Preserve strawberries and retain that summer flavor
By now you know I love a good bulk food buy. It is my favorite, frugal way to continually work on my food storage plan. It’s strawberry season in Oregon, and while I might me biased, I think Oregon strawberries are the best in the world. No matter where you live, there is nothing better than getting fresh, locally grown food, for your family.
Explore these 5 ways to preserve 10 pounds of strawberries.
1. Strawberry Flavored Vinegar – Use this wonderful, sweet berry to create your own salad dressing or marinade. Experiment by combining your strawberries with mint, lemon peel or cinnamon. Small batches are best while experimenting. Apple Cider Vinegar blends best with fruits.
See the download below.
- // Thoroughly wash your fruit.
- // Leave the strawberries whole or crush them to shorten the flavoring process.
- // Allow one to two cups of fruit per pint of vinegar.
- // Place the prepared fruit in sterilized jars.
- // Heat the vinegar to just below boiling (or at least 190 degrees).
- // Pour over the strawberries, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
- // Wipe rims with a damp cloth, attach lids and let sit to cool, undisturbed.
Store in a cool, dark place for at least 10 days, and even up to 4 weeks for intense flavor. Download the Georgia Co-op Extension pamphlet “ Preserving Food: Flavored Vinegars” for detailed instructions.
2. Freeze your strawberries with sugar to make jam later in the year. This works well if you live in a hot climate and want to wait for a cooler day to get your water bath canning done.
- // Wash and clean your berries.
- // Strain to get rid of as much water as you can.
- // Put them in a large bowl and mash the berries.
- // Measure out the number of cups of berries you will need to make a batch of jam (look at the pectin box).
- // Place the berries in a freezer bag. You can use a plastic freezer or food saver bag.
- // Measure out the number of cups of sugar your will need for your batch of jam.
- // Place the sugar in the bag with the berries.
- // Make a note on the bag – the number of cups berries and amount of sugar, plus the date frozen.
- // Lay the bag flat to freeze, it takes up less space.
Next time you want to make a batch of berry jam (or shortcake for that matter), just thaw your frozen berries and proceed with the recipe.
3. Make Honey-Strawberry Jam – recipe from Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America’s Classic Preserving Guide by Carol Hupping. This jam is not as stiff as those made with sugar. Its loose texture is a delightful change.
- // 4 cups stemmed and thoroughly crushed strawberries (about 2 quarts whole berries).
- // 2 Tablespoons lemon juice.
- // 1 package powdered fruit pectin.
- // 1 – 3/4 cups honey.
Combine the berries and lemon juice in a 6 to 8 qt. stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Mix pectin and fruit.
Place over high heat and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Immediately add honey and stir until mixture comes to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Start timing for 10 minutes, and continue to stir slowly. Jam will foam at first, then subside, and when ready, will feel thick and sticky when stirred. The color becomes a deep garnet red.
Ladle into hot, half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace and seal. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Yield 4 half-pint jars
4. Freeze strawberries whole or sliced for smoothies – Strawberries will lose their texture and become mushy once thawed. This makes them perfect for smoothies, now you have flavorful ice cubes.
- Wash your strawberries and let them drain.
- Cut off the tops.
- Leave very small strawberries whole; cut larger berries into halves or quarters.
- Spread these strawberries in a single layer on a baking sheet or even on plates. You can also try my freeze fruit for smoothies trick. I like to freeze strawberries in plastic tubs instead of on trays. I’ve used plastic wrap between the layers, but the best result is with dehydrator sheets cut to size.
- Freeze the fruit, uncovered, for 2 hours, so they will remain separate once they are frozen.
- Once frozen, transfer them to freezer bags or containers.
- Label and date the bags or containers.
Strawberries will store beautifully in the freezer for up to 12 months. They are still safe to eat after that, but their quality will start changing the older they get. See the post titled Fruity Success – The Do’s & Dont’s of Feezing Fruit for more information about freezing strawberries and other kinds of fruit.
5. Dehydrate your strawberries. An electric dehydrator can maintain low, even temperatures, which are perfect for making this special treat.
- Wash and sort the fruit, remove the caps. Berries with a full red color and firm texture work best.
- Slice 1/4 inch thick, half bigger ones or leave smaller berries whole.
- Arrange the strawberries on the drying trays, cut side up, in a single layer.
- The pieces should not touch.
- Dehydrate at 135 to 140 degrees.
- It may be necessary to rotate the trays during the drying process.
Testing for dryness: Remove a few pieces from the dehydrator and allow them to cool. Cut the pieces in half, there should be no visible moisture and you should not be able to squeeze any moisture from them. They may be pliable, but should not be sticky or tacky. If you fold a piece in half, it should not stick to itself.
NOTE from the trenches: Consider lightly spraying the dehydrator trays with cooking spray and do not cut the slices too thin. My first attempt at this made yummy strawberry slices that stuck to the trays. I ended up scraping them off and now have dried strawberry pieces. Still good tasting, but extra labor intensive. Next time I will certainly spray and just cut the berries in half.
Download this UC Davis pamphlet “Strawberries, Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy” for more information about conditioning the berries before storage and the best packaging and storage options for dehydrated berries.
It is worth the effort to preserve strawberries and these five methods will allow you to enjoy your local berries well after the season ends. What other ways do you suggest preserving strawberries?