Cream of the crop

I HAVE just eaten a wonderful bowl of lightly mashed new season strawberries sprinkled liberally with castor sugar and anointed with cream.

So what’s remarkable about that? Well, for a start I ‘don’t do strawberries’! I’m thoroughly bored of huge tasteless berries from January to December, so I manage to avoid them virtually the whole year, apart from a few weeks in summer. Even then they are rarely worth getting excited about, unless one can find some of the older varieties that haven’t been irrigated on a daily basis, they are scarcely worth bothering about. Problem is, I can vividly remember what strawberries used to taste like.

I remember the agonising wait for them to ripen in the little strawberry patch in our garden. There were never enough to have even a little feast. I remember my friend Bernie and I desperately trying to work out some diversionary tactics to distract Mrs Cody in Tubberloe so she wouldn’t spot us sneaking into her vegetable garden. Of course she caught us and put the run on us.

Other wonderful memories of summer holidays come flooding back. On my great uncle’s farm in Tipperary Aunt Lil would send us off up the bog lane with little tin ‘ponnies’ to collect wild strawberries to sprinkle over a sheet of sponge. The intense flavour of those tiny berries still lingers in my taste memory.

The strawberries I have just eaten were unusually flavoursome. I bought them in Lynda O’Neill’s shop in Leap. There they were sitting beside the till so I succumbed to temptation.

They were local strawberries grown commercially by David Busby at Inchinatin near Rosscarbery. The strawberries themselves were good but it was the cream that really turned them into a feast, gorgeous thick rich Glenilen cream.

This is cream like it used to taste, luxurious artisan double cream produced by Alan and Valerie Kingston on their family farm in Drimoleague.

I was blown away by the flavour and texture - this is cream like I remember; rich cream that would whip up in seconds, but so thick that I usually prefer to serve it in a little jug so I can pour it slowly over my berries, rice pudding or porridge.

This is quality cream that has now almost become a forgotten flavour - shame on us in a country that has the capacity to produce the very best dairy products in the world from our lush green grass, yet so often by the time the cream gets on the shelves of our shops its thin and flavourless.

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