, the shortcake in the photo. Many people think the name of the dessert comes from the height of the cake, but it actually derives from the cooking definition of “short,” which refers to something that is crumbly and crisp because of the fat content.

Typically, strawberry shortcake is made with buttermilk biscuits, macerated strawberries and whipped cream. First, the biscuits – I do not recommend buying a tube of commercial, ready-to-bake biscuits, especially not the store brand. I made this mistake and the biscuits were too dark on the bottom, barely golden on the top, did not rise nearly enough, and were as tough as hardtack.

If you want to avoid the biscuit-baking step (which includes measuring, mixing, rolling and cutting) you can reach for the slightly more flavorful tube of Pillsbury’s Grands. If you’re willing to make your own biscuits, I’ve included a basic recipe that comes together quickly. Stay away from recipes with honey or other flavoring, as you want a plain canvas for the juicy strawberries.

Next is the step you actually want to complete before mixing up a biscuit dough: macerate the strawberries. The term refers to the process of softening fruit and helping it release its juices by soaking it in a flavorful liquid. Options include juice, wine, liqueur, liquor or Balsamic vinegar. For my batch of strawberries, I used a mixture of water, sugar, and freshly squeezed orange juice.

If you leave berries whole, you can let them sit longer than if you slice them into pieces, which causes the juices to release more quickly. Depending on your flavor preferences, you can also add spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg or allspice to the mixture. Just keep in mind that cut strawberries can become too soft if soaked for longer than about 20 minutes.

One familiar ingredient in traditional strawberry shortcake is whipped cream, but for this version, I replaced it with scoops of vanilla ice cream. I was delighted to find brands in the freezer aisle made without artificial flavors, sweeteners and thickeners – although only a small minority of the choices fit this profile. You could also substitute frozen yogurt or vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt for a healthier option. Now you’re set to make strawberry shortcake. See you at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market!

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 C flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
7 T butter, chilled & sliced
3/4 C buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add butter slices and cut in with a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Form a well in the center of the bowl. Pour in buttermilk and stir until combined. Turn dough onto a lightly floured flat surface. Pat dough into a rectangle, turn and fold in half. Repeat turning and folding into a rectangle at least three times. Roll dough to 1/2-inch thick with a rolling pin. Cut into rounds with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter. Combine and roll any scraps until you have formed 12 biscuits. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Orange Berries

1 pt strawberries
2 T orange juice
1 T water
1 T sugar

Hull and slice strawberries, place pieces in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss gently to combine. Allow to stand for about 20 minutes.

Gin & Maple Berries*

1 lb mixed berries
2 T gin
2 T maple syrup
2 T sugar
2 t lime juice

Hull and slice strawberries; place pieces in a bowl with remaining berries left whole. In a measuring cup, whisk together remaining ingredients; pour over berries. Toss gently to combine and allow to stand for 20 minutes. Use in shortcake, as a garnish for grilled pork or topping for ice cream. Yield: 2 C. *Adapted from Cooking Light.


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