Spring is a beautiful season in the south. There are countless trees and shrubs blooming and the growing season has begun. One of the first locally grown fruits to show up at farmer’s stands and grocery stores is strawberries. I’ve heard many farmers and chefs alike say that the mid to later season strawberries are sweetest.
And I’m sure they are right, but it is difficult not to be anxious when those spring strawberries make their initial appearance. Although the first strawberries of the season aren’t the sweetest, they are perfect for jams, jellies and old-fashioned preserves.
Jam or Preserves?
You might be wondering what the difference is between jam and preserves. They are in fact made very similar. Most fruit jams are made with a combination of the fruit, sugar, lemon juice, and pectin. Pectin is the thickener of jams but may not always be necessary.
Strawberry preserves are a recipe of the fruit pulp, juices, sugar, lemon juice and no pectin are used in the recipe. Sometimes preserves are referred to as “spoon jam” because a spoon works best when taking the preserves from the jar and spreading atop a freshly baked biscuit or toasted bread.
Fresh baked biscuits and a dollop of strawberry preserves is a personal favorite. It brings back the warmest memories of childhood and my grandmother.
Back in my grandmother’s day and all the generations before her relied on preserving foods for survival. Everyone grew food and had to preserve enough to get through the winter months.
Today, canning, preserving and pickling is an art still enjoyed by many. There is a satisfaction in taking the freshest vegetables and fruits grown locally and “putting them up” to be enjoyed over the next year.
If you’re new to preserving, making preserves is a great way to start. It is an easy water bath method of canning. In fact, making jam was my own introduction into the world of canning.
Certain foods can be canned using the water bath method. It is less intimidating to pressure canning. Once you get your feet wet though, it is inevitable that pressure canning will become a part of your future.
It is important to note that the safest canning standards should always be used. The recipes of generations past may not be the safest. We’ve learned a lot over the years regarding food safety and its utmost importance.
This recipe makes six half pints of preserves. Let’s walk through the steps of making your own strawberry preserves. In addition to the ingredients listed below, you will need six half pint-sized canning jars with lids and bands.
Fresh Strawberry Preserves
- 8 cups fresh strawberries ((hulled and stemmed))
- 4.5 cups granulated sugar
- 1 oz lemon juice ((or all the juice you can squeeze from half a lemon))
In a Dutch oven or large pot add the strawberries then mash them with an old-fashioned potato masher. Repeat the mashing throughout the cooking process.
Cook over a low heat, until the strawberries begin to simmer. Once simmering, add the sugar and stir to combine. Next, add the juice from half a lemon.
Turn up the heat to medium and continue to cook the strawberry mixture until it boils and the sugar has all dissolved.
Remove the pot from the heat and set aside while preparing the jars.
Sterilize the jars and bands just before using by submerging in simmering water for ten minutes. Do not sterilize the lids because it can jeopardize the sticky substance which seals the jars. Just wash the lids and rinse before using.
Transfer the sterile jars to your work station and ladle the hot strawberry preserve mixture into each jar within a half inch from the top.
Wipe the rims if needed with a damp paper towel and seal with a lid and band.
Once you have all the jars filled, process the strawberry preserves in a boiling water bath for ten minutes. The water should cover the top of the jars by an inch and do not start timing until the water is boiling.
Use canning jar tongs to transfer the jars from the water batch to a countertop lined with a towel to cool overnight.
*Please note that the jars and bands may be reused again and again but lids are one-time use only.
Processed fruit preserves are good to eat for up to one year. Once a jar is opened, refrigerate. Enjoy each jar of spring that you’ve captured throughout the coming months ahead.
Strawberry preserves are delicious as a spread, drizzled over desserts, or can be warmed and drizzled over pancakes.
Hey food bloggers! Want to share your work with the Due South Readers? We’re looking for southern recipe posts and videos. Contact us!