Strawberry season! My favorite time of year – besides Peach season, Blackberry season, Watermelon season…

I remember the strawberries at my grandparents house in Bakersfield. There was a brick BBQ pit in their backyard that had been filled with dirt and planted with strawberries. Bright red, sweet and juicy… Free for the taking. We never tired o0f them.

Their backyard was a great place for kids to play and explore… They had a chicken coop with lots of chickens we got to feed – and eat – although a couple of them were pretty mean and didn’t take to kids being in there with them. There was a grape arbor along the side of the house with huge juicy sweet grapes with seeds and a neat old tree where my brother and I built a tree house.

Grandpa always had something growing back there – the place was a riot of color with flowering trees, roses, and gladiolas. My brother and I would take grandma’s canning jars and catch bees from one of the trees in front of the house – when we weren’t taking shotgun shells and hitting them with bricks and shooting them across the street. (We got into a LOT of trouble over that little trick.)

Mrs. McNamee next door had a peach tree where we would get fresh peaches, and next door on the other side was Mr Brown – Grandpa’s drinkin’ buddy and grower of huge watermelons. We stole his prize seed melon one year – not knowing it was a seed melon – it was just the biggest melon in his yard. He was royally pissed. Everyone knew we had done it, but we denied it like hell – and they couldn’t prove it. We stayed clear of his yard after that.

Me with my mom in their yard in 1957


But back to strawberries…

Back in those thrilling days of yesteryear, strawberry shortcake was a standard summer dessert – made with homemade shortcakes. Shortcakes, biscuits, and scones are all in the same family and they’re all made pretty much the same way. Tweak a few things to sweeten or make them more savory – cream instead of buttermilk, butter vs shortening, sugar or no sugar… But if you can make one, you can make the others – and most cooks could make all three with their eyes closed.

This is a foolproof shortcake recipe. It uses both butter and shortening, but feel free to use all of one or the other. Or… make another old standby

Strawberry Shortcake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp shortening
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Melted butter and sugar for tops

Heat oven 450° F.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening. Mix in cream. Form into a circle about an inch thick and slice into 4 to 6 wedges. Place on a baking sheet.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until brown. Cool.

Split shortcakes and fill with strawberries and whipped cream.

I sliced the berries and added a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of Grand Marnier and let them sit for an hour to macerate.

They came out pretty damned good. Maybe not as good as Grandma’s, but she would have eaten them and loved every bite!