Wild Strawberries

Under the High Chair Travels: Northern British Columbia

My first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains from my seat at 35,000 feet always evokes deep emotion. It’s a feeling of renewed wonder, childlike excitement, and a sense of homecoming so strong I have to duck my head to hide my tears. This quickening of my pulse and butterflies in my stomach almost make up for the last five hours of Noah using my face as a motorcross course, my thighs as a trampoline, and my clothes as sponges for juice. It’s been a long flight and I am returning to my hometown in Northern British Columbia.

The Bulkley Valley is nestled between three major mountain ranges, has several rivers that divide the rolling farmland, and boasts clear blue, glacial-fed lakes. I could write a whole travel brochure on how picturesque it is and still never do it justice; however, I have traveled a lot and declare this some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever known.

My parents property is a magical, overgrown 23 acres tucked under the shadow of a huge mountain and near a private lake. The setting effortlessly encourages a reversion back to childhood; for who wants to do grown-up things when one can chase ducks, climb trees, catch minnows, gather flowers and pick berries?

Ah, the berries.

I had barely dropped my suitcase on the front porch before I was out in the hillsides, on hands and knees, picking wild strawberries. They were everywhere and they were big. The first taste brought back so many memories of being a little girl, when I would pick handful after handful and eat them all myself, my hands stained with the juice.

Wild strawberries can hardly be compared with domestic. They are intensely sweet, powerfully fragrant and so juicy it requires a delicate hand to gather them. They are probably among my top five favorite things to eat ever, and it’s rare that I get a chance to eat a whole bowl of them.

So I had two.

There was even enough left over for Noah’s cereal in the morning. How decadent!

We’re off to a great start here in beautiful B.C.

Vanilla Panacotta with Quebec Strawberries

They’re here! The markets are full of these red jewels and they are small, sweet and affordable. I don’t know about you, but I prefer it when my strawberries actually taste like strawberries, which they don’t throughout the winter months. These are so tasty, they don’t need much dressing up.
I don’t think I’ll make it berry picking this summer, I’m too busy planning for a trip out west. Yes, UtHC is traveling to beautiful British Columbia for three weeks in July! I hope you all will join us as it is sure to be an adventure.

Sometimes the simplest desserts compliment our Quebec strawberries the best. Here the berries are enjoyed with a plain vanilla panacotta which allows the strawberries to be the main feature of the dish.

Vanilla Panacotta

1 Liter 15% cream

150g sugar
7 gelatin leaves (2 grams each)
1 vanilla bean

  • In a heavy bottomed pot, heat cream, sugar and vanilla bean gently over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat and let infuse for about ten minutes. Scrape vanilla seeds from pod and stir into cream mixture. Remove vanilla bean and return pot to heat. Gently bring up to a simmer again.
  • In a bowl of cold water, dissolve gelatin sheets. Squeeze out excess water and whisk into hot cream mixture. Whisk well to dissolve gelatin.
  • Pour mixture into a bowl and place in fridge to cool. (If you are using vanilla extract, you can pour the mixture right into the prepared dishes) Chill mixture in fridge until it is slightly thickened and can support the vanilla seeds. You want to have them dispersed throughout the panacotta, not gathered at the bottom of the glass!
  • Prepare 6 serving bowls, ramekins, molds, glasses, or whatever you desire to hold the panacotta. In the photo I used plastic cone-shaped molds, but I also like to serve it in martini glasses.
  • Scoop the runny panacotta mixture into the glasses and chill until set. Serve with fruit coulis and sliced fruit.