No recipe will tell me what to do when it’s strawberry season. It’s one of the great seasonal joys in fresh food, and I take full advantage of the short time. The best strawberries come from your local farm, local farmer, local rain and soil.

I celebrate the beginning of strawberry season with a visit to DJ’s Berry Patch and speak with Jessica, the owner/farmer.

Strawberries are one of the most difficult crops to grow because of the long season, hard labor, and fragile nature of the fruit. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to grow the best strawberries, but the difference is worth it and worth your money as well.

If you bite into a strawberry and it’s white in the middle, you don’t have the freshest berry. The likelihood is that this berry was picked before ripe and shipped long distances, robbing you of the great flavor and nutrients that fresh strawberries can offer.

For the best strawberries, visit your local farm and eat them when they’re in-season. I’d rather have fantastic, flavorful strawberries for only a month than access to bland berries all year long.

Now that I’m taking home a big bucket of fresh berries, but I don’t want to waste a lot of time searching for strawberry recipes. I want to make some quick and easy dishes using the valuable fruit, no recipe required.

Using my knowledge of successes I’ve had in the past, and basic cooking methods, I’ve decided to make Strawberry Pancakes, Strawberry Syrup, and a Balsamic Strawberry salad.

Strawberry pancakes are one of my favorite items to make when I get a hold of great, fresh strawberries. The flavor of the best strawberries that are just-picked baked into a griddle cake is a true summer pleasure.

I can even make the pancakes with a pre-made mix. However, Aunt Jemima is over 100 years old. Her hot cakes don’t spring up like they used to.

I want my fresh diced strawberries to be surrounded by pancake batter, not have them sticking out the top because the mixture is too thin. What I need is extra leavening to make a pancake that has strawberries inside.

Luckily, with a basic knowledge of baking principles and leavening agents, I can give the old lady a facelift and no recipe is needed. By adding baking powder and citric acid to the boxed mix, I can get an extra chemical reaction for the biggest, fluffiest strawberry pancakes ever.

Even strawberry pancakes made with a boxed mix can be customed for my liking. Aunt Jemima never looked so good after the facelift we’ve given her.

This same principle can be used for banana pancakes, blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, granola pancakes, and many more.

But, I still have a lot of fruit in my bucket and I want to preserve as well as enjoy the best strawberries I’ll have all year. Strawberry sauce is a great solution because it can be used as an ingredient in other foods and the sugar syrup will preserve the fresh fruit flavor as well.

Strawberry sauce can be made like candy syrup when you know the right temperature.
All it takes is strawberries, sugar, water, and a thermometer to apply a No Recipe approach to making syrup from fresh fruit that is naturally sweet and has a smooth texture.

After capping and dicing the fresh berries, I’ll bring them to a soft simmer in a sauce pan with water and a spoonful of sugar.

I’m not trying to sweeten the strawberry sauce by adding sugar. I’m using the best strawberries, so they already have the best flavor. A small amount of added sugar will “set” the color of the berries, inhibiting their desire to turn brown after being pureed.

However, there’s an extra trick I’ll show you that will keep the strawberry sauce from cooling and forming sugar crystals. Remember our friend Cream of Tartar from the strawberry pancakes we just made? It’ll have an entirely different roll in strawberry sauce.

Cream of Tartar helped in the chemical reaction needed to give Aunt Jemima a facelift and leaven pancakes. Today, the acidic quality of this bake shop staple will help inhibit crystallization of sugars in our strawberry sauce.

Once the sauce cools, sugar crystals can start to form crunchy bits in the syrup. I certainly don’t want a crunchy sauce, so just the “tip of the knife” of an acid will help limit this effect. There is no recipe that will alert you to this.

Strawberry sauce can be used for dozens of applications during the spring and summer. I love to use it for drinks, to decorate dessert plates, or to flavor and moisten a cake. It’s a simple way to preserve your strawberry picking efforts and create an ingredient you can use again and again.

However, not everything you make with the best strawberries has to be sweet. Even a fresh strawberry salad doesn’t always have to be sweet. I’m going to play with my diner’s palates by throwing sour and bitter at them too!

The real art and talent of a great chef or cook is to manipulate the palate of the people you’re serving. I’m going to hit on all four of the senses on the tongue with one single salad.

Since my fresh strawberries are so sweet, I’m going to off-set that sensation with balsamic vinegar, a sour liquid. Then, perhaps raw onion and honey to really wake up the mouth.

However, the salad I’ll make today with no recipe will attempt to combine flavors that will play contrast with the sweet fresh-picked fruit.

Since my fresh strawberries are so sweet, I’m going to off-set that sensation with balsamic vinegar, a sour liquid. Then, perhaps I’ll add raw onion and honey to really wake up the mouth.

This is a great method to keep in mind no matter what you’re cooking, baking, or combining ingredients in your kitchen. What can you do to cause unexpected flavors in your food that will make your guests wonder how you did it?

There are plenty of unconventional flavor combinations all over the world, and using them in contrast can make for the most exciting dishes.

When you are enjoying the fantastic flavor of the best strawberries that are local and in-season, time is of the essence. The season is short, and there’s no recipe that will tell you exactly what your tastes require. Only you can decide that.

Author's Bio: 

Chef Todd Mohr has helped thousands worldwide discover the joy of cooking without recipes. His eye-opening FREE No Recipe Report reveals the 16 Cooking Rules You Should Never Follow (because they're ruining your food!).