Visiting my favorite English professor down in Decorah, IA, is one of my favorite annual trips. There’s always some food-related activity that happens, and this time, we’d taken the tiny red jewels of strawberries from her backyard, mixed them with sugar overnight and were cooking them down to preserve their summery-sweet flavor in Ball’s classic glass jars.
“It doesn’t take that long, really,” my professor-turned-dear-friend Amy said. “Most people think canning takes all day long, but we’re gonna have this done by noon.”
To make preserves, we only needed three ingredients: fresh strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. It’s pretty basic, and if you have super-delicious summer fruits in abundance, you really ought to can some to enjoy once the weather takes a brisk turn.
I like to eat my strawberry preserves the way Amy first served hers to me: spooned over piping-hot steel-cut oats with a dollop of organic vanilla yogurt. Even when there’s snow falling outside, summer comes rushing in as soon as you taste those ultra-sweet berries and their vibrant red sauce.
Here’s the recipe for Amy’s strawberry preserves, which she sources from Canning for a New Generation, by Liana Krissoff.
Makes about 4 half-pint jars
3 pounds strawberries*
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Layer the strawberries* and sugar in large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Careful not to damage berries, gently transfer them with sugar to a wide 6- or 8-quart pan. Bring to a simmer, gently stirring, then continue to cook for 5 minutes. Pour into a colander set over a large bowl. Return juice to pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes.
3. Return the strawberries and any accumulated juices to the pan, along with the lemon juice, and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the strawberries are glossy and very tender but still hold their shape, about 20 minutes. Skim off as much foam as you can, then remove from the heat and stir gently for a few seconds to distribute the fruit in the liquid.
4. Ladle the boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel. Drain the water off the jar lids.
5. Ladle the hot preserves into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars. Then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight. Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Label the sealed jars and store.
*Note: Make sure you’re using the freshest local strawberries you can find. Ideally, you’re picking them yourself. Otherwise, check out your local farmers market. The smaller and more vibrant-red, the better.
Hungry for another strawberry recipe? Try a Strawberry-Oatmeal Smoothie.