Thomas Hyall wrote in his cookbook of 1593: “Strawberries are much eaten at all men’s tables with wine and sugar.” Cream is the traditional English accompaniment for berries. Elsewhere in Europe, crème fraiche or sour cream is preferred. But in Italy, red wine and sugar are used instead. I developed this recipe after years of enjoying wild berries served in this fashion at Trattoria Sostanza in Florence.
- 2 quarts freshly picked strawberries, hulled and washed
- 1 bottle (750 ml) dry Italian red wine (a good Chianti works well)
- 2/3 cup sugar, more or less to taste
- Zest of 1 orange, taken off the fruit with a “strip zester” (strips of zest should be about 1/16 of an inch wide)
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1 piece cinnamon
- 4 cloves
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- Place the wine in a saucepan along with the juice, cinnamon, cloves and sugar. Bring to a simmer, turn off the heat and let rest for 1 hour to cool.
- Put the berries and zest in a large bowl. Add the wine and refrigerate for 4 hours.
- Add mint leaves to berry mixture, toss lightly and divide into large wine or dessert glasses. Spoon remaining liquid over desserts and serve.