Welcome to In Season, our series celebrating the juiciest fruit and crispest veggies in Texas. This spring, we asked local chefs to share stories about their favorite items of seasonal produce—and create original recipes that make the most of spring’s bounty. 

The dead of winter isn’t prime strawberry season in Fredericksburg (or anywhere in Texas, for that matter). So when local farmer Gary Marburger stepped foot in Cabernet Grill one January offering an abundance of strawberries, chef Ross Burtwell was delighted and a bit perplexed.

“I didn’t know strawberries could be in season in January. Normally you have to wait until March for them,” Burtwell said. “I guess he was growing them under tents.”

Strawberries have long symbolized spring and rebirth, so receiving a wealth of them brought Burtwell some hope and inspiration.

“It was this bright and shining moment when the other produce that we were getting was a little bit dull, and we were growing tired of winter crops of sweet potatoes and squash and stuff like that,” he said.

At his restaurant, Burtwell marinates strawberries in Grand Marnier for a decadent and boozy berry shortbread made with buttery cookies that incorporate lavender from Becker Vineyards. This confection sounds like ecstasy on a plate, but for home cooks, an attempt to make such a dish might end in tears (and not the joyful kind). But Burtwell shared simpler ways to indulge in the sweet fruit: pickled strawberries, and smoked strawberry and jalapeño jam. The pickled strawberries are great in salads or served alongside barbecue, and the jam tastes perfect on toast or swirled into ice cream.

Marburger has since retired and his orchard no longer supplies strawberries to Cabernet Grill, but Burtwell is committed to supporting local purveyors. He stocks his kitchen with fresh fruit from Jenschke Orchards and Engel Farms, both in Fredericksburg.

Smoked Texas Strawberry and Jalapeño Jam

Makes 4 cups


1 quart fresh, Texas-grown strawberries (about 1 ½ pounds)
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons powdered fruit pectin
¼ cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
a few drops of liquid smoke, if you don’t have access to a smoker (optional)


  1. Rinse strawberries in a colander and drain. Cut away the stems, then slice the fruits in half and place them in a single layer on a tray that can fit in your smoker.
  2. Set up a smoker on very low heat and smoke the strawberries and the jalapeño slices for about 15 minutes. (Skip this step if you don’t have a smoker.)
  3. Put the strawberries and peppers into a saucepan and mash them a bit with a fork or potato masher.
  4. Add the sugar, lemon juice, pectin, and vinegar (plus liquid smoke if you’re using it), then bring the mixture to a boil and cook for one minute, stirring.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil, salt, and pepper. 
  6. Pour the jam into jars and refrigerate or freeze for future use. 

Pickled Texas Strawberries 

Makes 1 quart


1 quart fresh, Texas-grown strawberries (about 1 ½ pounds)
1 cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup agave syrup
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pieces star anise
1 teaspoon whole mustard seed
1 jalapeño, sliced thinly


  1. Rinse strawberries in a colander and drain. Trim off the stems and cut the strawberries in quarters (or halves if they are small).
  2. Place strawberries in a one-quart glass jar.
  3. Place vinegar, syrup, salt, spices, and jalapeño in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. 
  4. Pour the liquid into the jar over the berries and set in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving. Pickled berries will last for one to two weeks in the fridge.