Yes, the local strawberries are in!
Like the very first peas or raspberries you picked yourself, you don't want to mess with them much. Just give a quick rinse and eat right out of the container. Then once you're happily reacquainted with the flavor of berries that didn't arrive on a refrigerated truck from thousands of miles away, it's time to think about other ways to enjoy them. For me, it starts with ice cream.
Here's a purist's recipe using nothing more than cream, milk, eggs, sugar, and a squeeze of lemon. (Strawberries are low in acid, so the lemon helps the flavor pop.) If the berries are great, the ice cream is great. If the berries are ok, the ice cream is still great. You know, it's ice cream. You can also use the same recipe for other summer fruits like peaches and blackberries—substitute the fruit, but everything else is exactly the same.
Strawberry Ice Cream
[Basic ice cream timing applies: put cannister in the freezer the night before. Make the base the morning of the day you want to eat it. Churn the ice cream hours before you want to serve it.]
Using a double-boiler or the bowl-over-a-simmering-pot-of-water substitute, slowly heat 1-1/2 cups of whole milk to a gentle simmer. In the meantime, whisk together two eggs and two egg yolks with 3/4 cup of sugar. When the milk is hot, mix 1/4 cup of it into the egg mixture, then slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the milk—in case you've not cooked custardy things before, the idea is to stabilize the temperature between the warm milk and colder eggs so that the egg mixture doesn't curdle. Return the milk-egg-sugar mixture to pot, and cook, stirring constantly, until it's thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. This can take up to 15 minutes, but in my experience five to seven is more like it.
When thick, stir in 1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream to the custard, strain into a bowl, then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, 2 hours or more. Next, prep the berries: clean one pint of fresh strawberries, slice thinly, and mix in a bowl with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and 2/3 cup of sugar. Refrigerate for two hours or more. Now you're ready to make the ice cream.
Set up the machine, pour custard into the cannister, then crush the berry mixture slightly and add to the custard. Let it whir! Once the ice cream is thick and frozen, transfer to a container, sampling along the way, then cover the ice cream directly with a piece of parchment paper, and put on the lid and return to the coldest part of the freezer until you're ready to serve.
A few notes about strawberries: Ripe strawberries are highly perishable; they spoil quickly, with mold seemingly coming out of nowhere. That's why local berries are generally superior in flavor to the supermarket varieties, which are underripe when picked to withstand the long journey. Just look at the sliced berries in the photos—they're red and soft through and through, with none of the whitish, woody core of commercial berries. Wherever you're buying the berries, look for fruit with a uniform color—darker is generally riper—and vibrant calyx (i.e., the leaves). To store, lay the berries on a baking sheet lined with a paper towel, and keep on the counter. Berries should only be refrigerated as a last resort, when they're overripe. Trim the leaves and rinse lightly just before using.