published Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Side Orders: Strawberries for the pickin'

There’s no better way to celebrate the bounty of spring than with a big basket of strawberries. And this season’s harvest looks much better than last year’s, when all the rains put a damper on area crops.

And right now, they’re at their peak at Tom Carroll’s T&J Farm in Madisonville, Tenn.

“They’re looking really good,” he says.

Mark Fioravanti’s Strawberry Knob Farm, also in Madisonville, is filled with three acres of berries that he kept safe from the winter’s cold by spraying them with water, which freezes on the leaves and acts as insulation. And it did the job, he says, adding that there should be plenty of fruit to pick till the end of June.

Here’s a list of where you can go in the area and pick strawberries to your heart’s content. Call ahead for pricing and availability.

• Flat Top Mountain Farm, 13100 Jones Gap Road, Soddy-Daisy. 423-332-0678.

• T&J Farms, 570 Fagin Road, Madisonville, Tenn. 423-435-2906.

• Strawberry Knob Farms, 3250 New Highway 68, Madisonville, Tenn. 423-836-1133.

• LCCL Strawberry Farm, 3743 Old Dalton Road, Rome, Ga. 706-295-2587.

When you get your berries home, here are tips from the University of Tennessee Extension Service on how to keep them:

• Store in shallow boxes to avoid crushing the berries because they bruise easily.

• Heat causes rapid spoilage, so refrigerate the berries as soon as possible. Do not let them sit in a hot car.

• Berries may be frozen whole, sliced or crushed.

Also, don’t wash your berries until you’re ready to use them in recipes such as this cake from Pillsbury. The flavors of almond, white chocolate and strawberries make it the ultimate dessert of spring.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Buttercream Cake

1/2 box butter recipe yellow cake mix (about 1 2/3 cups)

1/2 cup water

5 tablespoons butter, softened, divided

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 egg

8 ounces white chocolate baking bars or squares, chopped

2/3 cup whipping cream

2 cups fresh whole strawberries, thinly sliced

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray bottom and side of 8- or 9-inch round cake pan with baking spray containing flour. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, 3 tablespoons butter, the almond extract and egg with electric mixer on low speed until moistened, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan. Bake as directed on box. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, for the filling, place white chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter in medium metal bowl. In 1-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream over medium heat just to boiling. Immediately pour hot cream over white chocolate and butter. Let stand about 5 minutes or until mixture is melted and smooth when stirred. Let stand until room temperature, about 1 hour.

Beat cooled white chocolate mixture on high speed until fluffy. Cut cake horizontally in half, using long, sharp knife. On serving plate, place 1 layer, cut side up. Spread with 1/2 of the filling; top with 1/2 of the strawberries. Add remaining cake layer, cut side down. Spread remaining filling over top of cake; top with remaining strawberries. Store covered in refrigerator.

Free food

If you happen to live in or plan on visiting the Cleveland, Tenn., area Saturday and, if you happen to be one of the first 100 customers through the doors of Shane’s Rib Shack, you’ll be treated to a free half-rack of ribs, a 20-ounce drink and special-edition T-shirt. Shane’s, located at 4484 Frontage Road, will open at 11 a.m., so be there early.

Trending

Jack Daniel’s newest whiskey has set the world on fire, or at least the taste buds. The Lynchburg Tenn.-based company has joined other distilleries by introducing one of the hottest trends in the whiskey world — red-hot cinnamon whiskey — with its new Tennessee Fire. And the company has made a natural choice in selecting its home state as a test market.

What’s interesting, though, are the other two states chosen for testing the popularity of the new whiskey: Pennsylvania and Oregon. Why? They’re huge fans of other Jack Daniel’s whiskeys, says Casey Nelson, senior brand manager for Jack Daniel’s Flavors.

“The flavored whiskey category is exploding and, based on the success of our Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, we thought the time was right to offer our Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey with our own red hot cinnamon liqueur,” Nelson says.

Tennessee Fire is available throughout the state in any stores that carry Jack Daniel’s products. And, according to Nelson, there is no specific timeline for making a decision about further expansion of the whiskey into other states.

“At Jack Daniel’s, weíre not known for rushing most anything,” Nelson says. So before considering a broader launch, the company wants to understand how Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire interacts with folks in the test-market states. And the only way they’ll know is by sales numbers.

I’ve gotten a bottle and sampled it myself. It’s smooth as silk and will set your palate on fire with a great cinnamon taste. It’s best enjoyed chilled. So much better than cheaper brands that tend to be harsh and hard to swallow.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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