I don’t really know why, but these strawberry preserves connect me with my inner anglophile. Perhaps because it is not a jam recipe which makes it seem much more sophisticated than it really is. Simply saying ‘jam’ with my Canadian accent has a harsh, twangy ‘a’ sound. Whereas saying, ‘preserves’ seems like they belong on a posh table that is being set for a cream tea. This is probably me just grasping at a dream that I could someday live in England. I have a deep longing to live there but I haven’t even visited there. Sad, I know. I lived in Northern Ireland for eight months in university but the closest I got to seeing England was Gatwick Airport for my flight home for Christmas.
I know that living there isn’t really in the cards for us the next number of years, if ever, so I will console myself with British mysteries on TV, and episodes of House Hunters International where I can be amused at the sticker shock North Americans always show when they look at UK properties.
My British fantasy leads me to continue to study British history long after dust has gathered on my Master’s degree. I even have my first podcast written, introducing what I intend to cover in my soon to be recorded inaugural historical podcast. If anyone really geeks out about Regency England, then I am your girl. Watch this space if you want to know everything about the era of Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Beau Brummel, and the Napoleonic Wars.
I made strawberry preserves last year and I looked around quite a bit online and in my preserving books. It seems to settle on a ratio of half the sugar by weight to berries. I made a couple batches of preserves with this ratio but the flavour of the strawberries was really obscured by the sugar. I reduced the sugar slightly in my last couple of batches.
Here are a few of online resources I referred to when I made my preserves. The funny thing is that I actually watched one single episode of Delia Smith’s cooking show when I lived in Northern Ireland and she actually made strawberry preserves in that episode.
I still have some jars from last year and the flavour and texture of the strawberries are holding up beautifully. I find that some batches I made this year and last year turned more jammy as the berries broke down more than others if I let it boil too far. I prefer to leave the berries in a thick syrup. It makes the preserve quite runny if your intent is to put them on scones but I don’t mind that. It certainly makes for a less elegant service if you happen to host formal afternoon teas in your home. If you are like me though, you sit down to a plate of 2 or 3 scones and lick dripping strawberry preserve syrup and clotted cream from your fingers in a messy kitchen on a Sunday afternoon.
- 3 lbs fresh local strawberries, washed and hulled
- 1½ lbs granulated sugar (can reduce to 1 lb)
- 1 vanilla bean
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- In a large bowl, gently mix the sugar with the strawberries using a large, flat spoon. Try not to crush the berries.
- Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the bean and the seeds to the bowl of strawberries and sugar. Gently stir it into the mixture. Don't worry about spreading the clump of vanilla seeds in now since you would just end up squishing the berries in the process.
- Let the bowl of berries sit on the counter at room temperature for 2 hours so that the juice starts to come out of the berries.
- Give it another stir and put the bowl in the fridge for 24 hours.
- On Day 2: Get your canning pot filled with hot water with a rack on the bottom and a splash of white vinegar to help prevent hard water marks on the jars. Wash five 250 ml (1/2 pint) jars. Bring the canning pot to the boil and sterilize the jars for 10 minutes and leave them in the water to stay hot. You can add the empty jars to the canning pot about 10 minutes before the preserves are ready to go in them. You also need to wash the rings and lids. Place the lids in a small pot with hot water and bring it to the boil. Turn the heat off and let the lids sit in the hot water until you are ready to use them.
- Pour the strawberries into a large wide-bottomed pot. Be sure to scrape in any undissolved sugar from the bowl into the pot.
- Bring the strawberries and sugar to a rolling boil over high heat. If the berries are straight from the fridge, this will take approximately 10 minutes depending on your stove and the pot you are using.
- Add the lemon juice and boil the preserves for another 20 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. After it has boiled for 10 minutes, start skimming the foam off.
- Twenty to twenty-five minutes of hard boiling will give you preserves that still have a nice amount of syrup that is slightly thicker than maple syrup and the strawberries are holding their shape. If you want it thicker then you can keep boiling it for another 2-5 minutes but the strawberries may start to break down a bit. It will thicken slightly in the jars but it will not set like jam. These times are dependent on how hot your stove runs.
- Remove the jars from the canning pot and set them on a tea towel or paper towel on a board. Fish out the vanilla bean pod with a spoon or form and ladle the preserves into the jars leaving a ¼" headspace. Wipe the rim of the jars clean and place the lids and rings to the jars.
- Process the jars in a water bath canner for and boil for 10 minutes. Begin timing after the pot returns to a full boil.
- After processing, set let the jars rest on the counter for 24 hour. Check to make sure that all the jars have sealed. If there are any that haven't, place it in the fridge and enjoy within 1-2 weeks.
- Yield: between 4 and 5 half pint jars. This depends on how juicy the berries are and how long you let it boil. If you use the full amount of sugar you will most likely get 5 jars.