At the Market Place restaurant, in Asheville, North Carolina, strawberries are more than just rosy slivers in springtime salads and the stuff of sweet preserves and cocktails. Chef William Dissen also buys firm, not-quite-ripe green strawberries from local farmers. He pickles them, and then deploys them as an acid-spiked condiment for grilled venison, rabbit paté, and more.
“I use a lot of green fruit,” Dissen says. “When fruit is under-ripe, you get that undertone of sweetness, but you also get some bitterness. I think it pairs well with gamier flavors.”
He isn’t alone. Following the lead of contemporaries as far afield as Copenhagen, where Noma chef Rene Redzepi paired sliced green strawberries with scallops in an influential first-season episode of the PBS television show Mind of a Chef, chefs from Texas to South Carolina have added the bitter nuggets to their menus. In a region where green tomatoes have been culinary staples for generations, it’s no surprise that another under-ripe fruit has attracted a following. But while many chefs quick-pickle green strawberries and use them within several weeks, the team at Market Place cans them in a boiling-water bath instead. Which would preserve them for a year or more, if the sweet-tart bites ever lasted that long.
You have two options here: Casual home cooks can quick-pickle the berries for immediate use, and experienced canners can process the jars for increased shelf life. Either way, you can make the pickled strawberries into a quick relish by removing them from the pickling liquid, dicing them, and then reducing the reserved liquid to a syrup. Add the diced berries to the syrup and spoon the relish over roasted and cured meats. Or slice them and serve them straight on a cheese board. – William Dissen