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This Week’s Harvest: Strawberries

strawberriescmorgan [1]

Strawberry season is in full swing.  Now is the time to stock up on those delicious vivid red berries!

Some strawberry trivia:  Strawberries are not actually a fruit, but a member of the rose family. They are the receptacle of the flower and were first cultivated for eating in ancient Rome. Native Americans called them “heart seed berries” and baked them into cornbread.

Health Benefits

Besides that spectacular taste, why should you eat strawberries?

Growing Strawberries

Strawberries are fun and easy to grow.  Best of all, they’re a perennial, so you don’t have to plant them every year – they just magically start blossoming come spring.  The first year, don’t expect an abundant harvest – but after that, you may just end up with more strawberries than you can eat!  You can learn everything you need to know about growing strawberries HERE [2].

If you don’t live some place where you can grow them as perennials, don’t despair.  Certain varieties flourish in pots and hanging baskets. Some urban farmers overwinter their containers and set them out again in the spring with good results.  Learn more about growing strawberries in containers HERE [3].

The obvious benefits of growing your own strawberries are the great price and the fact that you have control over the farming method – no nasty pesticides for you!

Washing and Storing Fresh Strawberries

Moisture is the enemy when it comes to keeping your strawberries. It is best to store them in the refrigerator (not in the crisper) and wash them just before eating them.  This reduces the rate at which the strawberries will mold.

If you want to store them already washed, line a baking sheet with paper towels.   Gently dry your strawberries and then place them on the baking sheet.  This will absorb moisture and keep them fresh for longer.


I recommend organic strawberries if possible.  Here’s why [4]:

For example, don’t be fooled by those juicy non-organic strawberries displayed in the market. They may look luscious, but they have a dark side. Their red color has been enhanced by a fungicide and they have been infused with methyl bromide, a gas that is injected by tractor into their growing soil. These substances then become part of fruits’ flesh, and can’t be washed off.

This being said, not all conventional strawberries are grown this way.  I often get strawberries from the farmer’s market that are non-organic because I’ve been able to ask the farmer about his or her growing process.  There is a world of difference between a small local farm conventional strawberry and a grocery store shipped-across-the-planet strawberry.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most farmers really enjoy talking about the growing process.  (Find a local farmer’s market HERE [5].)

How to Preserve Strawberries

Now for the really fun part – let’s talk about what you can do when your strawberry bounty is too abundant for you to eat them all before they spoil!  We’ll discuss 3 methods of strawberry preservation.

Dehydration

Dried Berries

Fruit Leather

Freezing

Canning

My favorite method of preserving anything is canning!  Strawberries are sufficiently acidic, so you can use your water bath canner [6] for strawberries.

 Strawberry Jam

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Prep your strawberries by washing them and removing the stems
  2. Smush your berries.  You can do this with a potato masher, food processer, blender or food mill.  Some people like to puree them and have a smoother jam and others like chunkier jam – it’s up to personal preference.
  3. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix ¼ cup of the sugar with one packet of pectin.
  4. In a saucepan, stir the fruit, lemon juice and pectin together well.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  6. Once it is boiling, stir in the sugar and return to a boil for one minute.
  7. Test your jam…(see below!)  If isn’t the proper consistency add the other quarter packet of pectin, simmer for another minute, then retest.
  8.  Ladle the jam carefully into your awaiting sanitized jars [7], wipe the rim and cap your jars with snap lids and rings.
  9. Process in a water bath canner [6] for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude [8].

 

*****

Jam Making Rule of Law: 

Always test your jam!!!!  

How?

You do this by keeping a spoon in the freezer – to test, drip a bit of the hot jam into the spoon to allow it to quick cool – the consistency it reaches is the consistency your finished product will be.  At this point, I nearly always end up adding another 1/4 – 1/2 package of pectin – I use the cheaper pectin to “top it up” – return to a simmer for a couple of minutes and test again.   Omitting this step may result in a very tasty ice cream topping or waffle syrup, but not jam!

Canned Strawberry Filling

These jars full of deliciousness can be used for pie filling, ice cream topping, stirred into yogurt, or for a mid-winter treat of strawberry shortcake. (My October baby likes strawberry shortcake on her birthday!)  This recipe doesn’t even resemble the gelatinous goop you get in cans at the grocery store.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Prep your strawberries by washing them and removing the stems
  2. Slice your berries or cut them into halves or quarters, depending on your preference. I like chunkier pieces of berry.
  3. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix ¼ cup of the sugar with half the packet of pectin.
  4. In a saucepan, stir the fruit, lemon juice, grape juice and pectin together well.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  6. Once it is boiling, stir in the sugar and return to a boil for one minute.
  7. You may get a weird pink foam on top – just skim it off and discard it.
  8. Test the consistency to see if it is what you are looking for.  If isn’t the proper consistency add the other half packet of pectin, simmer for another minute, then retest.  Keep in mind that when it’s time to make your pie/cake/concoction, you can whisk in some cornstarch to thicken it further if needed.
  9.  Ladle the filling into your awaiting sanitized jars [7], wipe the rim and cap your jars with snap lids and rings.
  10. Process in a water bath canner [6] for 30 minutes, adjusting for altitude [8].

opstrawberry jam [9]