I'm a little obsessed with local berries. Nothing says summer like local fruit and last week was the first week that local strawberries were available in quantity. When my friends over at Horseshoe Ranch posted to Instagram that they had a few extra flats to sell before the weekend I quick snatched one up! I knew exactly what I was going to make with them, my favorite strawberry preservation recipe of all time, strawberries preserved in syrup. The truth about this recipe is that it takes time. The berries need to be heated once, cooled, then stored overnight in the refrigerator, heated again, then canned, and that overnight rest in the refrigerator can't be skipped it's essential to the finished texture of the berries. But I promise you it's worth the effort. You end up with a finished product that is the essence of strawberries, and is extremely versatile, more so than a jar of jam. I spoon this onto ice cream, between layers of cake, swirled into yogurt, and syrup makes amazing strawberry sodas and cocktails. So if you've got a quart or two of berries and a little bit of time you can have a little taste of summer all season long.
The initial inspiration for this recipe came from Marisa McCellan's book Preserving By The Pint. Over the seasons I've been adapting it more to my tastes by dialing the sugar waaaay back, and omitting the vanilla bean, but her original recipe is worth visiting. I also will sometimes add a few pieces of peeled fresh ginger to give it some kick.
Whole Strawberries Preserved In Syrup
2 quarts local strawberries
4 cups sugar
3 lemons juiced and zest from one lemon
Wash and de-stem berries, this recipe works best with smaller berries, less work because you don't have to cut them in half, but if you large berries halve them. Combine berries and sugar in a medium sized non-reactive mixing bowl, stirring gently, you do not want to break up the fruit(!), allow mixture to sit for 2-3 hours. After the strawberries have rested pour everything into a pan, I use a my largest saute pan, add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and slowly bring it all up to a boil. Allow to cook for 10-12 minutes, by that point to syrup will have thickened and the strawberries will begin to look translucent. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool, after it has fully cooled you can put it covered in the refrigerator. I recommend refrigerating for at least 12 hours but 24 is better. Heat strawberry mixture back up to a boil. Evenly distribute strawberries into 6 half pint canning jars, cover berries with syrup, leaving a 1/2 inch of headspace, top with a lid and ring and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
*makes 6 1/2 pints