WILTSE: Buy Michigan berries

Mar 22, 2012

But there is one California or Florida product that I prefer, and that is strawberries. I hear some people debunking them, stating that they taste like cardboard compared to Michigan berries, but actually I find the opposite to be true.

They say that they are picked green and dyed red. That may be true, but they are very tasty nevertheless. They may even be injected with flavor enhancers and vitamins and such. But they are tasty and full of potassium. Plus, they are huge.

Some are as big as golf balls or larger. How they grow so large amazes me. How they can grow them and sell them so cheaply also amazes me. They sell for less than those puny little domestically grown berries.

There is a lot to be said of genetic engineering. Without it (genetic engineering), we would all be starving and wouldn’t be able to afford to buy bread, for wheat would be too expensive.

I even prefer to buy strawberries grown in California, Florida or even Mexico during Michigan’s strawberry season. You can gain by using Michigan berries only if you grow them yourself, or if you buy them in bulk and do a lot of canning of preserves — which I used to do — but there is no advantage to doing your own canning unless you have a young and growing family. I used to do a lot of canning, but gave it up long ago.

Strawberries are the only agriculture product grown in Michigan that are somewhat inferior to those grown elsewhere. Michigan asparagus and sweet corn are absolutely the very best, and I can hardly wait until they appear. Michigan strawberries remain delicious, however.

Speaking of strawberries, I have discovered an excellent recipe that I wish to share with you. I dislike the traditional way recipes are written, so I will do it my own way. It is a recipe for an applesauce made with strawberries. It goes good with anything, but is especially good with pork. First you peel, core, halve and slice about five apples. Place them in a medium-size saucepan and drizzle them with the juice of a lemon. Then you clean and slice about three-quarters of a pound of strawberries. Add the strawberries to the apples and sprinkle them with about a third of a cup of sugar and a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a simmer, but do not boil. Simmer for about a half-hour or until the strawberries are no longer distinguishable from the rest of the mixture. Let cool on a rack until it is at least room temperature. It may be served at room temperature or cooler. The mixture may be made up to a week ahead of time.

I like it a little bit on the tart side, but it can be made sweeter by adjusting the amount of sugar, lemon or balsamic vinegar used. I made it a couple of times with golden delicious apples and a couple of times with Granny Smith apples. I see no reason that any sort of apples couldn't be used, including the cheaper varieties such as Ida reds or Jonathons. Groceries needed for this recipe include apples, strawberries, lemon, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Use Michigan apples, of course.

I saw one of my heroes, Ellie Krieger, make something similar to this on her television show, except that she didn’t include the balsamic vinegar. The balsamic vinegar adds a distinctive flavor to the mixture.

I don’t ordinarily use this column to discuss recipes, but I enjoyed such success with this one that I couldn’t resist sharing it. Enjoy.

— By Ralph Wiltse, Tribune community columnist

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