Strawberry Preserves

It’s strawberry season in Israel. Here, in the dead of winter, these plump jewels of sweetness are piled high in the stores and in the markets. Vendors are screaming “Toot! Toot! Toot!” (“Strawberry”) at the top of their lungs. You can’t resist buying a few kilo. The next part happens to all of us. We buy those gorgeous strawberries, and somehow, by the time we get home, half of them are smushed, and in a couple of days, you’re already picking through to save what’s left from fuzz, mold and rot.

I hate waste in the kitchen if for no other reason than the sheer wastefulness of it. We learn that baal tashchit, useless destruction, is forbidden by Torah law. But just because something isn’t useful in its current form doesn’t mean it has to be thrown away. Preserving today doesn’t mean you need the whole canning rig; you do have a refrigerator and freezer, after all, don’t you?

Sugar is a preservative. It actually inhibits mold growth. Which is why you don’t see many moldy lollipops. Back in the day, preserves were meant to do just that: preserve. Between the sugar and the heat-seal canning, food had a pretty good chance of lasting the winter. The convenience of store-bought is simply the lessons of preserves on a commercial scale, except that quality has given way to the bottom line.

Someone might argue that you should use “only the freshest ingredients available.” I’m telling you to use the freshest ingredients that simply didn’t last the ride home. Not much of a difference there. Please, please don’t preserve the really icky ones. Also, and I should be clear on this, I’m not teaching you how to can strawberries for long-term shelf storage.

The process for this rather simple. First, wash and pick over the strawberries. The only other ingredients are sugar and water, salt, and some lemon juice to keep the sugar from crystallizing.

Throw strawberries (700g), water(100g) and sugar(100g) into a pot. If you have a half a lemon, squeeze it in. Pinch of salt. Stir occasionally. This is not a normal amount of sugar for preservatives; usually it’s 35% by weight. But, this is all that was needed for these particular berries, and I knew what I was going to be using it for later.

Boil it until it reaches 220°F (105°C). Organic contaminants like bacteria and viruses dies at 140°F (58°C).

Now the question is how long to boil it for after it reaches the minimum temperature. If you’re happy with what you’ve got, you’ll wind up with strawberries that you’d normally find in the freezer section. Which isn’t a bad thing. You’ll have frozen strawberries that will be delicious on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream, or stirred into yogurt, or as a pie filling.

If you boil it  for longer, until 230°F (110°C). and blend it smooth, you’ll have a coulis that you can use as a sauce for desserts. Drizzle it over a peach melba, or pie a la mode, or use it to make strawberry mousse, sorbet, sherbet, granita, gelato or ice cream.

Boil it until it thickens 220°F (115°C), and you can use it as preserves to spread on bread. You can then thin it out and use it as a dessert sauce. Or you can use it to fill a strawberry shortcake.

Good enough to eat... right off the screen!

Preserving foods is a method of storing foods so you can have them when there aren’t any to be had. It’s not the same as fresh, but it certainly has its place in the kitchen.



7 thoughts on “Strawberry Preserves”

  1. Well, I don't have a thermometer, and I don't have a scale, but I took one of my frozen strawberry bags and added the ingredients and cooked it a while….and it is the most delicious thing I've ever tasted! Thanks Marc.

    1. YUM!!! Hey do you have any extra organic eggs I can buy bur from you, the vegan who doesn'r eat eggs but occasionally succumbs to organic is coimg to dinner and I need 3 or not. Made Tabouli for her as well.

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