Yikes! Is it already time for the pre-holiday planning and cooking to start? Apparently it is - there's only 12 weeks until the real crunch begins and I am not going to let myself fall victim to the mad hordes at the mall. Like last year, the bulk of my gifts are going to be homemade preserves, pastas, bakes and spice/drink mixes - both because I'm trying to save money (being unemployed at the moment) and because it's been my experience that people truly welcome a jar, box or bag of homemade treats that were made with love.
Because I am giving most of these as gifts, I am more than willing to splurge on quality for the main ingredients. For these French-inspired, whole strawberries preserved in a caramel-like sugar syrup, it meant local, taste-tested fruit and vanilla-bean infused sugar. I discovered the recipe for the gem-like preserve (aptly named Strawberry Rubies) in a well-worn library copy of Food for Friends: Homemade Gifts for Every Season by Sally Pasley Vargas, and while it's a bit of a process (albeit a mostly inactive one of waiting) the result is more than worth it. Because I only had enough perfect, tiny berries for a quarter batch, I knew I'd be saving the recipe for next year's harvest!
I'm so glad to be participating again this year in the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic - whether you need inspiration for your own table or for tucking into the holiday baskets of your nearest and dearest, there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy! We're even set up on Pinterest - come join the over 2400 followers and see what's in store!
Makes 2 cups, 16 (2-tbsp) servings)
¾ lb pounds fresh strawberries, washed and hulled (get the smallest ones you can find, or halve them if larger)
¾ cup vanilla sugar
1 cup superfine sugar
zest of 1 lemon
½ cup lemon juice