Each year on February 2nd, Americans turn their attention to the much-anticipated, post-hibernation arrival of a sleepy groundhog by the name of Punxsutawney Phil. As legend has it, if Phil comes out of the ground and sees his shadow, we are doomed to 6 more weeks of winter weather. However, this year, Phil’s shadow was nowhere to be seen, and thus, springtime must be closer than we think.
So whether or not you choose to believe that a little rodent has the capacity to determine our seasonal fate, there’s one event here in the Sunshine State that always marks the arrival of spring, temperatures aside: the Florida Strawberry Festival of Plant City, FL. The Strawberry Festival is an annual event that dates back to the year 1930, and is one that celebrates Florida’s rich agricultural industry. Visitors come from near and far to enjoy a plethora of parades, contests, social events, and youth development programs just to name a few. And, at the center of the festival’s focus lies a dedication to preserve the historical and agricultural legacy of the Florida strawberry.
The Florida Strawberry Festival has become one of the best festivals in the United States, and ranks among the top 40 fairs in North America. More than 10,000 acres of strawberries are planted annually in the local area, and the festival is a great way to enjoy the ripe, juicy fruits that local berry farmers work so hard to harvest each year.
And so, with this year’s festival just around the corner, what better time to gather some Florida strawberry-inspired recipes from the Junior League of Tampa Cookbook Collection. There’s nothing like a little taste of spring to whisk away those winter blues.
Strawberry Shortcake with Sweet Cream Biscuits
Capture the Coast Cookbook
If you can’t visit Plant City during the annual Strawberry Festival in February, you can bring home the heavenly flavors with this presentation of the classic shortcake.
2 cups strawberries
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
SWEET CREAM BISCUITS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups heavy cream
For the strawberries, rinse the strawberries. Cut into slices and place in bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir to coat. Chill, covered with plastic wrap, for 30 minutes or longer before serving. The strawberries will make their own syrup as they chill.
For the reduction, bring the vinegar and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan. Cook until the mixture is reduced by half.
For the biscuits, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the cream gradually. Continue to mix with floured hands until well mixed. Place on a lightly floured surface and roll 1 inch thick. Cut with 2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown.
For the assembly, place two biscuits on each serving plate. Top with the strawberries and drizzle with the reduction. Garnish with whipped cream.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Capture the Coast Cookbook
Melt 8 ounces of milk, dark or white chocolate with ¼ teaspoon vegetable oil in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Wash and dry 12 large, ripe strawberries. Dip the point of each strawberry in the melted chocolate to coat. Place on baking parchment to cool. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled for a luscious but light after-dinner treat.