June Can Jam: Strawberries!

25 Jun

We’re on the eve, friends in the Pacific Northwest.  The eve of a summer bursting with awesome fruits and veggies.  What are you gonna make?  Homemade fresh salsa, canned tomato sauce, canned peaches, cherry pie, dried plums, various infused boozes and cordials?  Me, probably all of the above  We’re almost at that point where you can eat of summer’s bounty and preserve that shit for the winter too!  I’m doing so both in and outside of the Can Jam.  But it is Can Jam time again. And June’s choice was berries.  I had a tough decision to make.  Double S and I still have like 63.8 pounds of blueberries in the freezer from last summer.  More to come on what I’m doing with those, I didn’t get around to dealing with them yet.  For this month’s challenge I wanted to choose strawberries, and I wanted to pick them myself.  I decided to go strawberry picking!  And you should too!  It’s fun, cheap, and the berries are awesome!

Obligatory novelty fruit that must appear in all of my Can Jam posts! This one is from Remlinger Farms. .

On the beautiful day that was last Friday, Double S was excited about berries too, so off we drove to Carnation, Washington to Harvold Berry Farm, where we picked a whopping 40.5 pounds of strawberries.  One dollar a pound!

I took this pic from a moving car. Not too shabby!

It was the first day of berry picking, but there were plenty for everyone.

I'm hard at work here! And probably showing some plumber's crack!

Our haul. It only took us about two hours.

When you’re going to get berries in that quantity, you need to make time over the next 24 or so hours to process them, or they’ll rot away or lose much of their flavor in the fridge.  So that night, we froze berries.  Woo hoo–rockin’ Friday night!  We have had problems with freezer burn and ice on our berries in the past, so this year we did some Googling and discovered that to freeze berries you should first just lightly rinse the berries and hull the berries.  Try not to injure the berry when you hull, the juice that emerges creates ice.  Then individually place them on a cookie sheet, not touching one another.  Then freeze them.  When they’re frozen, place them in a Ziploc bag and store.  We noticed that we got ice really quick though, so we’ll see how this year’s batch turns out and then modify our efforts next year if need be.  There’s a good summary of techniques for freezing and otherwise preserving strawberries here, and fellow can jammers Doris and Jilly discuss it too.

They looked beautiful in the freezer!

The next morning, we decided to can some strawberries: strawberry jam and strawberries in simple syrup.   I just got this gorgeous new book, so I tried out her recipe for strawberry jam.  It turned out just okay.  The jam is very dark in color and has an overly lemony taste to it, due to both my misreading of the slightly illogically separated recipe and due to an interruption in the canning process because of father’s day activities.  Oh, life, always getting in the way!  Life!

But my main problem with this jam is that it just didn’t set the way I would have liked it to.  No pectin was added, just lemon rinds and seeds, and I’m wondering if simply adding pectin would have made it better.  I’ve heard some anti-pectin talk on the blogs lately (What?  What kind of blogs do YOU read?), and I’m wondering what the problem with pectin is?  Does it make the jam taste bad?  Bad for you?  I’d really like to know.  Anyway, so the jam kind of  looks like a strawberry syrup.  I’ve made good plum and blackberry jams since living in the NW, but if they are basically just syrups, I usually don’t end up using them.    I’m hoping that maybe this berry one firms up.  Does that happen?  I usually thought that the consistency of a jam stayed pretty similar to how it comes out of its bath.  The taste, though lemony, is good.

Dark, but tasty.

So I’m not going to ramble on about that endeavor.  I will tell you about the Strawberries in a Light Simple Syrup that I made, as those mostly turned out as I wanted them to.

I had read Well Preserved’s take on preserving strawberries this way.  But frankly and surely (Hi Frank!  Hi Shirley!), I didn’t understand how to get the berries to their gel point without cooking them down to mush.  I was also tired from making jam all day, so I followed another (easier) recipe, the idea for which I got here.

Strawberries in a Light Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

Fresh strawberries

Sugar

Water

Steps:

1.  Get your canning pot on the stove.  Clean and sterilize as many jars as you want to use, but more than you think because you really can’t fit that many in each jar.

2.  Prep your strawberries.  Double S was doing this part and found that just a light rinse worked for the berries we had picked ourselves.  It’s best to leave some of the stem on the berries if you are picking them yourself, as  the stem makes the berry much easier to hull.  So lightly pull the stem.  It seems best to leave the berries whole.  I’m not sure if this is best though, and you’ll find out why later.

Before...

After!

3.  Make simple syrup. Strawberries are sweet so a light syrup is all that’s needed.  Mix 2 cups sugar with 4 cups water.  Heat in a saucepan on low until sugar dissolves.  Stir occasionally.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to just keep the syrup warm until you are ready to pour it over the berries.  You could make the syrup before you go picking, so it’s ready when you get home.  Just warm it up slightly when you get home.

4.  Pack the jars full of berries.

So much promise at first!

5.  Pour the liquid over the berries.

Gorgeous!

6. Hot water bath process for 15 minutes.

So these look nice and I think might be the most versatile of any berry item we preserved yet, but aesthetically it bothers me that they eventually started to float. Now I understood why Joel recommended cooking them to the gel point to avoid floating.

I did not think that I would care about this, but I did.  It also feels like I got ripped of in that so much space emerges after the berries are processed that you really wish that you could shove more into the jars.  You can’t.   Move on.  And you’re not really ripped off, because you can make as many jars as you wish.  But the ooh and ahh effect is lessened, and I need oohs and ahhs when peeps peep my larder.  I’m a sucker for larder compliments.

But I think these are gonna be good.  I’m wanting to use to these berries to make old fashioned strawberry sundaes, and the syrup is going to be multi-faceted.  And gosh darnit, they were super easy to make.  Canning doesn’t need to be hard.  But I do need to perfect my jam making techniques before it’s too late.  I think the Can Jam round up will help!

But I’m not done with berries, and especially not cherries!  Oh, do I have some ideas for cherries.  Don’t worry!  I’ll share my ideas here!  And I’m in the NW, where blackberries are free for the taking!  So I’ll definitely be looking for some creative uses for those.  Can Jammers, I’m looking for your suggestions and ideas!  We’ve also got some thriving blueberryand raspberry bushes in the yard too. I ate my first raspberries from our bushes this week, and they were awesome!  I’m thinking of infusing booze and making cordials/juice concentrates too.   And hey Washingtonians, Harvold Farm has U-pick raspberries too.  And after much deliberation and hand wringing, I do declare that raspberries are the finest of all the berries.  How about you?

Happy summer, everybody!  Get out there and enjoy summer’s bounty this weekend!

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20 Responses to “June Can Jam: Strawberries!”

  1. Daisy Driver June 25, 2010 at 3:17 PM #

    I had the same runny problem, but it was due to my impatience, fortunately I really liked it – it was great over vanilla ice cream because I had reduced the sugar a little and it wasn’t too sweet! I know it sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t, you can pour the jars out and re boil the jam to get the right consistency. It really takes very little time and effort and then you just put them back in jars and re process – you waste lids that way but better lids then berries! Good luck! I’m evious of all the berries – my supply has been sparse this year.

    • ohbriggsy June 27, 2010 at 7:10 PM #

      thanks! yeah, i think it will be great iver vanilla ice cream–like old school ice cream sundaes! i think i might try your advice and reheat the jam–thanks for the tip! lids are only about 2 bucks for a box, so why not?

  2. growandresist June 25, 2010 at 10:40 PM #

    Well done friend! I’ll be over for strawberry sundaes!

    • ohbriggsy June 27, 2010 at 7:09 PM #

      that’s be fun! homemade ice cream and homemade chocolate sauce?

  3. Neighbor Nancy June 28, 2010 at 9:44 AM #

    hey, thanks for the link to my jammin’ method. On freezing strawberries, place a piece of waxed paper on the cookie sheet…easier to remove. Once frozen, put some sugar in the ziploc bag w/ them….kinda like shake n bake… helps prevent freezer burn and what I like to call ” frozen strawbery mass” which just seems to happen even tho you’ve frozen them all separate… not a sugar fan? just rinse off under cold water when you pull them from the freezer to use them.

    How much Ben-Gay did you apply to your lower back after pickin 40 pounds? We just about bathed in it after picking well over 100 pounds last year.

    And you might enjoy, trying to dehydrate them… awesome winter snack… tastes like summer!

    • ohbriggsy June 28, 2010 at 12:11 PM #

      you’re welcome! and thanks for the tip re adding sugar to the berries before freezing–i wish i would have done that before we froze so damn many! and i think i will try to dehydrate them. i tried making fruit leather, and the results weren’t so good–the leather mainly stuck to the tray and i couldn’t get them to roll. breaking out the old dehydrator seems easy and quick. thanks again!
      and, 100 pounds! awesome! we might try to go pick some more, as this was early in the season and the flavor wasn’t as good as i would have hoped.

  4. Neighbor Nancy June 28, 2010 at 9:49 AM #

    oh oh oh and don’t forget to can some strawberry lemonade concentrate or strawberry cello (pronounced “chello”) for the imbibing adults!

    Neighbor Nancy adjusts her apron and heads off to pick lunch right off the currant patch… the little white ones that taste like lemonade… mmmm

    • ohbriggsy June 28, 2010 at 12:15 PM #

      yes! i want to do this. lemons are so expensive in the NW though! i made some great lemonade and raspberry lemonade (from frozen raspberries) concentrates this past winter. great idea for strawberry cello–do you use vodka or that more vodka-y vodka, whose name escapes me?
      and i’m jealous of the currant patch! what are you going to do with them? besides just eat them right off the branch (?), of course.

  5. Doris the Goat June 30, 2010 at 7:43 AM #

    Dehydrated strawberries are delicious. They make your house smell like strawberry pie. Just be sure to slice them thick so you don’t get little strawberry fragments instead.

    So, on the pectin question. There *have* been some good posts out there about this. I haven’t posted, because my objections aren’t particularly well thought out. I guess they boil down to a) I’m cheap; b) although I’m a chemist by training, I prefer cooking with minimally processed foods; c) you have to add too much sugar; d) I don’t like a super-hard set to begin with. On the downside, though, the set of my jams can be unpredictable. I hear good things about adding apples, but haven’t tried it yet.

    • ohbriggsy June 30, 2010 at 8:07 AM #

      thanks for you thoughts, doris! and thanks for your awesome blog in general. i’m trying to rally the troop[s to pick more strawberries this weekend so i can do some dehydrating–the fruit leather i tried was too difficult.
      i agree with your thoughts re pectin: i’m also cheap and prefer minimally processed cooking, but i do like a firm set! i might try the apples as a pectin substitute. i’ll post about the results!

  6. Mimi June 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM #

    I’d like to try some strawberries in syrup, that looks very good. And it is ridiculously illogical how much floating bugs one, isn’t it? It’s all good, though.

    • ohbriggsy July 1, 2010 at 8:00 AM #

      i really didn’t think the floating would bother me. but i growl a little when i see the jars of floaters in my larder!

  7. Daisy Mae June 30, 2010 at 5:35 PM #

    I did a bunch of canned strawberries earlier this summer. I experimented with both a hot pack and a raw pack. I found that the hot pack turns out better. You can get more strawberries per jar, and the syrup is awesome. I was a bit worried at first that the additional heating would make my strawberries softer, but there is really no discernible difference between the hot pack and the raw pack methods. The only difference is that the hot pack just tastes better.

    For hot pack – hull strawberries and throw in pot. Add 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar per lb of berries. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Let sit for a couple hours, up to overnight. When ready to can, heat the berries up again, and pack into jars. I use a slotted spoon to fill the jars with berries, then ladle in the syrup. I usually end up with and additional jar or 2 of syrup – which I just process along with the berries.

    • ohbriggsy July 1, 2010 at 7:59 AM #

      This is great (and clear) advice! Thanks a lot! As I said in my post, I was too confused by gel points to try this, but your advice is great! I’m gonna try this one before the season is over. The additional jars of syrup sound like a real bonus. Thanks again!

      • Daisy Mae July 1, 2010 at 6:42 PM #

        You really only care about gel point if you are making jam. But if you just want berries in a syrup, you actually don’t want the syrup to gel.

        You can also change your sugar ratio based on personal preference. I make a bit on the sweeter side since I primarily make these for my 5 year old.

  8. Rome July 1, 2010 at 1:08 PM #

    I totally agreed that raspberries are the queen of all berries. I like’m raw, I like’em in jam, I’like’em in syrup on icecream with a poached peach. Yeah raspberries.
    Rome

    • ohbriggsy July 1, 2010 at 6:43 PM #

      Agreed! Although I did try making raspberry wine two years ago. And it sucked! But if you can get your hands on a good raspberry wine, it’s heaven. if you’re local, try the raspberry wine from Lopez Island Vineyards. You will not be disappointed.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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