Strawberry Vanilla Curd and The Summer Everything Changed

The summer I was 13 was one of the best and one of the worst of my life. The best because I was finally old enough to be a counsellor at the sleep-away camp my sister and I went to each summer. The worst because that's the summer my parents broke up.

The day we got home from camp, we knew right away something was wrong.

 'Mum, where are all of Dad's clothes?', we asked.

Looking back now, I realize how devastated and scared my Mum must have been, and so, she lied.

'Your father's away at a hockey tournament'.

At 13 and 11 years old, we were still naive and trusting, never questioning that it wasn't true. 

Two weeks later we were still asking, 'When is Dad coming home?'. I can only imagine how it must have felt for Mum to have to say the words, 'Your father moved out. He's not coming home.'

The words that changed everything.

Before my parent's separated my Mum would cook and bake all of the time - roast beef dinner with Yorkshire puddings, homemade strawberry rhubarb jam, chocolate cake with boiled icing, lemon meringue pie and the best homemade meatballs in the world. She's a wonderful cook and baker and to this day, my Dad still says that about her. But that summer, after he left, it wasn't just their marriage that ended. After he left, my mum didn't cook or bake anymore.

From that point on, and until I was 18, my sister and I lived on an endless supply of processed meats, grilled cheese sandwiches, Mr. Noodles, fast food, frozen microwave dinners and hot dogs. My Mum would fill the fridge with stuff that could be assembled quickly and easily by her two teenaged daughters as she went back to school, for the first time since before I was born, trying desperately to get her new life on track.

Strawberry season in Nova Scotia always reminds me of happy times. When I was a kid you couldn't buy strawberries year round - it wasn't an option. You had to wait for strawberry season. I have clear memories of being a kid, holding a plate of my Mum's homemade strawberry shortcake, luscious red Nova Scotia strawberries piled high, sugary pink syrup soaking the cake, whipped cream billowing from the sides.  It's one of the best food memories I have. This Strawberry Curd recipe is a small tribute to my deep love for Nova Scotia strawberries and the deeper love and admiration I have for my Mum, who has experienced more struggle and heartache in her life than anyone rightly deserves. 

Strawberry Vanilla Curd

1 box Nova Scotia strawberries

1 Tbsp Port

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 C sugar, divided in half

5 egg yolks

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/2 C butter

- wash, hull and rough chop strawberries - place in medium sized pot on med/low heat with Port, Vanilla Bean scrapings and 1/2 C sugar - cook 7-10 minutes until strawberries are soft

- in a med/large bowl, whisk remaining 1/2 C sugar, egg yolks and salt

- when strawberries are soft, drain the juice from the berries into a heat proof vessel (you only need 1/2 C juice for the curd - if you have extra, mix it with club soda for a refreshing summer drink - make sure you scoop out your vanilla bean seeds into your 1/2 C juice - most of mine ended up in my soda) - while whisking yolks, drizzle in 1/2 C hot strawberry juice, a little at a time, whisking constantly, until all juice is incorporated

- add egg yolk mixture back to pot with cooked strawberries and cook over med/low heat for about 10 minutes, or until thick and creamy - pour into heatproof jars and cool - I served mine (pictured above) on a slice of Julien's baguette with some Hug Your Nanny Goat Cheese

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