Our local Wal-Mart is selling 1-lb strawberry cartons for $1.50 and they taste near as good as my backyard-grown stawberries (Aldi's has them for $1 but not as flavorful; their blueberries are $1.70!!). That's not very usual and even Oberon, not a fruit freak like the children and me, raved about their taste. There's only one thing to do when that happens: you have to buy 15 lbs of strawberries and turn them into jams and jellies for the less-fruitful months ahead.
We really did buy 15 lbs of strawberries! We ate 3 lbs of them within 2 days so I set myself to preserving the remaining 12 lbs. I tried 3 different recipes which I will list at the end: Vanilla Strawberry Jam, Quick Strawberry Lemon Marmalade, and Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate. The last two are perfect complements to eachother because you need the lemon rind for one recipe and the lemon juice for the other.
All of the recipes came from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving which I am finding informative in the way that Joy of Cooking is. You can sit down and read it like a textbook before you ever try your hand at the recipes. There are two other books ("Canning for a New Generation" and "Put 'em Up!") which I would like to check out from the library to see if they are as clear and offer the same caliber and quantity of recipes.
The picture quality is bad because they are taken at night, midnight-ish in fact. These days where we can expect to see temps up to 108F with a higher heat index, we just can't get the house to be below 80F during the day. In fact, I just looked and it's 84F though the thermostat is set to 72F. This means that I don't even think about canning until 10pm which is when the house is finally down to 74F. Freezer jellies help to avoid heating up an already hot house but they don't truly compare to the results of a boiling water processing method.
The first step was washing and hulling the 12 lbs. of strawberries.
Here is almost 2 1/2 lbs of washed and hulled whole strawberries on my digital scale that I love.
I don't have a rack so I used lid rings to keep the jars off the bottom.
Instead of a traditional canning pot, I use a thick, heavy duty pot my mother gave me that has a steamer insert; we use it for tamales. It fits one jar less than a traditional canner. Here are jars of strawberry lemonade concentrate processing for 20 minutes.**(Because OKC is at an altitude of 1200 ft, I had to add an additional 5 minutes to the processing time.)**
While the strawberry lemonade concentrate waes processing, I cooked the strawberry vanilla jam with pectin and sugar. The 1/2 vanilla pod added amazing flavor but looked really creepy, alien-style, in this picture.
A few days later, I repeated the strawberry lemonade concentrate and made the quick strawberry lemon marmalade (which is defined as "a golden suspension of fruit peel and pulp in a tart yet sweet jelly" or as "a citrus fruit preserves").
I ended up with 10 jars of strawberry lemonade concentrate, 8 jars of vanilla strawberry jam, and 7 jars of quick strawberry lemon marmalade.
I hoped this side-by-side picture of the vanilla strawberry jam and the quick strawberry lemon marmalade would give you an idea of the difference between the two. The jam is much more set compared to the marmalade (I prefer the goopiness of the marmalade) and the marmalade is based around the citrus rind which you can see vaguely. I definitely am more of a preserves/marmalade woman myself but everyone else prefers the vanilla strawberry jam.
For the Fourth of July, breakfast was oatmeal with excess strawberry lemon marmalade swirled in topped off with blueberries. Yes, it's not quite as healthy as it should have been.
And now, time for the recipes, right? Alright. I think I'm up to the challenge!
Makes about 8 8-oz (250mL) jars
7 cups granulated sugar (1.75L)
8 cups whole strawberries (approx.) (2L)
4 Tbs. lemon juice (60mL)
1 pkg. (1.75oz/49-57g) regular powdered pectin
1. Place 8 clean 8-oz (250mL) mason jars on a rack in a boiling-water canner. (You can also use a large, deep saucepan or stockpot that is at least 3 inches/7.5cm deeper than the height of the jars.) Fill the jars and canner with cool water that reaches the top of the jars. Cover and bring water to a simmer over medium heat. do not boil.
2. Prepare 8 two-piece closures. Set screw bands asie. Place lids in a small saucepan and cover with water. Heat ust to a simmer over medium heat, but do not boil. Keep lids warm until ready to use. Do not heat screw bands.
3. Measure sugar in a bowl and set aside. (Sugar is added to the boiling jam all at once, so measuring it ahead of time prevents errors in quantities and eliminates cooking delays.)
4. In a colander placed ove ra sink, wash strawberries in cool running water. Drain thoroughly and, using a strawberry huller or the rounded end of a potato peeler, remove hulls.
5. In a glass pie plate or flat-bottomed bowl, place a single layer of strawberries. Using a potato masher, crush berries and transfer to a 1-cup (250mL) liquid measure. As you accumulate each cup, transfer crushed berries to a large, deep stainless steel saucepan. Repeat until you have 5 cups (1.25L) of crushed strawberries.
6. Add lemon juice to crushed strawberries in saucepan. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar alla t once and, stirring constnatly, return to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boilh ard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and, using a large slotted metal spoon, skim off foam. (Adding 1/2 tsp butter or margarine to the recipe before cooking will help reduce surface tension and reduce the buildup of air bubbles or foam.)
7. Fill one jar at a time. Remove jar from canner and empty hot water back into canner. Place jar on a tray or towel-covered counter and place a canning funnel in it. Ladle hot jam into hot jar, leaving 1/4 inch (.5cm) headspace. Slide a nonmetallic utensil, such as a rubber spatula, down between the jam and the inside of jar two or three times to release air bubbles. Adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot jam. With a clean damp cloth or paper towl, wipe jar rim and threads to remove any food residue. Using a magnetic or nonmetallic utensil, lift hot lid from water and center it on jar. Place screw band on jar and, with your fingers, screw band down evenly and firmly, just until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight. do not over-tighten or use any tools to apply screw band. Return jar to canner rack and repeat until al jam is used.
8. When all jars are filled, lower rack into canner and ensure jars are completely covered by at least 1 inch of hot water. Cover canner and bring water to a full rolling boil over high heat. Process (continue boiling rapidly) for 10 minutes, starting timer only when water reaches a fully rolling boil. (I reduced heat to medium once a full boil was reached to keep the water from pouring out of the pot.) At the end of the processing time, turn heat off and remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, without tilting. Place jars upright on a towel in a draft-free place and let cool, undisturbed for 24 hours.
9. After 24 hours, check lids for seal. Remove screw bands and press down on the center of each lid with your finger. Sealed lids will be concave (they'll curve downward) and will show no movement when pressed. Jars that haven't sealed properly just be refrigerated immediately or reprocessed. Rinse and dry screw bands. Wipe jars and, if desired, loosely reapply screw bands. Label jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place.
Vanilla Strawberry Jam Variation: Add half a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, to the crushed strawberries. Cook as directed and remove vanilla bean before ladling jam into jars.
This recipe made almost exactly 8 8-oz jars for me and was a firmly set, highly-flavored jam that everyone loves. I did process for 5 minutes longer than written due to my altitude.
QUICK STRAWBERRY LEMON MARMALADE
Makes about 7 8-ounce (250mL) jars.
1/4 cup thinly sliced lemon peel (50mL)
4 cups crushed hulled strawberries (1L)
1 tbs. lemon juice (15mL)
1 packaged (1.75 oz/49-57g) regular powdered fruit pectin
6 cups granulated sugar (1.5L)
1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
2. In large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine lemon peel and water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 5 minutes, until peel is softeneed. Drain and discard liquid.
3. Add strawberries and lemon juice to peel and mix well. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, sirring constantly. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constnatly. boil hard, stirring constantl, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
4. Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch (.5cm) headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot marmalade. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resisitance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
I love the consistency of this recipe and plan on doing their strawberry-on-top preserves next. I had about 3/4 cup of extra marmalade that I put in a storage container in the fridge. Again, I added 5 minutes to the processing time.
STRAWBERRY LEMONADE CONCENTRATE
Makes about 7 pint (500mL) jars
6 cups hulled strawberries (1.5L)
4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (1L)
6 cups granulated sugar (1.5L)
1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
2. In a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, working in batches, puree strawberries until smooth. Transfer to a large stainless steel saucepan as completed. Add lemon juice and sugar and stir to combine. Heat to 190F (88C) over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
3. Ladle hot concentrate into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch (0.5cm) headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistancd is met, then icnrease to fingertip-tight.
4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
This recipe did not even yield 5 pint jars for me so somehow those measurements are off. Overall, it's delicious and very, very sweet. The recipe says to dilute it 1:1 in water or sparkling water to drink but I would say 1:3 or 1:4 because it is that sweet. Also, since the puree is unstrained, the lemonade will be thick and pulpy. And, again, I added 5 minutes to the processing time.
By the end of all this canning, I was able to smoothly assemble the jars without having to think too much about it. And only one strawberry lemonade concentrate, out of all the jars, did not have a proper seal. That may have been because I was touching the lids immediately after processing which you are not supposed to do. They are supposed to sit there completely undisturbed to form a proper seal. In following the directions, be very literal and I think that you will have even better success than I did. Also, try this canning kit I got at Wal-mart for $7 to make things go smoothly.
Pfew! I think writing this post about it was almost as hard as canning itself! Oh, and there is a great produce purchase guide at the back of the book that I used to help determine how much strawberries by weight to use. 1 pound of strawberries yields approximately 2 2/3 cups whole, 2 - 2 1/3 cups sliced or 1 2/3 cups crushed strawberries.
If you've always been intimidated to try canning like me, go for it! It's more fun and easy than it sounds. And if you're a seasoned canner, I'd love to hear your favorite recipes!