The Eastern Shore area was the “Strawberry Capital” during the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s as many farmers grew these berries and sold them at the auction block to buyers from all around the Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia area to be re-sold at their markets.
My parents had fields of strawberries and hired locals to pick for them. They would take the berries back to their area and resell them. My parents had crates and strawberry baskets that the workers would fill and as they loaded them on the farm wagons mom would give them colored tickets to distinguish between the number of baskets or crates they had filled. At the end of the day or the week upon, turning in the tickets they would be paid from the cash box.
These same workers would help in the spring pulling weeds and hoeing the strawberry plants. Everyone pitched in to help, and as I got older, my sister and I helped sort the berries for market – the sort of “mushy” berries were used to make jelly and jam. This all sounds like work — and it was — but as a family we all pitched in to help. That is how country folks survived back in the depression years. We all pitched in to help our parents run the farm.
Each year there are many local towns and organizations that hold strawberry festivals. The annual Strawberry Festival in Ridgely will be held on May 29 this year at the Martin Sutton Park. If you have never attended, then mark your calendar for this awesome event that has many activities for the entire family! Get those strawberries, and let’s get started cooking and baking.
For the dough: cooking spray, 3/4 c. chopped strawberries, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1/2 c. plus 1 tbsp. granulated sugar, 2 c. all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 c. butter, softened, 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar, 1 large egg, 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract.
Filling: 4 tbsp. cream cheese, softened, 3 tbsp. powdered sugar, zest of one lemon.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and grease with cooking spray.
Make cookie dough. In a small bowl, stir strawberries, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar until combined. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter, remaining ½ cup sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract, then stir in flour mixture until just combined. Using a wooden spoon, very gently fold in strawberries. Set aside.
Make filling. Line a large plate or baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, and lemon zest until smooth. Scoop into 12 small balls (about 1 ½ teaspoons each) and place on a prepared baking sheet. Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop heaping tablespoons of dough (about 24 balls) and flatten into pancake-like circles on the baking sheet. Place cream cheese filling on top of 12 pieces of dough. Place remaining dough on top of filling and pinch edges together. Roll gently into balls. Arrange stuffed cookie dough balls 2” apart on baking sheets and bake until cookies are set and just golden around edges, about 18 minutes.
My son John’s favorite pie ever is strawberry rhubarb, and it just so happens his birthday is May 12, right in peak strawberry season so instead of cake he always goes for strawberry or strawberry rhubarb pie.
2 lb. rhubarb cut into 1” pieces (about 7 cups), 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar, 1/4 c. cornstarch,1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 pieces of pie dough, all-purpose flour for rolling, 2 tbsp. butter, cold and cubed, 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1/2 tsp. water, confectioners sugar, for sprinkling. In a large bowl, combine rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough out into two 12” rounds.
Fit one round into a 9” glass pie plate and fill with rhubarb mixture. Dot evenly with butter, then cover pie with remaining round and trim overhang to 1 inch. Fold edges of top dough under and crimp together. Using a sharp knife, make five 1” slits in a circle in the center of the top crust. Freeze pie for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375° with a rack in the middle and the bottom third. Brush top crust all over with egg wash and sprinkle generously with sanding sugar. Bake pie on middle rack, with a foil-lined baking sheet on bottom rack to catch juices, about 1 hour.
Check to see if the top crust is browning too quickly and tent with foil if necessary. Continue to cook, checking every 10 minutes to see if the top crust needs to be tented, for about 30 minutes more, until bubbling in the center and bottom crust is golden. Transfer pie to a rack to cool completely.
Beat 1 egg and 1/2 cup milk together and add 2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar and 5 tablespoons shortening. Mix well and spread in a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan and cover the bottom of the pan and sides of pan. Pour two quarts washed, capped whole strawberries on top of the dough — if berries are too large then slice in half. Then beat 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla and pour on top of berries. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar on top of the mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.
This next one is a great recipe to involve the kids, they will love getting messy with the frosting!
EASY STRAWBERRY CAKE
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 1 box yellow cake mix, 1 small box strawberry jello, 4 eggs, 4 tablespoons self-rising flour, 1 cup oil, 1 cup fresh, washed, capped, mashed strawberries. Mix all ingredients with a mixer, beating for three minutes. Bake in an oblong pan for 20 — 25 minutes.
FROSTING: 1 box confectioners’ sugar,1 stick butter at room temperature, 1/2 cup washed, capped and mashed strawberries. Mix ingredients and then frost the cooled cake.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch loaf pans — set aside. Wash and cap and slice 2 quarts of fresh berries. Drain well and place in a medium bowl. Stir in 4 beaten eggs, 3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups sugar, sugar, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/4 cups cooking oil, and 1 cup chopped nuts. Mix well and pour into prepared pans and bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Strawberries aren’t just for dessert anymore, here is one for lunch or a snack.
I have made it several times and it is delicious. In a medium bowl place 2 cups fresh baby greens, 1 cup washed and sliced fresh strawberries, 1/2 to 3/4 cup mandarin oranges, 6 ounces precooked, chilled and sliced chicken breast, one tablespoon sliced toasted almonds, 1/2 to 3/4 ounce sliced red onions, and 4 ounces poppy seed dressing. Toss and serve. This will serve two so double this for serving more.
Last but not least, one of my family’s’ favorites for years, strawberry pretzel salad! I will tell you right away, that Katie and the girls at Katie Mae’s in Preston, make one of the best salads ever.
For the strawberry layer: 2 (3 oz) packages strawberry jello (just the powder), 2 cups boiling water, 1/2 cup cold water, 4-5 cups (20 oz) strawberries, sliced (fresh or frozen).
For the pretzel crust: 3 cups crushed pretzels (well-crushed), 3/4 cup salted butter, melted, 1 Tbsp sugar. Cream cheese layer: 12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature, 1 cup cool whip, 1/4 cup sugar.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Start the strawberry jello by mixing the jello packets with boiling water until dissolved. Add cold water and strawberries. Let mixture gel until it reaches the consistency of jam – jiggly and holding together, but not set firm. (About 2 hours.)
In a medium bowl, mix broken pretzel pieces and crumbs with melted butter and 1 Tbsp sugar. Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool completely.
Beat cream cheese, cool whip, and sugar together until smooth. Set aside until ready to assemble the salad. Gently spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled crust. This is most easily done by dropping the cheese mixture by spoonfuls over the crust so that it is nearly covered with the dollops. Then, take a flexible spatula, and gently smooth the layer with continuous movements — that is, lifting the spatula away from the mixture as little as possible. Spoon nearly-gelled jello mixture over the cream cheese layer, making sure to evenly distribute the strawberries. Cover and refrigerate 2-4 hours before serving.