by Alison Charbonneau
Is it summer yet? When those first bright red strawberries appear, I get excited. I can’t wait for the picnics, garden parties, lawn games, strawberry socials (daiquiris anyone?) and of course the weddings! Strawberries feel like summer, they taste like summer! All the fun and joy of summer encapsulated in one juicy bite.
Strawberry salad with balsamic dressing, strawberry pie, strawberries and cream (mmm…milkshakes…) there are some wonderfully enjoyable fresh strawberry combinations. For me though, nothing is better than a fresh strawberry right out of the field - except for, of course, when chocolate gets involved.
The chocolate covered strawberry is on a whole other level. Simple and sophisticated; Minimal and luxurious. Two ingredients, a plump juicy strawberry covered in smooth velvety chocolate, one enchanting bite. Yet that one bite is much more complicated than you may think.
Buying and Storing
Look for bright red berries with green stems that look alive. Berries should be stored cool and dry and for no more than a couple of days
Strawberries are one of the most difficult crops to grow. Sensitive and temperamental, strawberries are extremely weather dependent. Slight changes in weather conditions can easily distress the berries and cause tears in their delicate membrane. Too warm and fruit will soften; too cold and bloom will die.
To grow these heart shaped berries is truly is a labour of love. In the early spring Luke and his father, Norm, spend many restless nights reviewing their weather machines and checking on their fields, ready to start large irrigation systems to protect bloom against frost. Every fall before the snow comes they put the berries to bed under insulating layers of straw so the dormant plants don’t freeze and perish over the cold winter months.
If everything goes just right, then we all get to enjoy a delicious reward.
The melt in your mouth chocolate shell is no easier task to achieve. Paul Becker, co-owner of Mill Creek Chocolates, invited me and Luke in for a chocolate tour to see how it's all done. I convinced my young son to tag along, a true chocolate connoisseur, to ensure we had a professional around when it came time to taste test the product. He still hasn’t stopped talking about the “chocolate factory” (making his other two brothers quite jealous).
“Chocolate making is a process” Paul explained, “no short cuts on quality ingredients and it is a lot of hand work, a.k.a. hard work”. Mill Creek Chocolates makes their chocolates and candies in small batches, to ensure that the quality remains high. This is where the hand work comes in, everything is made by hand with care.
Chocolate making, similar to strawberry growing, is a temperature sensitive process. Chocolate has to be tempered just right so as to keep those delicious fats from separating out. This is what creates that smooth, velvety, even-coloured wonderfully delightful chocolate we all love. “Tempering chocolate by hand is a lost art”. Watching Paul and his staff create, I believe it.
When Paul and his staff make a batch of Chocolate covered strawberries they make sure to look for large berries “something we can hold onto and hand dip.” We all watched as Paul delicately dipped the plump red strawberries into the liquid chocolate. He does a little swish of his wrist to tap off the extra chocolate tail. And then we wait. Watching chocolate dry for a 6 year old is like going on a trip “is it done yet? Is it done yet?”
Finally we get to taste. What a bite! That chocolatey crunch and juicy sweetness…mmm...you are going to have to get some of your own. And lucky you, Mill Creek Chocolate accepts custom orders for chocolate covered strawberries at any of their 3 locations (Port Elgin, Kincardine and Owen Sound). Or you could try their fondue recipe (below) and dip your own strawberries.
Hi-Berry Farm has lots of strawberries for you to enjoy!
Mill Creek's Chocolate Fondue
1 cup heavy cream
1/2lb of Pure Mill Creek Dark or Milk Chocolate (Sold in Store)
Option: 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Option: Spike it up! 1/2 tablespoon of favorite liqueur
Dipping Suggestions: Strawberries, Bananas, Pineapple, Marshmallows, brownies, cookies, kettle chips, pretzels, slivered jalapeños or any other dipping item of your choice.
Metal mixing bowl, that will sit on top of pot, should be larger than pot
Put approximately 4 inches of water in a medium pot and bring to a slow boil.
Using a metal mixing bowl slightly larger thank the pot (should be able to sit on top of pot) Place the mixing bowl on top of the pot and pour in the heavy cream. Meanwhile, break up or chop up chocolate into small pieces.
When the cream feels hot to the touch, add chocolate into the bowl with the cream and whisk until smooth.
Option: Whisk in vanilla and/or liqueur.
Pour Chocolate mixture into the fondue set. Only need the lowest amount of heat to keep the mixture melted.
Platter with your favourite dipping items and enjoy!
The Hi-Berry Daiquiri
1 cup Fresh Strawberries
1 cup Frozen Strawberries
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 oz. Irish Cream Liqueur
hull and wash strawberries
put all ingredients into a blender
blend until all ingredients are mixed, smooth and creamy
Photos by Jill Schildroth Photography
Recipes by Mill Creek Chocolates and Luke Charbonneau