Here’s a recipe for a simple strawberry compote. It’s intended for use in my Strawberry Basil Ice Cream recipe, but it would be delicious served by itself or with any neutral base, such as cheesecake, vanilla ice cream (mmm, especially if it’s still warm), biscuits/scones, cake, yogurt, or cookies!
1 lb strawberries, trimmed and halved
1/2 cup sugar, granulated (You may want to reduce this if your berries are very sweet. Mine were on the tart side.)
1. Add the strawberries to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat until soft, then stir in sugar. As the berries cook, they’ll release their juices, which makes for awesome syrupy goodness.
2. Simmer gently, stirring often, until volume is reduced by half (about 20-30 minutes). If you’re serving the compote over cake or scones, go ahead and serve it now, while it’s still warm! If you’re using these in the Strawberry Basil Ice Cream, continue on to step 3.
3. Strain the mixture through several layers of cheesecloth to separate the berries from the syrup. Go ahead and give it a squeeze to maximize your syrup output! The little hairs that normally protrude from strawberries, but come off during cooking, are what you want the cheesecloth to catch. A normal mesh sieve won’t do the job. However, if you don’t care about the little hairs, then don’t worry about the cheesecloth. It’s up to you. For me, a pound of fresh berries yielded just under a cup of syrup and just over a cup of stewed berries.
4. Package the strawberry syrup and stewed berries separately and refrigerate.
5. Once your berries are cool, dice them into little 1 cm cubes and lay them out on a lined cookie sheet. Put them in your freezer until they’re frozen solid. Once they’re frozen, you can transfer them to a smaller air tight container, or add them directly to your ice cream!
Why use stewed berries instead of fresh, you ask? Well, for two important reasons: (1) by cooking the berries and adding sugar, the amount of free water in the berries is reduced. Free water freezes into rock-hard ice. With that largely removed, the stewed berries never fully harden in the freezer. Instead they stay semi-soft, which makes them actually pleasant to bite into (kind of important). (2) The other benefit is that the extra sweetener brings more (and better) flavor to the table. I love fresh strawberries as much as the next guy (maybe more), but freezing foods tends to mute their flavor. So to compensate, frozen foods, like ice cream, are typically flavored more aggressively, e.g., by adding more sugar. The extra sugar will also compensate for sub-par or tart strawberries, which is what you’re probably working with unless you’re making this ice cream during the (heartbreakingly) brief weeks of summer when strawberries are at their peak.