Strawberry season came early this year, and I’ve had very little time to go strawberry picking. I’m hoping I can pick up a flat or 2 of strawberries at Linvilla Orchards, a local pick your own farm, this weekend, and freeze the strawberries for later in the summer when I have time to can. I often freeze fruits and vegetables for canning later if I don’t have time to do the canning when I’ve picked them.
Picking strawberries is one of those activities the entire family can do together. When I had babies, we would bring the Jeep stroller which can maneuver in strawberry fields, and keep the baby in the stroller along with a sippy cup and a snack. As my kids grew, they helped pick strawberries, though the toddlers and preschoolers tended to eat more than they picked. At age 6 and 7, I had children much more dedicated to helping me pick lots of strawberries. Of course, my teen is a picking machine!
This Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate canning recipe comes from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. My kids loved it! We’ve also served it at family parties in a punch bowl with a ladle.
My kids usually help with preparing the strawberries by washing them in a water bath in the sink. The older children can slice off the tops of the strawberries, though I always check their work to make sure they don’t slice off too much of the fruit.
Strawberries need to be processed within a day of picking because they deteriorate quickly. While I’m preparing the strawberries, I keep the flats in the basement which is usually about 62 to 65 degrees. If I don’t have time to can the strawberries, I freeze them in gallon and quart freezer bags depending upon what I’ll use them for. The gallon freezer bags are good for one batch of strawberry jam; the quart freezer bags work for smoothies.
6 cups of hulled strawberries
4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups organic sugar
Puree strawberries in blender until smooth. Put in stainless steel saucepan, along with lemon juice and sugar and stir to combine. Heat to 190 F over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Keep an eye on the cooking strawberries to make sure they don’t boil over. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
To can, ladle into pint canning jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe off the rims with a hot wet paper towel or clean rag. Put lid and band on and screw the band until you reached fingertip resistance.
Process in a water bath canner or steam canner for 15 minutes. Allow to cool in the canner for 5 minutes before removing. Cool the jars on the counter for 24 hours before storing. I cover mine with prep towels while they are cooling on the counter.
To make up, mix one part concentrate with one part water, tonic water, or gingerale. Adjust to taste.
I never hull my strawberries. I used a mixture of store brand lemon juice, plus a few lemons from the frig and orange juice cubes from the freezer for the lemon juice.
To make the juice, I mixed two parts water to one part concentrate. We almost always water down anything with sugar in it, or we reduce the sugar to begin with. I personally wouldn’t mix this concentrate with gingerale since I think it would be too sweet. It would be good with tonic water or seltzer water. Next time, I’m going to mix in our home canned grape juice for a bit of tartness, along with some water. The grape juice has no water in it. I also use the grape juice for flavoring my kombucha.
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