There are a many ways to preserve strawberries other than freezer jam. Preserve strawberries by freezing or canning sauce or juice, making old fashioned cooked jam (without pectin), dried berries or fruit leather, and even pickled green or underripe strawberries. Strawberries also make delicious dry or sweet wines and will easily turn inexpensive vodka into delightful summer cocktails. Try some of the following food preservation methods to find new ways to enjoy delicious strawberry flavors when they’re out of season.
How to prepare strawberries: Wash strawberries before hulling or cutting. Leave whole, quarter, or slice just before preparing according to your recipes. One pound of strawberries is equivalent to 2 dry pints, 4 cups whole or 3 cups sliced strawberries, 2 1⁄2 cups purée or 1 1/4 cups juice. How to Hull Strawberries: Wash strawberries before hulling. To hull a strawberry means to remove the hull or calyx (the green leafy portion). To remove the strawberry hull, insert the point of a small paring knife at an angle next to the hull, and then twist the knife in a circular motion while pulling. This technique easily removes the green calyx along with any white core. A special strawberry hulling tool is also available; some cooks use a star-shaped pastry tip to extract the strawberry hull easily.
Frozen strawberry sauce: In a large saucepan, place 1 quart crushed strawberries, 1 cup water, and 1 tablespoon fresh or bottled lemon or orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes, or until berries are soft. Add 1 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste and stir until sugar is dissolved completely. Makes about 1 quart. Refrigerate and use within 1 week, or pour into freezer safe containers and freeze for 8 to 12 months. Stir this sauce into plain yogurt or smoothies, or spoon over ice cream or pound cake.
Canned strawberry sauce: For shelf stable storage, the preceding recipe for strawberry sauce may be preserved by canning. After simmering sauce and adding sugar, reduce heat to prevent sticking, but keep hot while filling jars to ¼-inch headspace. Process pints or quarts of strawberry sauce for 15 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet).
Frozen Strawberry Juice: For 1 quart of juice, prepare 3 ½ pounds crushed strawberries. Place crushed fruit in a saucepan with 1 cup water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes or until fruit is soft. Transfer to a strainer or large colander lined with a double layer of dampened cheesecloth and set over a large bowl. Let drain undisturbed for at least 2 hours or refrigerate overnight. Discard solids or use to make liqueur or jam. Berry juice does not require sweetening, however it helps juice hold its color and flavor. In a large saucepan, for every 1 quart of juice, add 1 tablespoon sugar. Use within 1 week, or pour into freezer safe containers and freeze for 8 to 12 months.
Sediment in homemade berry juice: Berries contain acids that can crystallize or form sediment in juices made from them. The sediment is safe to drink, however you may wish to filter it to obtain a clear juice. To filter, refrigerate drained juice for 24 to 48 hours; clear juice will float above the sediment. Carefully strain juice again through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, leaving behind sediment.
Canned Strawberry Juice: Pasteurize juice before filling jars by the hot-pack method. I In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat freshly made grape juice to 190°F; adjust heat as needed and keep juice at 190°F for five minutes. Do not boil. Keep juice hot while filling jars; adjust headspace to ¼-inch. Process pints or quarts for 15 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet).
Strawberry jam: Old fashioned cooked jam is easy to make in less than 30 minutes without added pectin. Filling a heavy saucepan less than halfway (to prevent boil over), place 2 cups crushed strawberries and 1 ½ cups sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Continue to boil, adjusting heat as needed to prevent boiling over, and stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Cook 5 to 8 minutes, or until thickened to desired consistency. (Cooked jams thicken upon cooling.) Makes about 2 cups (1 pint). Refrigerate and use within 1 month, or process for longer storage. Keep jam hot while filling canning jars to ¼-inch headspace. Process half-pints or pints of strawberry jam for 10 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet).
Pickled Green Strawberries: Prepare whole (or very firm, underripe) green strawberries; with leaves (calyx) or hulled as desired. Prepare a fruit-pickling syrup. Per quart of strawberries, add to a saucepan: 1 cup sugar, 2⁄3 cup vinegar and 1⁄2 cup water. Add spices if desired: 12 allspice berries, 12 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns.. Cover saucepan and simmer syrup for 10 to 15 minutes; strain to remove solids. Pour hot syrup over prepared prepared berries in a sterilized jar and refrigerate. The flavor improves after several days. Use within 1 month.
Canned Pickled Green Strawberries: For longer storage, the preceding recipe for pickled strawberries may be canned. For best results, use the cold pack method. Prepare the strained syrup, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and keep hot while filling jars. Ladle a small amount of hot canning liquid into the hot jar; add prepared raw berries, packing tightly without crushing. Add hot liquid to cover and adjust headspace to 1/2 -inch. Process pints of pickled strawberries for 15 minutes, and quarts for 20 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet).
Dried strawberries: Strawberries may be halved, quartered, or sliced. Preheat the oven or food dehydrator to 130°F to 140°F. Place berries on drying trays. Dry until pliable for snacking, or brittle for longer storage. Cool until no longer warm. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place e for about 2 months. Freeze for longer storage. Use dried strawberries for snacking or in baked goods in place of raisins.
Strawberry-banana fruit leather: Fruit leathers are made from purées that are spread thin and dried until supple and chewy. Combine berries with another fruit for optimal results. Purée 3 bananas with 1 tablespoon fresh or bottled lemon juice to make 1 cup banana purée. Combine with 1 cup strawberry purée. Preheat an oven or food dehydrator to 130°F to 140°F. Line the drying tray with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Spread sauce 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch thick on the liner. Dry until leather is evenly pliable and firm; there should be no soft spots. Peel from liner while still warm and cut or roll into serving pieces. Cool until no longer warm and then wrap pieces individually. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for about 2 months. Freeze for longer storage. The preceding strawberry-rhubarb sauce also makes a delicious fruit leather.
Freezing strawberries: Freeze whole berries dry, or immersed in sweetened or unsweetened liquid. Spread prepared whole strawberries on a tray and place in the freezer 30 minutes, or until solid. Pack into freezer containers. Use within 3 months. For longer storage (8 to 12 months), freeze berries in their own syrup or another liquid. For syrup, toss 1 cup halved, quartered or sliced strawberries with 1 to 4 tablespoons sugar. Let stand until sugar dissolves and syrup forms. Pack berries with the liquid into freezer containers. Pack raw berries into freezer containers and cover with cold water, apple juice, strawberry juice, or pickling syrup as described above for pickled strawberries..
Strawberry wine: Many people enjoy making country wine from any type of fruit juice. Most fruits can be made in either a sweet or dry style. Find a basic recipe for making country wines here. Find Strawberry Wine Recipes here and here.
Strawberry liqueur: If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making wine, then infuse vodka with strawberries. In a clean and sterilized nonreactive container (preferably glass or stoneware), soak 1 pint prepared and halved strawberries in 1½ cups 100 proof Vodka (375 ml bottle or 12 fluid ounces). Cover and place in a cool location for 4 to 30 days. Strain and reserve the infused vodka. (Discard the fruit, or use to make jam). While vodka is infusing, in a medium saucepan, stir together 1½ cups water and ¾ lb. (1½ cups) granulated sugar. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and cool syrup to room temperature. Store syrup in a bottle in the refrigerator until ready to use. Combine strained fruit-infused vodka and simple syrup in a sterilized 2-quart glass bottle or jar. Store in the refrigerator. Keeps indefinitely. Enjoy strawberry vodka cold, served up straight in a shot glass, or use in cocktails. Strawberry Vodka Highball cocktail: Pour 2 ounces strawberry liqueur over ice in a tall glass, top with club soda, and garnish with a sprig of mint.
For more information about food preservation methods and recipes, see the book The Home Preserving Bible by Carole Cancler, available from booksellers everywhere.