Summer Fruit Preserves

Freshly picked Jewel strawberries from Hand Melon Farm, Greenwich, New York.
Freshly picked Jewel strawberries from Hand Melon Farm, Greenwich, New York.

Five and a half pounds of handpicked fresh strawberries is a hefty amount for one person to eat, even a devoted strawberry eater such as myself. This is the danger of the ‘Pick Your Own’ farm. A trap for those unable to resist the allure of the local, organically grown, perfectly ripe, fragrant, and cheaper fruit. Until, drat, How am I going to ever eat all of that? Fortunately, my fruit hoarding tendencies meet up perfectly with my jar hoarding tendencies and my love for food preserving.

I’ve never felt the need to use pectin in making preserves, choosing instead to cook the fruit at a low temperature for a longer period of time, slowly reducing, and thickening, any liquids released during the cooking process and concentrating the sugars in the fruit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using pectin, and I will readily admit, this pectin refusal is nothing but snobbery on my part. Another point of snobbery in my methods of making preserves is my refusal to make a plain strawberry jam, finding the results always too flat, too sweet, or tainted with the echo of ‘With a name like S******’s, it has to be good.’

The cleaned fruit.
The cleaned fruit.

Any way I look at it, I am a jam making snob.

Summer Fruit Preserves

Yields: Eight 8 ounce jelly jars

  • 3 lbs. strawberries, cored and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 lbs. blueberries, stems removed
  • 1 lbs. cherries, pitted and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 limes, zest and juice
  • 1 tsp. dry thyme

Perhaps food prep gloves are a good idea?
Perhaps food prep gloves are a good idea?

Place the blueberries in a heavy bottomed stainless steel pot 5 quarts or larger, and with a potato masher, or the back of a wood spoon, gently mash to break them up. Add the cut strawberries and cherries, and gently mash again. Add the remaining ingredients, combine well, cover, and allow to macerate at room temperature until the sugar has completely dissolved, approximately 2 hours. Macerating the fruit is not necessary, but it does allow the fruit to soften beautifully, and will bring out flavor from even the plainest of berries.

Macerated fruit.
Macerated fruit.

Place the pot over medium-low heat and bring the contents to a simmer. Adjust temperature as necessary to maintain a low simmer. Skim the surface of the liquid as necessary to remove any foam which may arise. Cook, at a low simmer until the released liquid has thickened enough to stick without dripping to the back of a clean spoon. Be sure to stir frequently when cooking the fruit to prevent sticking and burning.

Pancakes, the perfect jam delivery vehicle.
Pancakes, the perfect jam delivery vehicle.

Pack into eight sterilized 8 ounce jelly jars, being sure to remove any air bubbles before sealing. Process in a hot water bath for approximately 10 to 12 minutes.

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