It’s right in the middle of strawberry season here in Raleigh, and I’m so happy there are a number of local farms where I can go to pick my own. There’s just something wonderful about picking your own fruits and vegetables — not only do you know they are fresh, but for some reason they just taste better.
This year I decided to make strawberry preserves. If you have never canned fresh fruits and vegetables, I totally recommend it. Not only is canning economical, especially if you have your own garden, but you can also appreciate the fruits of your labor year-round as well as control the ingredients that go into your jars. Plus they make great gifts – who doesn’t love to get a jar of freshly made jam or pickles? There are numerous websites that can guide you through the canning process — Ball’s® site (http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started.aspx) is a great place to start, since the company is famous for its canning products.
Ingredients (For 5 pint sized, wide mouth jars)
- 8 cups of fresh, ripe strawberries
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1 box (1.75 oz.) fruit pectin, such as Sure-Jell
- 6 to 7 cups of sugar
Wash your cans, lids and screw bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well. Fill your canning pot with water (about ¾ full) and bring to a simmering boil (180 degrees F.) Add your jars and heat for at least 10 minutes to sterilize them. Do not remove the jars from the water until they are ready to be filled.
Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to simmering boil (180 degrees F.) Add the lids and screw bands and let simmer until ready to use.
Prepare the strawberries by removing their caps and rinsing well. I cut the large ones in half. Place in a large pot and smash them up with a fork or potato masher (I have a Pampered Chef Mix ‘N Chop tool that works great for this.)
Add the fresh lemon juice and the fruit pectin, stirring well until completely blended. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil (one that cannot be stirred away.)
Add the sugar to taste. I used 7 cups for this batch, which turned out quite sweet. I will probably only add 6 cups next time I make these. Bring the mixture back to a hard boil for 1 minute and remove from the heat.
Skim off any excess foam. Ladle the preserves into each jar, one at a time, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove any air bubbles using a nonmetallic spatula. Wipe off the rim of the jar with a clean, damp paper towel.
Remove a lid from the saucepan and center it on the jar. Place the screw band on top of the lid and thread it down until it is firm and snug, but not as tight as you can make it. Repeat with the other jars.
Place the jars in a canning rack and return to canning pot. (I could not find my canning rack, so I improvised by using another rack in order to get the jars off of the bottom of the pot.) Make sure they are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Bring water to a rolling boil and cover the canning pot with its lid. Process the jars for at least 5 minutes, or for the amount of time recommended on the pectin package. Turn off the heat, remove the lid from the canning pot, and let cool for 5 minutes before removing the jars.
Let the jars cool for 12 to 24 hours on a dry towel. Then test the jars to make sure they have been properly sealed by pressing the center of each lid, making sure it doesn’t move up and down. If you do have any jars that did not seal properly, dispose the contents if the jar is damaged, or else refrigerate and use first.
For those jars that sealed properly, store in a cabinet or pantry for up to one year. You can buy or make labels that include the date of canning (this is especially recommended if you are planning to use these for gifts.)
It can take up to two weeks for these preserves to set, so be patient! And then enjoy on a nice biscuit, with toast, on yogurt or ice cream, etc.
Eat, drink and be merry!
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