Strawberry Preserves

Make these. Quick! Strawberry season is almost over. Come winter when you open your pantry looking for inspiration for breakfast or “breakfast for dinner” (my fave!), you’ll be glad you did.

*Note: After attending a canning class last Saturday at our local Ag Expo where I missed the hallway for the classroom and ended up being mesmerized by a calf-roping competition in the arena before remembering why I was there in the first place (much like this post!), I’m sure I’ll go to hell for sharing this unapproved canning method. But, hey, it works for me – as does this non-traditional jam-making technique. By macerating strawberries in sugar overnight and then cooking the syrup, not the berries, for the bulk of the time you get soft-set preserves with big berry chunks and distinct fresh-strawberry flavor. Delicious on toast, biscuits, pancakes, PBJ’s, yogurt, ice cream, or just straight off the spoon! It’s like summer in a jar.

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Strawberry Preserves

makes about 5 cups or half-pint jars (40 oz.)

adapted from Mes Confitures The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber, The Good Stuff Cookbook by Helen Witty, and Dixie’s advice on Chowhound

Although this method takes 3 days, the hands-on cooking time is actually quite short. Yes, there are faster ways, but I prefer this method because it better preserves the fresh taste and texture of the strawberries.

  • 2 1/2 pounds (1.1 kg) strawberries, or 2 1/4 pounds (1 kg) net, after hulling
  • 4 – 4 1/4cups (800-850 g) granulated sugar (use the smaller amount if your berries are very ripe)

juice of 1 1/2 lemons (for pectin and to bring out flavor)

Rinse, dry, and hull the strawberries. Half or quarter large berries and leave small berries whole. Macerate the strawberries with the lemon juice and sugar in a ceramic, glass, or stainless steel bowl in the refrigerator overnight, covered. Stir them gently a few times if you think of it so that all the sugar dissolves.

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Next day, scrape the berries and syrup into a preserving pan, dutch oven, or large (12-inch) saute pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil it briskly for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the berries and syrup into a bowl and cool uncovered. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

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On the third day, pour this berry mixture into a colander or sieve set into your pan. Let all the syrup drain into the pan and set the berries aside. Bring the collected syrup to a boil and cook on high heat until you reach 221°F on a candy thermometer.

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Add the partly cooked strawberries. Gently stir and return to a boil on high heat. Boil the preserves until the berries are translucent and the syrup reaches 221°F again. Remove from heat.

Skim off any foam and stir the preserves gently from time to time for 5 minutes, to prevent the fruit from floating in the jars. Ladle the preserves into hot, clean half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. (To sterilize the jars and lids, I place them in a 225°F oven for 5 minutes.) Wipe off the tops of the jars with a paper towel dipped in boiling water to ensure that no drips get in the way of the seal. I then seal the jars by the inversion method – immediately turning the hot jars upside down on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Then I flip them right side up and wait to hear the “ping!” to know they’ve sealed.

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However, to be on the safe side and guarantee no mold in your jars – although I’ve not had a problem with that and, besides, can’t you just scrape it off? – the USDA recommends processing the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling-water bath instead. (My lawyer made me include that! Though, seriously, I would use this canning method ONLY for jams or preserves. For everything else, use a water bath or pressure canner as directed.) Cool, label, and store the jars in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year.

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