If ever you need proof of the saying “looks can be deceiving,” consider the strawberry. In the off-season, the lovelies beckon with their glossy red décolletage, their glamorous international pedigree, but I know enough to stay away. Come late spring, though, when the first pints of small, perfectly-imperfect berries appear at the farmers’ market, I can’t resist.
The disappointment stings so much more.
Last week, out of an abundance of enthusiasm, I bought four containers. I tasted one first and it was meh, but desire overwhelmed my reservations—I popped it into my mouth too soon after brushing my teeth, I rationalized. I shut out the little voice reminding me how often this particular farm’s produce turns out to be sub-par. I should’ve listened.
Four containers of gorgeous-but-tasteless berries claimed space in the fridge. I could’ve made Strawberry-Balsamic Granita, Strawberry Whole Wheat Muffins, or Strawberry-Rhubarb Bread. But instead, inspired by weeks of paging through Faith Durand’s Bakeless Sweets, I tried something I’ve never tried before: From-scratch jello, made with nothing but fresh fruit, a bit of sugar, and plain gelatin.
How could I have lived so long without experiencing this? It wasn’t just slap-your-forehead simple to prepare—the result tasted like the most perfect strawberry imaginable, distilled into a luxurious, mysteriously creamy spoonful. This, my friends, this, tastes every bit as good as it looks. I’ll never again experience buyer’s remorse with under-ripe fruit, now that I know how easily it transforms into something magical. I’ve already applied the same basic technique to a supermarket watermelon Harry begged me to lug home.
And how lucky I was to have the perfect bowls for gleaming red gelatins—they’d arrived the day before, thanks to the Food Blogger Prop Swap, a round-robin hosted by Alyssa of Everyday Maven and Faith of An Edible Mosaic. I sent a box of props to Sheryl at Mama’s Gotta Bake and received a gorgeous assortment from Rinku at Cooking in Westchester. It included the sweet little bowls and the tea towel you see above, as well as bits and bobs, placemats and spoons. (Cooking in Westchester, by the way, is a deceptively straightforward title. Though decidedly American, Rinku’s flavors are heavily influenced by her Bengali upbringing in India. It’s well worth checking out.)
Homemade Fresh Strawberry Jello
1/4 cup cold water
1 scant tablespoon gelatin (or 1 packet)
1/4 cup hot (but not boiling) water
2 pints strawberries, fresh or frozen, defrosted
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your berries are)
Juice of 1/2 a lime, optional
- Put the cold water into a four-cup liquid measuring cup, and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it—make sure it all gets moistened. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, then whisk in the hot water until the gelatin is fully dissolved.
- Meanwhile, put the strawberries, sugar, and optional lime juice into a blender or food processor and puree. Pour through a fine strainer into the gelatin mixture (use a spatula to push in all the good stuff). Stir carefully and pour into 4 bowls.
- Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
MAKE BABY FOOD: If you’d like to share with an infant, I’d make this without added sugar. You’ll need perfectly ripe, naturally super-sweet berries, which shouldn’t be too hard to come by this time of year. Just don’t fall for the duds, like I did.