May has come and is half-way gone. I cannot believe how fast time is passing. The last time you heard from me I shared some information on Vidalia Sweet Onions. Now I am switching gears to one of my favorite berries to use in cooking and just for a sweet nutritional snack… yes you guessed it I am talking about the strawberry. Strawberries are in season still so the time to get those beautiful red gems from local farms or producers is now. You can always call or check out Georgia Grown’s Website to see some of the local farms or producers in the area.
So I am promoting in season strawberries right now, but what about later in the year and I want to still know I am eating a local strawberry or I am still supporting a local farmer? Well that is a great question that I want to focus on through this article. Storage and preservation of food is key to having a sustainable food supply for households all across the world. With strawberries there are several options to preserve and store. The main ones I want to discuss are freezing and then turning those strawberries into jams, jellies, preserves, conserves, and marmalades. Freezing is a fantastic method of taking fresh strawberries and keeping them throughout the year to use in cooking or smoothies and so on. The first step in freezing is preping the berry. Be selective in what strawberries you choose for this. Only use the fully ripe, firmer berry with a deep red color. The immature or defective fruit you may get in a pack can be eaten then but not used for freezing. Once selected, wash and remove the caps of the berries. From there you have a choice to make. Three main freezing techniques include freezing whole berries in syrup, in sugar, and then finely sliced or crushed. Freezing berries in syrup and sugar are very similar. For the syrup route, take the berries and put them into containers and cover with cold 50% syrup leaving some headspace. I am including the link to a syrup guide you can reference to determine the percent of water to sugar to create the syrup you would like. (https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/syrups.html) I used the term headspace and I will be saying that again in the next two methods as well. If you are like myself, I did not truly understand that term the first time I heard it. So to define headspace, headspace is the distance you measure between the top of the liquid (i.e. jam) in the jar and the jar rim. Now as far as whole berries in sugar, all you have to do there is take ¾ cups of sugar to 1 quart of berries and mix until most of the sugar is dissolved. Then you just let it sit for 15 minutes, put into containers leaving headspace, seal and freeze. The final method of freezing would be slicing or crushing the berry. You start by preparing the same way as you would the whole berry methods, but after washing and removing the caps you slice or crush partially or completely. Add the same ¾ cup sugar to 1 quart of berries. You then stir and let stand for 15 minutes, pack into containers leaving that headspace, seal and freeze. That’s it folks. Freezing strawberries is super easy. There are non-sugar or unsweetened ways to pack as well and if y’all are interested in those please reach out and I can share those with you as well.
Moving from freezing to changing that strawberry into another product is also a way to preserve or store the berries. UGA has a fantastic Bulletin titled “So Easy to Preserve” that defines the different products you can turn fruit into. I figured defining the type of products would be beneficial in deciding which product you would like to make. Jellies are usually made by cooking fruit juice with sugar. (Some are made without cooking using special uncooked jelly recipes.) A good product is clear and firm enough to hold its shape when turned out of the container, but quivers when the container is moved. When cut, it should be tender yet retain the angle of the cut. Jelly should have a flavorful, fresh, fruity taste. Jams are thick; sweet spreads made by cooking crushed or chopped fruits with sugar. Jams tend to hold their shape but are generally less firm than jelly. Preserves are small, whole fruit or uniform size pieces in a clear, slightly gelled syrup. The fruit should be tender and plump. Conserves are jam-like products that may be made with a combination of fruits. They also contain nuts, raisins or coconut. Marmalades are soft fruit jellies containing small pieces of fruit or peel evenly suspended in the transparent jelly. They often contain citrus fruit. After choosing the type of product you would like to make I encourage taking time to research the procedure associated with making that jam or jelly or so on. I will include at the end, fantastic links to UGA publications that discuss the procedures associated with canning and making these food products safely. I hope to be able to bring a canning workshop to the county in the near future. Until then I will always be happy to help guide y’all to information and share some tips and tricks on food preservation.
Strawberries are too good to just enjoy in their prime season. Using these methods and tips, you can enjoy local strawberries year round! I hope y’all find this helpful. I also want to let everyone know I have started a blog website and a newsletter subscription sign-up. If anyone is interested in the newsletter email please reach out and I can get you on the list! It will be a monthly letter on national agriculture news, local agriculture news, and extension events we have going on.
Link to Blog: https://site.extension.uga.edu/libertyanr/
Preserving Food Publication: https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/FDNS-E-43-08_5.PDF
Jams and Jellies: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can7_jam_jelly.html
Joke of the Week: What did one strawberry say to another? If you weren’t so sweet, we wouldn’t be in this JAM!
If you have any questions, suggestions, or want further information, please give me a call at or stop by the Liberty County Extension Office, (912)876-2133, 100 Main St. Suite 1200, Hinesville, GA 31313.