When strawberries come into season in your area, ask the farmers which varieties they’re growing and do a taste test to see which ones you like best.
The following is an excerpt from Put ’Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton (Storey Publishing, 2010). This comprehensive guide to home preserving teaches refrigerating, freezing, drying, canning and pickling techniques, and after mastering these crafts, readers can dig into more than 150 pages of mouthwatering recipes designed to preserve everything from cucumbers and tomatoes to grapes and watermelon.
My kids wait all year for fresh strawberries. When they finally arrive in the farmers market, I’m lucky if I can get a quart home — they woodchip right through them. The strawberries we find in the farmers market are hugely different from those sold in the grocery store. A strawberry is a bright red, smallish fruit with complex flavor but a short shelf life. It’s not meant to be as big as your fist (no matter how appealing such a monster would be to dip in chocolate on Valentine’s Day) or to last for weeks in the fridge.
Until I started hanging out at farmers markets, I didn’t realize there were so many varieties of strawberries that had so many different flavor profiles. When they come into season in your area, ask the farmers what they’re growing and do a taste test to see which ones you like best.
It’s difficult for any fresh berries to make it home, but when they do, we don’t refrigerate them. We eat them or process them within 24 hours to capture all of that tangy — and eagerly anticipated — flavor.
Back-Burner Strawberry Sauce Recipe
This recipe uses up a surplus of fresh fruit or even those berries that are beginning to look a little rough around the edges. As long as they aren’t moldy, toss them into the pot — it will all taste great. Use the sauce to top waffles, pancakes or ice cream, blend with plain yogurt into a smoothie, or purée with crushed ice and your tipple of choice for a summertime cocktail.
Any quantity fresh strawberries, hulled
Sugar or honey (optional)
Rinse strawberries and put them, with any clinging water, in a medium saucepan. Crush a few to release their juice. Bring gradually to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep the berries from sticking. Simmer until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Add a little sugar or honey, if using, to sweeten the sauce. One quart of berries makes about 3 cups sauce.
Refrigerate: Transfer to bowls or jars and let cool. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Freeze: Transfer to airtight containers or ice-cube trays and freeze for up to 6 months.
Quick Strawberry Jam Recipe
This recipe is a quick and easy way to keep strawberry jam on hand. Pomona’s Universal Pectin gives the jam just enough gel.
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Pomona’s Universal Pectin
4 cups strawberries, hulled
1 teaspoon calcium water (included in the Pomona box)
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
1. Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Place the berries in a medium, nonreactive saucepan and crush with a potato masher. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Stir in the calcium water and lemon juice. Slowly pour in the sugar-pectin mixture and stir to dissolve.
3. Return to a boil, stirring to ensure that the mixture is heated thoroughly. Remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release air bubbles. Skim off any foam. Makes about 4 cups.
Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean, center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
Reprinted with permission from Put ’Em Up, published by Storey Publishing, 2010.