Quick Pickled Strawberries with Black Pepper and Tarragon

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to host a backyard wedding. You know, a quaint, yet beautiful gathering, where children run barefoot on the grass, and friends and family mingle over generous slices of homemade layer cake.

A reception at home sets the scene for a simplified wedding, where a couple can do away with much of the frills that can (and often do) overtake a event of this nature. Instead it calls for buckets of wildflowers, blush pink raspberry-rhubarb punch, twinkling string lights for when the sun goes down and heaps and heaps of love.

This summer our homestead with be the setting for the wedding reception of a couple most nearest and dearest to us. (Psst, we threw them an engagement party last year.) Danny and I, along with the bride and groom, are thrilled to host this incredibly special event – in our backyard!

So, the big day is coming up in early August and preparations are well under way. Well, pickle-making, at least.

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Fresh Strawberry Pie

What do you do when a kind neighbour gives you a morning’s work with his trusty backhoe, helping out with your backyard landscaping mess project? You make him a fresh strawberry pie, of course.

We started prepping for this dessert back in March when we learned how to blind bake a pie crust. I knew June would bring small local strawberries that were red to the core and as sweet as can be, and when that time came, I wanted to be able to serve them up in a fresh strawberry pie. I wanted it to be uncomplicated – no gelatine or cornstarch – just our beloved strawberries in pie form.

And what is the fun of making a pie or two if you can’t share them? So I did with my neighbour; and again, here with you today.

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Strawberry Caramel Sauce

To my mind, caramel sauce is truly one of life’s greatest edible pleasures. As a canner, it’s long been a great disappointment to me that there’s no way to safely preserve homemade caramel sauce so that it can be shelf staple and given as gifts.

All that changed when I discovered fruit-based caramel sauces. I first learned of this magical concoction from a piece on Gilt Taste (sadly, the piece is no longer available).

pouring strawberry puree

In that story, the author wrote about how one could start a batch of caramel sauce but then, instead of using cream to finish the sauce, you poured in a fruit puree. Absolutely genius.

The first time I tried it, I was completely sold. The flavor is amazing, it’s easy to make, and the ingredients are nearly identical to jam, so it is perfectly safe for canning.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Honey Jam Recipe (sugar-free)

My rhubarb plants have been benefiting from the cool summer weather (okay, not this week, but June was awfully rainy) and are still producing at a terrific rate.

As Danny recently wrote, we’ve been frequenting our local strawberry u-pick,  and so it was only a matter of time before these two ingredients were married in a classic jam combination.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Honey Jam on www.simplebites.net #DIY #jam #homemade

Strawberry-rhubarb jam just might be my favorite flavor pairing, and I make several big batches (and a few tiny) every spring. This year, however, I attempted two variations on a sugar-free version, substituting honey instead.

If it works for strawberry jam, why not its sister variety? We go through a lot of jam over the winter, spooning it into homemade yogurt for quick breakfasts, slathering it onto sandwich bread for school lunches, and spreading it on pancakes for a lazy weekend brunch.

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Strawberry, Blackberry, and Goat Cheese Focaccia

Strawberry season down here in Texas wrapped up long ago, and while we try to eat as locally as possible, our family can’t resist grabbing boxes and boxes of organic berries at the grocery store.

My son can eat a whole box himself if left to his own devices, but I always try to hold some back in order to create a recipe.

Berry Focaccia with goat cheese on www.simplebites.net

Despite the heat, lately I’ve been feeling the need to bake bread, and I wanted to try a version with sweet fruit. Right now we’re still getting local blackberries (also called dewberries), and they really pack a punch in flavor, especially when paired with other berries. I decided to go ahead and make a focaccia, or as my son called it, “fruit pizza”.

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