Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pick'em and Preserve'm Strawberries

Pick'em and Preserve'm Strawberries
I finally made it to the U-Pick strawberry place in New Braunfels, TX, just outside San Antonio, with my elder companion...

She stayed in the car, though, while I picked some strawberries.  We went to the Markley Family Farm.  It was very nice for picking strawberries.  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera, so I have no pictures of the place.  But here is a photo of a similar setup.

Hydroponic Strawberry Towers

I think the recent cold snaps we've had have killed some of the leaves on the ones I saw.  There were plenty of plants with berries, but there were only a few berries per tower that were ripe.  I think that's why they only allow picking 3 days a week, to allow the berries to grow.

This method of the hydroponic towers made it so much easier for me to pick since I didn't have to bend over.  I thought my elder companion would also like it, but she was not feeling up to it.  The ground is also covered with a permeable fabric, so it's not dirty.  But the ground underneath was bumpy, so it may have been difficult for my elder companion to walk on it.

Pick'em and Preserve'm Strawberries

The berries taste fresh and good.  Not quite as big a difference as I've noticed with fresh off the bush blueberries, but still better than store bought.

Today, I am going to can them.  I've canned other fruits in the past, so I've got some equipment and know-how, but every fruit is different.  So, I found an excellent post on how to can them on the Pioneer Woman's blog.  There is a part 1 and part 2.  Here's my printable recipe with my own special touches.  The Ball website has a nice calculator and recipe customizer.

Pick'em and Preserve'm Strawberries

But they are almost too pretty to eat.  That is definitely different from store bought strawberries.  They're firm, full of color,  and shiny.

I will post some photos of the canning process after I make the preserves.  I can't wait to eat some!

~~~~ooooooo time travel oooooo~~~~

Ok, it's tomorrow now.  I canned the strawberries.  Definitely going to reduce the amount of sugar for fresh berries from now on.  I did it with blueberries and it works great.  The strawberries, I used the regular recipe and holy cow are they way too sweet!

So, here's the photos of each step for canning strawberry preserves:

Hull strawberries with spoon (I used a grapefruit spoon).

Put them in a pan or I used a big, square, flat bottom bowl.

Smash 'em until they look the right consistency to you.

Measure how many cups you have.

Then, start to follow the directions from one of the recipes above.

I like to boil the jars.  No botulism here!

 Before sugar added

After sugar added, it looks clearer.  I didn't have a problem with scum on mine.

Equipment I used:
Wide mouth funnel, jar lifter, magnetic wand (for grabbing lids), and a knife for pushing out bubbles.

Your water bath should reach just below the jars when they're full (much less water than used to sterilize jars).  Start with less water than you think you'll need then add.

One issue is that I had 8 cups of fruit, not the 5 cups in the recipe.  So I did some math to calculate how much of each ingredient I'll need.  There is also a nice calculator on the Ball website that'll do this for you.  Here's a chart from that website by the number of jars for strawberry jam:

Yeah, well, I used pint jars instead of half pint, and my batch was 8 cups of fruit.  They turned out fine - except the way too sweetness.  So you can see the reduced sugar amounts above as well.

To answer Robyn's question (in the comments section below), you can use less sugar, and you can use even less sugar by using the Ball pectin for reduced or no sugar (which I'll bet just has more citric acid in it).  I used the classic Ball pectin.

I also used lemon juice in the strawberries.  I'd rather be safe than sorry.  Botulism will kill you dead.

All the jam would not fit into even jars, so the last jar is half full.  I put that one in the fridge to eat right away.

What's that sound? ... That's my belly growling.  I'm going to eat my jam!


Robyn said...

Mmmm. Looks so good. I love strawberries, and I LOVE jam. I eat it many mornings and have wished I could make my own -- maybe a little bit lighter on sugar than typical jam. I still want it to taste good, though. Does a little less sugar make it problematic?

MuttNut said...

The sugar, somehow, does help it to preserve more safely. But I know there are sugar free versions, so you might want to do a search. They may call for more acid (like the lemon juice) to increase safety. I believe Splenda is the only one that can be cooked at those temperatures without affecting the taste. But, just live a little. Fresh strawberry jam should taste good.

MuttNut said...

I did use less refined sugar in canning my blueberry jam. But those blueberries were soooo naturally sweet, they didn't need as much sugar added. Maybe you can find naturally super sweet strawberries and make them with a little less refined sugar.

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