One of my favourite things about British summers is the abundance of berries throughout the season. Back in Italy, strawberries are a late spring crop, abundant in May but quick to disappear as soon as proper summer settles in, leaving room for stone fruit, melons and watermelons. Here, though, from June through to August strawberries are abundant, as are raspberries and a whole host of other berries. Throughout the summer months, I make sure a steady supply of fresh berries flows in my fridge for my morning yogurt and muesli, emergency mid-afternoon snacks and odd smoothies.
I generally always eat strawberries raw, because I’ve never liked the flavour of cooked strawberries. Heat may intensify their flavour, but it dissolves their fresh, sweet and slightly pungent scent. The problem with frozen strawberries (and hence the problem with lollies made with raw strawberries) is that, having a high water content, the flavour gets somewhat lost, perhaps getting too faint for our tongues, shocked by the contact with ice, to grasp. Last summer I had a go at making strawberry lollies and even though I remember using a good batch of ripe strawberries, the result was somewhat disappointing. This year I went down the macerated route, which is the process of adding (mainly, but not exclusively) sugar and acid to fruit and berries to soften and intensify flavour. Saveur explains that macerating fruit usually involves an acidic element like vinegar or lemon juice, but that you don’t want to add any more liquid to a fruit as watery as strawberries. I added a little lemon juice anyway, mindful of the fact that flavours get more subdued when cold: the muted sweetness of the strawberry more often than not benefits from a tiny acidic kick. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of sugar in a bowl of chopped strawberries, and half an hour later you’ll have the perfect strawberry syrup, dense, fresh, fragrant, sweet and intensely red.
Wash, hull and cut the berries in pieces in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add sugar and lemon juice, mix, cover with a lid or cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour. Blend the strawberries and their syrup until smooth. You can sieve the mixture and get rid of the seeds if they bother you, but I like the tiny crunch. Fill the lolly moulds, add a wooden stick to each, then freeze until solid. To ease the lollies out of the moulds you can soak the moulds briefly in hot water.