Kase Robl, 2, enjoys a strawberry in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Teri Robl)

Kase Robl, 2, enjoys a strawberry in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Teri Robl)

Kachemak Cuisine: How to have a jam packed spring

Happy Spring! Alaska is still working on breaking through from the last hold outs of winter, but there is plenty of the promise of spring time in our grand state. We are enjoying a lot more daylight, the world- famous Iditarod and the opportunity to purchase Nenana Ice Classic tickets and become filthy rich. If you are really lucky, you might get to taste some fresh salmon. I bought a bag of Robin eggs malted milk candy. If that doesn’t mean Easter is near, nothing does. I pulled my hibernating begonias out into the daylight and can just envision seeing their bright colorful blossoms on the deck this summer.

When I drive out on the Homer Spit, I keep an eye out on the off chance any of the restaurants and shops have switched on their welcome sign, hoping they grew tired of waiting for tourist season to arrive and open early. I love seeing people walking their dogs, pushing baby strollers and kids riding their bikes out on the Spit trail. The Other Fisherman has the boat in the harbor.

Spring also brings in-season produce. Every time I go to the store, I grab a nice bunch of asparagus and a container of strawberries. When I see those American grown, beautiful, red sweet strawberries in the store, it officially is springtime, even if there is still snow in the yard at home. I can’t resist them, and neither can my 2-year-old grandson, Kase. He’d rather eat berries than sweets any day. I love watching him devour them with abandon as red berry juice stains his mouth. He is completely engrossed in eating them, oblivious to anything else around him.

This sweet little recipe for fresh strawberry jam is quick and tasty. What is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without homemade strawberry jam on soft white bread? Maybe like springtime without daffodils and fresh king salmon.

Fresh Refrigerator Strawberry Jam

Ingredients

1- pound fresh hulled, quartered strawberries

2/3 cup sugar

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, coarsely grated

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preparation

Combine strawberries and sugar in a large heavy saucepan. Stir in peeled, coarsely grated large Granny Smith apple. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring and breaking up strawberries, until sugar dissolves.

Simmer until jam is thickened, 10- 15 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.

Transfer to a bowl or jar; let cool. Cover and chill until set, about 2 hours.

Keep refrigerated; serve within 2 weeks.

Strawberry Jam Biscuits

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine

Makes 20

The key to a tender biscuit is to handle the dough as little as possible.

Biscuits

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 large egg, beaten to blend

1 tablespoon raw sugar

Strawberry Jam

Vanilla ice cream (for serving)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk sugar, baking powder, salt, and 2 1/4 cups flour in a large bowl. Add butter and lemon zest and blend with your fingertips until coarse crumbs form. Add buttermilk and, using a fork, mix until just combined. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead just until a shaggy, moist dough forms, about 4 times.

Roll out dough about 1/2-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter or inverted glass, cut out rounds. Gather scraps and repeat rolling and cutting until all dough is used.

Place biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using your thumb, make a large divot in the center of each biscuit; brush with egg and sprinkle liberally with raw sugar. Spoon a scant 1 teaspoon strawberry jam into each divot.

Bake biscuits until golden brown, 18–22 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if using, and remaining jam.

While you have that container of buttermilk on hand, use it and some of those gorgeous berries to make this delicious and pretty pink sherbet. Roasting strawberries gives them an intensified sweetness and flavor, and the addition of the balsamic heightens the flavor. I am guessing if you try this method once, you will like the flavor so much you’ll look for recipes to use them in.

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine

Ingredients

4 cups strawberries (about 1 pound), hulled, halved or quartered if large

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/3 cup sour cream

Pinch of kosher salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°. Combine strawberries and sugar in a 13x9x2 inches baking pan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod, add balsamic vinegar; toss to combine. Roast berries, stirring occasionally, until juices are bubbling, 15–20 minutes. Let cool.

Discard pod. Purée berries, buttermilk, sour cream, and salt in a blender until smooth. Process mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer sherbet to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

Do ahead of time: Sherbet can be made 1 week ahead. Keep frozen. Let soften at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

One more fresh strawberry recipe to tempt you with. Not only is this salsa colorful and refreshing, it’s super simple.

Strawberry Mango Salsa

Ingredients

1 cup diced strawberries

3/4 cup diced mango

¼-½ fresh jalapeño, seeded and minced (each jalapeño differs in heat intensity, take a taste of the one you are using before adding to the salsa, as you don’t want it so hot you can’t enjoy it)

1-2 tablespoons finely diced red onion (if the onion flavor is too strong, soak in ice water for 10 minutes)

1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste

Juice of 1 lime

Pinch of salt

Directions

In a large bowl, combine strawberries, mango, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, honey, lime juice and salt.

Serve immediately on your favorite fish taco or with tortilla chips.

Spring is all around us, you just have to look!

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