According to the North Carolina Strawberry Association, our state ranks third in the US in strawberry production. No wonder we rank third with strawberry fields from the mountains to the coast! Depending on which region you live, the picking season usually begins in April and continues through May, which is also Strawberry Month. Of course, you can celebrate strawberries any day of the year with preserves. I recall many early mornings going out to the field and eating berries right off the bush with my sister. My mom and grandma would pick buckets upon buckets of berries for canning and freezing. Back then canning wasn’t just a hobby, but a way of life and everyone enjoyed the fruits of our labor all year long.
This year I made my own preserves. Of course, you can easily find instructions for preserves on the back of a pectin box, but I prefer the old fashioned method. Ima M. Chappell’s recipe from the 1978 Surry County Extension Homemaker’s Club Favorite Recipes book is perfect, along with instructions my mom kindly shared on how to use the oven instead of a canner. Try it out for yourself, and check out the NC Strawberry Association locator to find a farm with fresh picked strawberries in your area. http://ncstrawberry.com/farm-locator
Ima M. Chappell (Union Cross Club)
It is better to make a few preserves at a time rather than a big kettle full.
Use 3 cups of sugar to 3 cups of berries. Pile the sugar in the center of a heavy saucepan and pour the berries around the edge. Cook over medium heat. When the mixture begins to bubble, begin timing. Cook for 25 minutes. Do not stir. Remove preserves from heat and pour into a bowl. (Skip these steps if you use the oven method) Cover and allow to stand overnight. The berries will be plump and whole. Fill hot sterilized jars. Screw on lids and process at the simmering point for 5 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Place empty jars on oven safe baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. In a separate pot, sterilize the canning lids in boiling water. Remove the jars from the oven and fill with strawberry preserves. Put a sterilized lid and band on each jar. Put back in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and let sit overnight. The lids are sealed when they no longer pop.