Capture the fresh taste of strawberries

Freezing and making preserves from fresh strawberries is a great way to take advantage of the season.

Fresh local strawberries will soon be ripe in Michigan. I can’t wait for the first delicious bite of a sweet, juicy Michigan grown strawberry! Strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, or a bowl of just plain strawberries are all on my list of favorites.

For the freshest possible berries, picking your own either out of your backyard or from a local U-pick operation is the way to go. When you pick, choose berries that are red even at the bottom tip of the berry. Strawberries will not ripen further once they are picked. Avoid picking overripe berries because they will quickly mold. Many U-pick operations will also sell berries that are already picked for a higher cost.

When you get home with your berries, refrigerate them as soon as possible. Michigan State University Extension recommends to always clean your berries with cold running water, but only clean the amount you will use the time to keep them from, molding or spoiling. Do not allow the berries to sit in water or they will become mushy.

Strawberries can be frozen or made into preserves such as strawberry jams and jellies. For freezing, clean the berries, removing the stem, under cold running water, let dry, then place in a freezer safe bag or container. Strawberries can be frozen with or without adding sugar.

Making strawberry jam is easy. Freezer jam is the quickest to make, but keep in mind that it must be kept frozen or refrigerated after it is prepared according to your freezer jam recipe.

For a shelf stable product that does not require refrigeration until opened, use a recipe designed for cooked strawberry jam. Always follow your recipe exactly and process the prepared jars of jam in a water bath canner. Using paraffin wax for sealing, is not recommended and can result in mold forming on your jam.

Strawberry jam can be made with or without added pectin. The no pectin method involves cooking the berries for a much longer period of time (approximately 40 minutes) than with added pectin. The choice is based on your personal preference. If using pectin, always follow the package directions.

For more information on using and preserving fresh fruits and vegetables, the Michigan Fresh website has resources for a wide variety of Michigan grown fruits and vegetables.

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