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Strawberries Ripe for the Eating at Cranford United Methodist Church

Dining

They no longer pick the strawberries and this was the first year they didn't make homemade ice cream. Yet, everything else was in place for the annual Strawberry Festival which has been held at Cranford United Methodist Church since 1924.

Jean Pounds, who coordinates the event, said that they purchased 32 pounds of strawberries this year.

"We used to buy 60, but we needed a lot less because we didn't make the ice cream," Pounds said.

Nobody seemed to miss it. They still had hot dogs and barbecue. They still had bowls overflowing with sliced strawberries that customers could order with a slice of strawberry pie or cake, vanilla ice cream and all the toppings. They still had whole pies, cakes, jams and cookies for sale.

And of course, they had Phenetta Harrover's coconut cake, which was served as slices. A mainstay of the festival, Harrover is not sure how many years she's been making the cake for the festival, but said that it's "too many to remember."

"Every time they have something, they ask me to make my cake," said Harrover, who makes her own icing. This year, she made two — one for the lunch and one for the auction. After the first hour, all that was left of the one served at lunch was crumbs.

ALSO POPULAR are the pies made by Linda Stocks and her mother, Nancy Gonzalez. Stocks said that she made two pies and a whipped cream patriotic cake this year.

"I grew up in this church, and have been coming to the festival since 1967," Stocks said. "We used to make homemade ice cream, but it got too costly. A lot of people come for the barbecue."

"They [Linda and Nancy] are the best bakers," said Pounds, who was a little disappointed with the quality of the berries this year.

"We need them ripe. We usually have the festival earlier and since it was held later, the berries aren't as ripe," Pounds said.

While many of the people at the festival are parishioners, there are local people who come as well. Jeff McCusker lives off Silverbrook Road and works at Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area.

"I saw the signs and wanted to come. I'm new to the area and love strawberries," said McCusker, who was there with his pregnant wife, Odontuya Purevsanga, and her parents, Mitchka Dalantai and Purevsanga Doljin, who were visiting from Mongolia.

As guests enjoyed the food inside, children enjoyed games and face painting outside.

Pounds said that the children's activities were new this year, as was the live auction. One of the items up for auction was Harrover's second coconut cake.

"Someone paid a whopping $18 for her cake. People in the church just love it. They ask for it at any function that we have. Phenetta is so special. I think she's 81, and you can always count on her to be there," Pounds said.

The funds raised at the festival go towards missions for women and children, and Pounds said, "The United Methodist Women are celebrating our 135th year in mission this year. Our early beginnings as women in mission included two women -- Clara Swain and Isabella Thoburn -- who went to India in 1870 and started a school and a hospital. Here we are today with worldwide mission projects that we support with almost $20 million."

Coconut Cake Icing

1/4 cup cold water

3/4 cup shortening

1 tsp. vanilla

1 lb. sugar

Mix together until nice and fluffy.

Strawberry Party Cake

1 frozen pound cake

1 pint strawberries (hulled)

1/3 cup sugar

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 container (4 ? oz.) frozen whipped topping (thawed)

Cut pound cake horizontally into 3 layers. Crush 1 1/4 cup of strawberries, reserving remaining berries for garnish. Add sugar to cream cheese, beating until smooth, and fold in whipped topping. Fold in crushed berries. Fill and frost cake with cream cheese mixture. Garnish with reserved berries and chill.

Strawberry Bread

5 Tbs. + 1 tsp. unsalted butter & more to grease pan

1 Pint (2 cups) Strawberries-rinsed, hulled, quartered and mashed with fork

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

Grease loaf pan. In small saucepan, bring strawberries to boil over medium heat. Cook stirring for 1 minute - set aside. In medium bowl whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder & salt - set aside.

With electric mixer, cream butter, sugar & eggs until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with 1/3 cup water beginning and ending with flour. Fold in strawberries.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Tent with foil after 45 minutes if starting to darken.