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You're canning strawberries??? That's what a surprised friend of mine said when I explained what I was doing with my surplus strawberries this spring.
Strawberries produce and ripen quickly (over a period of just a couple of weeks), and you have to pick them every other day to be sure that you are getting all of them.
As much as I love to eat fresh strawberries, you can only eat so many on any given day. So - what do you do with the rest...Make jelly or jam, make wine, freeze them, sell them or give them away. We have done all of that, but this year we decided to try something different. We canned them, and the result was very satisfying.
Strawberries are canned using the boiling water bath method. The result could NEVER be confused with fresh berries, but they're still awfully good in their own right. There's no way that I know of to preserve strawberries so they're like fresh berries.
Canned strawberries turn soft, and are in a strawberry flavored syrup. They're suitable for cooking or for putting on shortcake. They're fantastic just eaten out of the jar in the dead of winter. and mixed into or poured over ice cream (especially home made) is a taste treat.
If you have your own strawberry patch that really produces, here's one option that you can try to preserve your crop for longer term use.
Start by picking fresh berries. If your berries sit longer than overnight, their flavor will begin to deteriorate noticeably.
Cleaning any loose soil, leaves, insects and any other debris from your fresh strawberries. Remove the tops, and halve or quarter the largest berries. Place the berries in a large saucepan or stewpot.
Strawberries left alone for a couple of hours with sugar added to them will create their own syrup. That strawberry syrup is a taste treat in it's own right, although probably not the healthiest of treats! When we can our strawberries, there seems to always be about a pint of syrup left over, so we can the syrup too. It can be added to a batch of homemade ice cream before it goes into the ice cream maker. As a friend of mine used to say..."it'll make your tongue slap your brains out" it so good!
Add 1 cup of white sugar to every 2 quarts of strawberries, and set them aside for anywhere between 2 hours and overnight. If you plan to leave them overnight, I recommend refrigeration.
When we can our strawberries, there seems to always be about a pint of syrup left over, so we can the syrup too. It can be added to a batch of homemade ice cream before it goes into the ice cream maker.
After the syrup has formed, place the saucepan or stewpot on the stove on medium to high heat, and get the mixture hot. Don't cook or simmer them or the berries will turn completely to mush.
At the same time, start your water bath canner boiling so it will be ready when you get the canning jars filled and ready. Fill canning jars with berries within 1/2 inch of the top. Add just enough syrup to cover the berries. Place any remaining syrup in it's own canning jar and fill to the same level.
ALWAYS - wipe clean the tops of canning jars before applying the lids and rings. Use a damp cloth or paper towel. Contamination trapped between the canning jar and the rubber gasket of the dome lid is the leading cause of jars not sealing.
Apply lids and rings to hand tightness.
Place jars in your boiling water bath canner, being careful that the jars aren't touching each other. Process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes.
Remove the jars and let stand on the counter until all of them have sealed. If a jar doesn't seal, you have one you can sample berries from (boo-hoo!!)
Home canned strawberries could never confused with fresh berries, but they're still awfully good eating. They make strawberry topping for shortcake or angels food cake, They're excellent over pancakes or mixed into oatmeal or other hot cereals.
Why let your strawberry crop go to waste when you can preserve them for later use, and enjoyment? If your strawberry patch over produces next season, give canning strawberries a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.