Time To “Preserve” Your Summer: Strawberry

Despite the horrible drought the Midwest is having, I have seen some of you taking your families strawberry picking. Unfortunately for me, my local berry patch didn’t even put out a sign this year. *boo hoo* I’m afraid it’s only the beginning. Without proper water, we may not have black raspberries or blueberries either. I’ve been told that all of the wild blackberries at my mom’s house have already gone to seed. Typically, we fill MANY gallon bags with blackberries, turning them into preserves to enjoy all winter (and give away as gifts!) Oh, Mother Nature…stop being a bitch and please give us some rain already?
Lucky for me, I participate in an organic produce delivery program where I was able to buy organic berries by the flat. If you purchase strawberries in this quantity, remember, you have to work fast as they will start to mold within a day or so. If time is limited, at least get them hulled and frozen so you can work with them another day. As for my berries, the majority were frozen. Although, my main goal was to make strawberry preserves. What? Even though you’ve always wanted to try it, you’ve never made your own preserves? Oh, you don’t know what you are missing. Home made is NOTHING like store bought jellies. You’ll never buy pre-made again.
Unlike blackberry preserves (which requires more work), strawberry is so simple to make…especially perfect for those just starting out in the world of jelly.
Before beginning, make sure you have all your equipment ready. You’ll roughly need 8 half pint jars with rings and seals. You can get these at any big box store, grocery store (where you’ll probably pay more) or even Dollar General. Most of the jars are already packaged with rings and seals so you shouldn’t have to buy extra. It also helps to have a canning funnel; makes the preserves much easier to pour into jars. Aside from a dutch kettle, measuring cup and wooden spoon, you should be good to go.
Start by first washing and sterilizing your jars. All you have to do is submerge them in water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove them with a pair of tongs and set on a clean towel (or paper towel) to dry. Also, put the seals in a little pan of water on the stove where you want to keep the temperature on low (don’t boil them.) You are basically just warming up the rubber so you will get a good seal. I always try to time all of this so that my jars are still warm when my preserves are hot and ready to be poured. You don’t want to work with cold product as your finished goods may not seal properly.
Step 1: Trim & Clean about 2 quarts of strawberries.

Step 2: From the said 2 quarts of berries, squish them into 5 cups of berry parts and juice. Your strawberries should be ripe enough to just squish with your hands…or if you have any little ones around, they probably would¬† love to do this task. Place the 5 cups of berry mixture into a dutch kettle type pot, along with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 packet of powdered pectin. Heat until boiling. (you can leave out the lemon juice all together if you don’t like that bit of flavor.)

**Warning: Be sure to wear old clothes or an apron, squishing ripe berries will create a bloodbath scene across anything within 2 feet from you. Take heed.**

Step 3: Slowly stir 7 cups of sugar into the boiling mixture (I use pure cane sugar.) Return to a boil that you cannot “stir down”, meaning the boil continues even while you are stirring. Leave the mixture alone and boil for 2 minutes – set a timer! It will boil up high, so make sure you have a large enough pot.
Step 4: Take the mixture off of the heat. You will notice a layer of foam that looks like melted chapstick. Scrape that off with a spoon as best as you can. It won’t hurt you, but it can ruin the look of your jam.
Step 5: Spoon mixture into hot, sterilized jars. Lightly tighten warm seals & rings on each one.
Step 6: Invert each jar for 5 – 10 minutes, then flip back over. Why, you ask? It does seem silly. But, this allows the fruit to disperse throughout the entire jar instead of only laying towards the top. Depending on the chunkiness of your preserves, you may be able to skip this step…I didn’t have to turn jars with my last batch. ***Some sites say this will contaminate the seal, although I have never had a problem. If you let your preserves cool slightly before ladling into jars, the fruit should disperse just fine.***
Step 7: Let your jars “rest” until the lids “pop” inward. Then, they are ready to store (be sure to label and date the lids with a sharpie.) If you have any jars that don’t “pop”, just stick them in the fridge and use first. One batch made 4 pints or 8 half pints. Now, really…how easy is that? No high fructose corn syrup, no red dye…just all natural goodness.
***Because it is recommended, I am adding one more step here: These jars should be water bathed for 10 minutes. Water bathing means they need to put in a pot with at least 2 inches of water over them. Boil for 10 minutes, remove and let cool. You can put a dish towel or metal steamer in the bottom of the pot to prevent the jars from rattling or cracking (if you don’t have an official water bath pot.)***
If you have leftover berries, freeze them for a later date. Be sure to freeze the strawberries separately on a baking sheet or something of the sort, then put them together in a bag, ensuring them to not turn into one big, frozen berry ball. If the feeling strikes you, you can thaw them out another time and do the whole thing over again!
2 Responses to Time To “Preserve” Your Summer: Strawberry
  1. Stephanie Precourt
    July 9, 2012 | 3:17 PM

    I have NEVER made preserves but have always wanted to. You just might be giving me that nudge!!

    Steph

    • Toni
      July 9, 2012 | 3:28 PM

      Oh Steph, you must!! Strawberry is SOOO easy and your kids will get a huge kick out of making their own. :)

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