Strawberry season

Prices are coming down on strawberries so I’m buying up what I can so that I have stock to turn into jam.  I might have gotten too much.  This is me preparing part of 25 lbs of strawberries.  I washed, hulled, sliced, and froze all of them yesterday.  It works out to five 1-gallon ziptop plastic bags.Preparing StrawberriesOrdinarily I wouldn’t recommend freezing strawberries as they turn to mush when defrosted but since these will become jam the mush actually works in my favor.  When I’m making jam from still-fresh strawberries I will sprinkle them with some of the sugar and allow the sugar to macerate them; it makes mashing them so much easier.  This is what the twenty-five pounds of berries looks like.  It doesn’t seem like so much in the photo.

25 lbs of strawberriesI also took stock (ha ha ha) of my inventory of preserves.  The top shelf is strawberry jam and applesauce, next down are pureed tomatoes and apple cider jelly.  The last shelf has salsa, roasted and pickled bell peppers, and chicken stock.  Based on what I know of how we use them, I know I will also need to make pureed tomatoes, salsa and chicken stock.

PreservesMaking jam or preserving vegetables is fairly straightforward but it is important to follow a reliable recipe.  I’ve seen some fairly unsafe canning suggestions out there.  In a home kitchen you just cannot safely can pureed pumpkin, or flavored oils.  You also need a pressure canner to preserve products containing meat, like the chicken stock.

The rules for chicken stock are different from the jam.  not only does it have to be done in a pressure canner but you need more headspace at the top of the jar.  You can see that space in the photo above.  The white stuff in between the stock and the lid is probably a combination of chicken fat and “scum”.  The scum is what rises to the top of the pot as the chicken is cooked into stock, and clearly I was too lazy to properly skim off the scum and later to lazy to properly remove all of the chicken fat.  Too much fat can compromise the seal on the jar so even though I check the seals when I move the jars to the basement for storage, I check them again when I pull the jars out.

If you ever have a jar that hasn’t sealed properly you will almost certainly have to throw out the contents.  The only exception is if the seal fails in the original canning and you catch it right away.




About lgiletti

What's to say? I cook, I garden, I repair things. I get into trouble sometimes but I get myself out again.
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5 Responses to Strawberry season

  1. vi says:

    The entire time I have been here, I have not once seen any evidence that anyone does any pressure canning. I have never seen any canning supplies in the stores nor any home-canned goods at anyone’s house. When I was growing up, we canned and most of my relatives canned, so it seems odd to me that no one does it here. I suppose not so many people do it over there anymore either, but at least the concept is still hanging on. Good on you!

    • lgiletti says:

      Pressure canning is unusual in America too. It’s the only advised way to preserve low-acid foods and for anything with meat in it, plus a few other items, and I don’t think that’s what most people are canning. I think most people are canning jams and jellies, pickles, or vegetables in liquid, all of which are fine in a hot water bath. I also think people are frightened of the pressure cooker–remember the scene toward the end of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”? Yeah, if that were to actually happen they wouldn’t be laughing at the mishap, they’d be shrieking in agony, covered with very serious burns. Modern slow cookers are much safer–mine has a safety that will not allow you to open the cooker until the pressure is down.

      From what you say I’m guessing you used a pressure cooker when you were growing up.

  2. vi says:

    Ours was like this:
    but not that shiny. I would call it a pressure canner. We also had a pressure cooker, the kind with the relief valve in the center of the lid covered with a weighted rocker. The two were never used interchangeably. The former was strictly for canning and the latter strictly for cooking. I cannot recall any relief valve on the canner, just the pressure gauge so that you could turn off the heat when the pressure got too high. If it really had no relief valve, it must have been very dangerous. One ill-timed phone call or other distraction, and you could destroy your kitchen and anyone in it. (The one pictured in the link above has a release, and ours may have had one I am not remembering, but it was probably a good eighty years old, so it may indeed not have had that handy safety feature. If I can remember, I will ask my mother when I speak with her again.)

    • lgiletti says:

      Wow, cool. And scary if it didn’t have a relief valve. Mine is the kind with the rocker and is a just-for-canning pressure canner. It’s made of aluminum (aluminium) and so it’s pretty soft. Any vigorous scrubbing would surely leave a mark.

      • vi says:

        I spoke to my mother last night, and she said of course the pot had a relief valve, but then she went on to describe the valve as being manual, so apparently it was not so much a safety feature as something to allow you to open the pot a little earlier, rather than waiting for it to cool thoroughly. She also related a story of sitting down to watch a pot cooking one evening and falling asleep for a time. When she woke up, the pressure gauge was up as high as it would go, which scared her badly. She shut off the fire and went to bed, not wanting to deal with it. HOWEVER, as we were talking, I began to think her memory might be just as faulty as mine (but then I was just a child looking on when the canning was in progress, and she was the one actively canning, so I thought she would remember the pot better). Anyway, she said now she is going to have to go and check the canner to see just what it did have. She did remind me that at some point we had another kind of canner, which had a metal band that held the lid onto the pot, so that instead of the six screws on the one I was remembering, there was just one screw to tighten the band. Apparently that canner went to my aunt, which is why we later had the one I remember more clearly, which apparently came down from my father’s mother. That was news to me.

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