Red impostors have been trickling in from warmer climes for a few months. Admittedly the first strawberries to appear are tempting, looking all sweet and juicy. Then late spring arrives in the valley bringing with it an onslaught of red, ripe, not-picked-green-and-shipped-too-many-miles strawberries. Yes, my friends, home-grown strawberry season in its entire run down the side of your mouth goodness has arrived.
Oregon strawberries have quite a culinary reputation. Our mild, moist springs, followed by a burst of warm sunshine come late May and early June, means berries ripen slowly on the vine, allowing the sugars to develop. The resulting fruit is scarlet ambrosia. Because Oregon berries are vine ripened, they don’t take well to long distance transportation to markets across the nation. However, much of the local crop is processed, quick frozen or turned into jellies, jams and preserves that make their way into the greater marketplace.
For those of us fortunate enough to call Oregon our home, we can feast like a bear waking from hibernation on the likes of Hoods, Totems and Tillamooks. Our much-loved Hoods are all delicate and almost melt in your mouth. They are perfect for jam, ice cream or pies and definitely eating sugared and piled on to crumbly shortcakes. Totems, the most widely grown cultivar, are that quintessential strawberry-red which turns very deep and dark when fully ripe. The fruit is firm and exquisite, perfect for eating fresh or preserving. The high-yielding Tillamooks are native to our coastal areas. These over-sized berries are a great u-pick choice, especially nibbling while plucking them from the vine.
Around the metro area there are numerous farmer’s markets and u-pick fields to gather up a basket or flat of strawberries. In fact, the Oregon Strawberry Commission is hosting an event at the Pioneer Courthouse Square Farmer’s Market on June 15th from 9:00am – 2:00pm. Tasting and learning is sweet when berries are involved. Another summer happening is the Oregon Berry Festival, July 17th and 18th in the Pearl District. This is a chance to nosh on a variety of berries and berry products.
To tempt you a little more, Taste of Home developed this recipe which is almost like having strawberry cheesecake in a cookie form. Rich with butter and cream cheese, these sandwich cookies are perfect carriers for every kid’s favorite, strawberry jam.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Seedless strawberry jam
- In a large bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Add flour and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.
- Shape dough into 1” balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Using the end of a wooden spoon handle, make a ½ inch deep indentation in the center of each ball; fill with about ¼ teaspoon jam. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 5 dozen.