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Ponchatoula, LA Strawberry Festival
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Mar 21 2009, 1:45 am - By SwampRat

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Ponchatoula, LA Strawberry Festival      
(Article from newspaper) 

For 362 days of the year, Ponchatoula is an archetypical Louisiana small town; the diners and cafes there serve their regulars, students attend class at the high school, and life is sedate and regular. On April 11-13 of 2008, Ponchatoula hosted hundreds of thousands of attendees at her annual Strawberry Festival, the largest free festival in the state. Ponchatoula, billing itself as the Strawberry Capital of the world, gave itself over to food, music, dancing, and parades, and revelers from throughout Louisiana and neighboring states.

The festival is notable for more than free admission, although that makes it a popular attraction for everyone from families to university students in need of a break from pre-exam study. This was the 37th celebration at Ponchatoula, and rumors of tasty treats drew me to the 300 block of North Sixth Street, the entrance to the festival grounds.

Parking is scarce in Ponchatoula during the festival. If you missed this year's festival but plan to attend the 2009 festival, (April 3-5th), come early and wear comfortable shoes, expecting to walk and to pay $10.00 to $15.00 for all-day parking in a resident’s yard or a business’ lot. The best spaces go first and cost more. Also expect to find all manner of noshes and nibbles on your way into the festival—many local eateries operate booths along the routes into the festival, but outside the festival grounds; non-profit organizations operate all booths on the festival grounds.

Between donation to a good cause and my hike from my car, I suffered no eater’s remorse as I tucked into my first selection, a sausage po-boy from the Hammond Knights, whose booth is a favorite amongst festival-goers. I was impressed; the sausage was cooked to perfection, with the ideal balance of crunchiness on the outside and moisture on the inside. A heap of sweet, grilled peppers and onions added relish to the plain sausage and crusty, chewy French bread. Before long, I was staring into an empty plate.

A nearby booth peddling strawberry dumplings to benefit the Special Olympics drew my attention next. Like many people, I associate “dumpling” with something similar to a potsticker—I anticipated some kind of strawberry-flavored confection covered in boiled, fried, or steamed dough. I got something more like a cobbler: rich, sweet, and deeply strawberry-flavored. A cup of tart lemonade from the same booth helped keep the sweetness from being cloying.

The next item on my agenda was to find a strawberry daiquiri and enjoy some music at the festival’s stages, but hit a speed bump—despite the ready availability of cold beer, only non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiris were available on the festival grounds! I settled for the non-alcoholic version rather than trudge several crowded blocks back to the booth operated by Paul’s Cafe; all I really wanted was something cold and fruity to drink while I sat in the sun. But be warned, if you attend next year's festival and want a “real” daiquiri.

One thing remained to finish my tour of the festival. I had heard that someone worked out how to deep fry strawberries and I felt bound to investigate . . . purely for the readers’ benefit. The booths featuring this treat operate near the actual festival grounds, but not on them. I snagged one from the Boy Scouts of America for a dollar; it was everything I expected, with a trace of cinnamon in the batter surrounding a warm, drippy core of fruit. Bliss! Tired, slightly sunburned, but happy, I strolled back to my car and drove home.
Strawberry Bread Recipe #1

3 cups plain flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
3 tsps. cinnamon
2 cups sugar
3 eggs (well-beaten)
2 packages (10 oz each) frozen strawberries, thawed
1 1/4 cups oil
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans

Stir dry ingredients in a large bowl making a well in the center of the mixture. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour them into the well. Stir enough to dampen all the ingredients. Pour into greased, lightly floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or when finished. Let cool before removing from the loaf pans.

Strawberry Bread Recipe #2

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups Sugar
3 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 1/4 cup Vegetable oil
4 Eggs
1 1/4 pound Fresh strawberries; sliced -OR - Unsweetened frozen berries, thawed, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 (8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch) loaf pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the two loaf pans. Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, eggs, strawberries, and walnuts. Beat until the dry ingredients are a little moist. Pour into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 1 hour. The bread is done when it starts to come away from the pan edges, and a toothpick pressed in comes out clean. Makes 2 loaves.
Strawberry Dumplings

1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sifted flour
2 tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups strawberries (hulled, rinsed, and cut in half)
1 tbsp sugar
Cinnamon (optional)

1. In a saucepan, combine 1/3 cup sugar and the water.  Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the vanilla extract.


4. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, 2 tbsp sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
5. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.
6. Add milk and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
7. Place the strawberries in a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish.
8. Pour hot sugar mixture over strawberries.
9. Drop the dough in 8 to 10 spoonfuls over the strawberries.
10. Sprinkle the dough with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar (and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired).
11. Bake at 425° for 25 to 30 minutes, or until dumplings are light brown on top.
12. Serve hot.

**Suggestion: Their even better served with whipped cream or ice cream!

1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/3 cup water
1-3/4 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 sherry
1 cup pancake mix
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
24 large strawberries
Vegetable oil

Prepare sherry sauce by combining sugar and water in small sauce pan. Bring to a boil. In a separate bowl, combine corn starch and sherry. Stir until dissolved. Gradually stir into hot sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sauce is smooth and thickened.

Now combine pancake mix and milk to make a batter for the strawberries. Stir well. Dip strawberries in batter and deep fry in hot oil (375 degrees) until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with sherry sauce.
How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries

16 ounces milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening
1 pound fresh strawberries with leaves

1. Melt the chocolate and shortening in a double boiler. Stir occasionally until smooth.
2. Insert toothpick into the top of a strawberry.
3. Holding the strawberry by the toothpick, dip it into the chocolate mixture.
4. Remove it from the chocolate, and turn the strawberry upside down by the toothpick, and stick the     toothpick into styrofoam and let the chocolate cool.
5. REPEAT with all the strawberries.

Note: They are pretty good just dipped and cooled in your mouth too!
Strawberry Daiquiri Recipe #1

1/2 oz strawberry schnapps
1 oz light rum
1 oz lime juice
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 oz strawberries

Blend ingredients with a little ice in a blender, and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a strawberry. Makes one daiquiri, but easy to multiply to make more!


"We're not here for a long time...we're here for a good time, all the time!!!
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