Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Preserving Strawberries

I love this time of year when strawberries are in season! There are so many wonderful foods to make with juicy, red, ripe strawberries. And they are good for you as I mentioned last week when I introduced these awesome fruits.

Last week I also shared with you one of my favorite dessert recipes: Strawberry lush (with a whole grain crust). And today I'm going to teach you how to preserve them by freezing whole or making jam. Either method you choose, you need to first prepare the strawberries.

  1. Select strawberries to preserve that are good quality: ripe and firm, with no soft or moldy spots. Poor quality fruit will make horrible preserved fruit!
  2. Wash the strawberries
  3. Drain them
  4. And cut off the caps (green stems)
That's it! It's very easy.

Freezing Strawberries is the easiest way I know to preserve their delicious goodness. I like to freeze them whole because it's so quick and they don't stick together as much after they are frozen. It's easy to pull out just the number you need when making a smoothie or unthawing them for a dessert.

All you need are some prepared strawberries and heavy duty freezer bags (any size you want).
  1. Place prepared strawberries in the freezer bags
  2. Remove as much air as you can
  3. Seal and label the bags
  4. Store in the freezer 

Frozen strawberries will keep in the freezer for at least a year. We love to use them in smoothies, lemonades or desserts!

Strawberry Jam
The easiest way to make strawberry jam is the freezer jam. You simply buy a packet of freezer pectin and follow the instructions on the package, ladle the jam in freezer containers and freeze. Really simple and very delicious! Since my freezer happened to be about full after freezing my whole strawberries, this time I decided to venture out of the box and make canned strawberry jam. 

One of the reasons I love to make homemade jam is because you can control the amount of sugar that you add to the jam. You do have to be kind of careful though because if you adjust the sugar in a recipe, sometimes it will not set up right (staying too runny, or too thick). So I'm going to share with you my recipe for strawberry jam that our family loves because it has the perfect amount of sugar. It's sweet enough to enjoy, but not so sugary that you can't taste the berry flavor. 

If you're not used to canning, you can see my general canning instructions here to help you get started or this jam can be made according to the recipe and frozen in freezer containers (or glass jars). I've done that too and it works just great!

Strawberry Jam

*NOTE: Be sure to use no sugar needed fruit pectin! This is what allows the jam to set up without as much sugar.

*Makes about 8-10 8-oz. jars

5 Cups crushed strawberries (approximately 3 1/2 lbs. strawberries)
2.5 Cups white sugar
1 Cup water
1 pkg. OR 3 Tbsp. no sugar needed fruit pectin
Jars, lids, bands, canning equipment, etc.

1.        Wash jars, lids, bands and rinse well. Heat jars and lids in boiling water. Heat up water in your boiling water bath canner.

2.        Wash and prepare strawberries. Crush one layer at a time until you have five cups. Important: do not put in the blender or food processor - I used a potato masher and it works great. 

3.        Put the crushed fruit and water in a tall sauce pan. The jam will spit, so the tall pan will keep it in the pan and not all over your kitchen.

4.        Gradually stir in the no sugar needed fruit pectin into the fruit/water mixture. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is at a boil, add the sugar and return to a boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly (and use oven mitts to protect your arms from spitting jam!). Remove from heat, then skim foam if desired (I never do).

5.        Take jars out of simmering water, one at a time and ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe the rims and threads of each jar with a clean, damp cloth. Center the heated lid on jar and screw band down until fingertip tight. Then place jar in canner and repeat with other jars.

6.        Once canner is full, add water if necessary to cover jars by 1 or 2 inches. Place lid on canner and bring water to a boil and lower heat until water stays at a gentle boil. Process according to times below (based on your current elevation).

Processing Times:
10 min (0-1,000 ft) 15 min (1,001-3,000 ft) 20 min (3,001-6,000 ft) 25 min (6,001-8,000) 30 min (8,001-10,000)

7.        After processing, turn off heat and remove the lid for 5 minutes before removing jars from the canner. Set the jars upright on a towel to cool for 12 to 24 hours. Once jars are cool, test jars for a seal by pressing the center of the lid. The lid should not flex up and down. If it does, immediately refrigerate or reprocess with a new lid for the full length of time. Clean jars and remove bands. Label and store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to one year.

We've enjoyed this jam on pancakes, waffles, rolls, bread or toast, bagels, or to sweeten plain yogurt. Lick the spoon and enjoy!

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