Hood Strawberry Sorbet Sets a High Bar for Summer

The appearance of Hood strawberries marks the official beginning of summer in Oregon. While other strawberries may appear sooner, it's the Hoods that people await with bated breath, pestering farmers and greengrocers with the question of, "When???"

George F. Waldo, breeder of the Hood strawberry and Marionberry.

And no other strawberry will do for a true Oregon strawberry jam, according to devotées. The section on Hood strawberries at a website dedicated to these signature gems notes that Hoods are only available in a short window of two to three weeks at the very beginning of strawberry season.

Fans will nod in agreement upon reading that Hoods are known for their high sugar content and deep red color throughout and, when ripe, they are much softer in texture than other varieties. And, as anyone who has bought a flat of Hoods and put off using them until the next day knows, the description solemnly notes that they "need to be eaten fresh or used in jams or baking within hours of being picked."

Discovering a flat of mushy brown berries the next day is, as the Mavericks sang in 1994, a crying shame.

Hoods were officially released to fruit growers and the nursery industry on April 16, 1965, a cross between a cultivar called "US-Oreg 2315" and Puget Beauty. It was grown and selected by legendary plant breeder George F. Waldo, who was said to have transformed Oregon's berry industry with the introduction of the Hood strawberry as well as the Marionberry.

When I brought home two pints of freshly picked Hoods from Greenville Farms at the Hollywood Farmers Market, Dave, prescient as always, immediately claimed them for a batch of his justly famous strawberry sorbet. The bar for summer has been set!

Strawberry Sorbet

Adapted from Sheila Lukins

2 pints fresh strawberries
1 1/4 c. simple syrup (recipe below)
2 Tbsp. orange juice

To make the simple syrup, in a medium saucepan combine two cups each of water and granulated sugar. Heat until just boiling, stirring occasionally. Cool.

Purée the strawberries with 1/4 cup of the simple syrup in a food processor until smooth. While the seeds of the Hood strawberry are quite small and fine to use at this point, if using other berries you may want to strain the pulp through a fine mesh sieve to get a smoother purée.

Stir in the remaining syrup and the orange juice. Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Citrus Sorbet: Tangerine Dream

I've said before that we don't go out to eat very much, preferring instead to cook here at home. For one thing, since Dave developed a lactose intolerance, eating out means barraging our poor server with a constant stream of "Is there butter or fresh cheese in that?" with inevitable trips to the kitchen for said server to inquire whether, for instance, the bagels have milk in them. (Lots do.)

We're also asked well-meaning questions, such as "Is mayo okay?" I've been puzzling about this one, since mayonnaise is just eggs, oil, vinegar (or lemon) and salt, but maybe people remember the old food pyramid where eggs and dairy were lumped in together.

But I digress.

When we do manage a meal away from home and get past the quiz show portion of the evening—"Bob, tell our contestants what they've won!"—there are often discoveries of new ingredients and nuances of preparation we can take home to experiment with. The other evening at Xico, for instance, the meal ended with a spectacular tangerine sorbet that was so fresh and bright it was like biting into a just-peeled wedge of citrus.

It was the perfect thing to bring home since, not only was it dairy-free, it was stunningly simple and delicious. With ice cream an obvious no-go in our dessert repertoire, Dave has become somewhat of a sorbet savant with his trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker, concocting variations on sorbets from berries, peaches and other seasonal delights. (Recipes here.)

A bit of paging through my collection of Mexican cookbooks and a scan through online recipes gave us a good base to start from, particularly David Lebovitz's version, though we eschewed his suggested addition of corn syrup sweetener.

Result? A fresh, bright sorbet we can make here at home that doesn't beg any questions!

Tangerine Sorbet

4 c. freshly squeezed tangerine juice
1 c. (200g) sugar
Zest of two tangerines
2 tsp. orange liqueur, such as triple sec, Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Mix 1 cup of the juice with the sugar and heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and pour the mixture back into the reserved tangerine juice. Add the zest and the orange liqueur.

Chill the mixture thoroughly (Lebovitz says at least 8 hours or overnight but I put it in the freezer for 45 minutes, then the refrigerator for 4 hours or so). Churn the tangerine sorbet mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.