Strawberry: Whole Berry Preserves

I know that most of you are beyond strawberry season and are thinking about blueberries, raspberries and even peaches; however, life got in the way of my strawberry ambitions this year and I just managed to squeak some picking into the tail end of the New York season. Because we were at the very end of the season, we ended up picking a lot of teeny, tiny strawberries: larger ones were already picked, or had rotted on the ground, but the tiny ones were red, ripe and flavorful.

Since I had pounds and pounds of tiny strawberries, not much bigger than the end of your pinky finger, I decided it would be fun to make a whole berry preserve. This one came out beautifully: the ripe berries released a ton of juice, so even though I cut down on the sugar as usual, I had plenty of syrup in which to suspend the whole berries. It’s a glorious deep magenta color, with lighter red berries floating in the jelly, and the set was perfect, lovely and soft without being too syrupy, helped along by extra acid, in the form of two small lemons, a 3-day maceration, and the addition of some underripe berries for a pectin boost. The taste is pure strawberry with just a hint of lemony brightness, sweet, but not overly so. The whole berries are so tiny and soft that they will easily smoosh onto a piece of toast, but this would be a beautiful candidate for draping over cheesecake or making a fancy strawberry shortcake.

No slicing of the berries required in this recipe, but 2 and 1/2 pounds of teeny, tiny berries means a lot of hulling: get yourself a good huller (I’m in love with mine from Crate and Barrel), put on some festive berry-hullin’ music, and get your jamz on.

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Strawberry: Whole Berry Preserves

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 and 1/2 lbs tiny strawberries, rinsed & hulled
  • 1 lb (2 cups) sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
  • zest & juice of 2 small lemons
  • pinch sea salt

METHODS

  1. Day 1. Combine strawberries, sugar, lemon zest & juice and salt. Mix well to coat all berries in sugar. Allow to macerate for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature, or bring to a simmer in a wide-bottomed preserving pan (to dissolve sugar), then refrigerate overnight.
  2. Day 2. Tip berries and juice into a preserving pan or wide-bottomed skillet. Scrape any undissolved sugar into the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat; stir, then remove from heat. Return to a heat-safe bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Day 3. Repeat Day 2: Bring berries to a simmer, return to bowl, refrigerate overnight.
  4. Day 4. Prepare canner, jars and lids. Strain berries through a sieve, catching the juice in a wide-bottomed preserving pan; reserve berries (over a bowl, as they will continue to drip). Bring juice to a boil over high heat; continue to boil until juice is syrupy, bubbling thickly and foam begins to subside, or reaches 220 degrees F (about 20 minutes in my wide, 6 and 3/4 quart Le Creuset): boil at 220 degrees F for one minute.
  5. Skim foam carefully (it’s much harder to skim once you add the berries). Add berries, and any additional juice. Return to a boil and continue to cook until the mixture returns to 220 degrees F (is bubbling thickly and spits when you scrape a spoon across the bottom of the pan), about another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Skim any remaining foam.
  6. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Yields about 4 cups.

OPTIONS

  1. I processed this in the water bath for only 5 minutes in order to maintain the whole berries in the preserve. This is safe to do, as long as you make sure that your jars are sterilized first (boil for 15 minutes prior to filling), as a 5-minute processing time is sufficient to ensure a good seal, but not to ensure destruction of bacteria that may have been present on the jar.
  2. You probably don’t need that third day of maceration; I just didn’t have time to make the jam yesterday. I’d say you could macerate anywhere from 2 – 5 days and make the jam when it fits into your schedule.
  3. Don’t be afraid to tweak the recipe at the end: if it is taking a long time to reach the set point, and/or you start to smell the strawberries caramelizing, try adding another 1/4 cup of sugar or a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Sometimes the smallest tweak can push the mixture to the set point.

STORE

Canned, in a cool dark spot for up to 1 year.

SEASON

Early summer.

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17 comments

  1. Susan

    Looks great! I made a small batch today with black pepper and fresh Spicy Globe Basil…..yum. Nothing like homemade preserves. :)

  2. Gorgeous! I haven’t made any strawberry jam yet. We are picking a few cups a day and then eat them before I can do anything else with them. I might just have to buy some.

  3. I spent all of strawberry season trying to preserve whole strawberries in a light syrup. Disaster … Sigh… WIth the last two pounds of frozen teeny strawberries, I’m going to make your preserves. And I’m going to check here before I set out to prove something to myself that takes a month of frustrations, when clearly you’ve done it already – and perfectly!

    • Strawberries can be tough: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screwed them up. They seem to need a good amount of sugar in order to get ‘jammy’ but they are so sweet that I was always fighting the battle of reducing sugar but keeping some sort of texture. I think adding the extra lemon, to up the acid but also to counteract some of the sweetness, and a multi-day maceration to boost the pectin, is a good route to go.

  4. jan

    I found the recipe on Pinterest and just made it. May never eat strawberries any other way from now on..so good…

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  6. Good tweak on the waterbath time & sugar – I made this, loved it, but felt that the longer waterbath cooked the berries a bit into candy territory… looking forward to a fresh new strawberry season and a chance to try again – I’m growing my own heirlooms & they should bear fruit this summer – cannot wait!

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  8. Pingback: Strawberry Preserving Round-up - WellPreserved.ca

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