Monday, May 5, 2008

Strawberry preserves

Last week, my friend Sharli told me that a friend of her family (Liz) was going to show her how to make strawberry preserves.  This was great news! I mean, once she learned, she could teach me, right? Well, Sharli said she could do better than that and volunteered to ask if it would be ok if I joined.  It was and I was in!  

I was giddy with excitement all week but the days passed slowly. I knew this meant I would miss the Saturday farmers market, but as I posted yesterday, I had plenty of extra food on hand for the following week and quickly and easily made arrangements for other things we'd need before the next farmers market.

On Friday, I walked the few blocks to the grocery. As instructed, I purchased 1 box of 12 (1 cup) Ball jars, 1 pkg fruit pectin, a bag of sugar, and 2 quarts of strawberries (next time of course, I'll pick the berries myself, but for the sake of my education, California berries will certainly do).  

Finally, Saturday morning arrived.  I strapped the rubbermaid tub to the back of my bike, loaded it up with all my canning supplies, and rode the few blocks over to the Liz's house (how cool is it that she actually lives in my neighborhood?).  Just as I got there, Sharli pulled up with her Mom and son. Waiting for us inside were Liz and Liz's mother, Ruth.  Following Liz and Ruth's direction, we started prepping in the kitchen.  Sharli and I (pictured above) started cutting berries while the other ladies readied the rest of the supplies - pots, a kettle for heating water, the jars.  Through the first batch, Sharli did most of the cooking while I jotted notes. The second time around, we shifted positions so that I had a chance to do things first hand.  The last time (yep, we actually made 3 batches in 2 hours), we just shifted back and forth doing what needed to be done and I have to say we did pretty well!

You know, I  think we were both surprised at how easy this was. And it all happened so fast! Here's what we did:
  1. Wash, core and slice 5 cups of strawberries
  2. Pour berries into a large soup pot and mash with a potato masher
  3. Sprinkle one package of Sure-gel on top and add 1/2 tsp butter to keep from boiling over
  4. Stir constantly on high heat and bring to a rolling boil
  5. Add 7 cups of sugar and continue stirring constantly
  6. When the mixture returns to a boil, allow to boil one full minute
  7. Remove from heat
In the meantime, the person who isn't stirring needs to get the jars ready:
  1. Rinse clean jars in warm water
  2. Put brand new lids in a saucepan and let sit with boiling water to sterilize
  3. Put jars in a cake pan and pour boiling water over top making sure to sterilize the top rim of each (be sure to pour water out of the jars before adding preserves)
Finishing touches:
  1. Scoop preserves out of soup pot and pour into warm jars (canning funnel is a must)
  2. Wipe off the rim with a towel to make sure they are not sticky
  3. Top each jar with one of the sterilized covers and screw on ring to tighten
  4. Turn upside down on the table and allow to cool for 5 minutes; then turn right side up (called the inversion method)
  5. When you hear a pop, that means the jar has been sealed
  6. Check each one to make sure they have sealed by pressing the top of the lid. If it gives, it has not been sealed
All of ours from all three batches sealed perfectly.  It was just amazing how easy it was and completely inspired, I was asking all kinds of questions about canning like doing pears for the winter months, under what circumstances you should use a boiling water bath to seal jars, whether to use a heavy or light syrup when canning fruit, etc. 

These ladies were real canning experts and they were so kind and patient as we learned. When I thanked them for having me over and sharing their Saturday morning, they said they were just thrilled that someone was interested in learning.  Boy, were we. This was great! 

After a round of hugs for all, Sharli and I headed out. I loaded up my preserves and some of my leftover strawberries on the back of my bike. We made plans to meet again to try it on our own. I see lots of goodies in our future. We make a great team!


CindyW said...

Thank you for giving detailed instruction on how to make strawberry preserves. I've always wanted to make some myself, but thought it would be too hard for me (I am not a very proficient home maker :)). Maybe it's not so hard. I will definitely give it a try.

BTW, I used to think making yogurt was hard. But now that I do it every week, it really isn't difficult.

Sharli said...

It is definitely way easier than I ever imagined. Plus, we had a great time!

Heather said...

The key to our success, I think, was that we worked together. There was so much to do all at the same time. And it made it more fun to have someone to share the experience with. Definitely do it with a friend if you can.

Green Bean said...

Yum! Homemade strawberry preserves are THE best. Warning, though: you'll never want storebought again!