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savory strawberry delights

last summer, while hosting one of my book signing events, my husband, Doug, comes through the door of the shop with the smile of a boy who had just caught his first frog…happy to see that it was actually a strawberry that he had brought me, the emphatic pleas to “try this” was gladly accepted…the juicy, red gem was full of flavor, a delightful little treat that had just been picked minutes before at Sanderson Gardens

an outdoor sign for Sanderson Gardens

located just a few miles east of Brookings, South Dakota, the 30-acre family farm offers a pick-your-own experience for seasonal produce such as rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, and pumpkins…a handmade playground offers fun for the kids and kid-at-heart; I must admit, the treehouse was calling me to climb up and enjoy some of my strawberries

field of strawberry plants

there is something special about the pick-your-own experience Jan Sanderson, the owner, has built on this land…the rows and rows of plants have carpets of straw between them, padding your knees as you pick the berries…the wide paths offer room to comfortably fill your buckets without interfering with your neighbor, yet close enough to promote conversation…

people kneeling in field picking strawberries

we discovered that the fellow pickers around us were from all over the state, many who have made this a family tradition…loved the game one of the mom’s was playing, sending her kids to find the funny looking berries, they were giddy when presenting her with their unique treasures

a man riding in a golf cart

during the early hours of the day, the gardens are tended by friendly helpers, both family and young employees…you can pay at the selling house or the mobile checkout cart, that is where we found Jan Sanderson himself, riding the trail, checking crops and chatting with guests…

they are open every day from sunrise to sunset, if you happen to find yourself there during unmanned hours, the signs show you where to pick and the honor system kicks-in…a scale and lockbox is there for self-checkout…be aware, you can’t cheat mother nature, she is always watching!

with our bounty in the back of the car, we drove home chatting about all the savory strawberry delights we could make…after I rattled off a plethora of ideas, Doug went with good ol’ berries with ice cream, then wanted to freeze the rest for later…while google searching, I found a quote from Jan Sanderson saying a lot of families and kids are his customers, a change from when it was mostly older ladies “wanting to stock their freezers”…this brought ironic tears to my eyes as I giggled, looking over at “the old lady” to the left of me

white ramekin with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries

later that night we did enjoy a cup of Doug’s homemade vanilla ice cream heaped with the luscious, sweet strawberries…the next day, I decided to make strawberry bbq sauce and a bourbon cocktail for our friends that were coming by for one of our garden dinners…and yes, our freezer is now full of berries for the time when we can no longer have them fresh…go pick ‘em while you can!

strawberry poblano bbq sauce

1 yellow onion, diced

6 cloves garlic

2 cups strawberries, sliced (1 ½ lb)

2 poblano peppers, charred and chopped

¼ cup ancho reyes liqueur

½ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup sherry vinegar

½ cup catsup

¼ cup worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoon molasses

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon ancho pepper powder

salt & pepper to taste

½ cup strawberries, minced

1 small jalapeno, charred, deseeded, minced


sauté the onions and garlic until lightly browned, add strawberries, poblano and basil


mix ancho reyes, vinegar, catsup, worcestershire, olive oil, molasses, brown sugar, and ancho powder together


slowly add to the strawberry mixture, stirring while bringing to a boil…turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until thick…puree with emersion blender…season with salt/pepper


fold in the ½ cup minced strawberries and jalapenos

serve over chicken, pork, or ribs!

two cocktail glasses on a glass table filled with strawberry drink and ice cubes

kentucky kiss cocktail

4 strawberries

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz maple syrup

2 oz bourbon

splash of sparkling water

fresh mint

muddle the strawberries, lemon juice, and maple syrup in bottom of cocktail glass

add ice, pour in bourbon, stir well

top with splash of sparkling water and mint garnish

this year, the extreme weather has been detrimental to the local farmers but by the grace of God, Sanderson Farms was able to get a lovely crop of strawberries...Doug came home and enjoyed his berries and ice cream right away but left me plenty to create my newest recipe before he busily prepped the remaining for his freezer stash...being a sauce lover, this time I made a batch of strawberry mole served over grilled turkey breast and street corn casserole

strawberry mole sauce

1 qrt. Hulled strawberries

1 roasted red bell pepper

1 charred poblano

1 charred jalapeno

1 onion, minced

1 dried ancho chili

1 tablespoon minced garlic

¼ cup raisins

½ cup sliced almonds

4 tortilla corn chips

1 tablespoon coriander seed

2 cups chicken, turkey, pork or beef broth, your preference

½ teaspoon smoked salt

1 tablespoon sesame seed

½ tablespoon chipotle powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground clove

½ teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon rubbed sage

1 teaspoon oregano

2 teaspoons tajin spice

¼ cup bittersweet chocolate chips


in saucepan, combine strawberries, peppers, onion, garlic, raisins, almonds, corn chips, coriander seeds, and broth…slowly bring to a boil, then allow to simmer until peppers and onion have softened

take off heat, blend until smooth with immersion blender

add all the spices and chocolate, return to heat and simmer until desired thickness


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