10 Ways To Preserve Strawberries
A strawberry seed is very small and there are around 200 on every fruit. So, if you were to grow the seeds from just one strawberry, you could have a beautiful patch that produces mounds of strawberries every season. But what do you do with them once everyone, including the neighbours, has had their fill of fresh, delectable strawberries straight from the plant? Here are 10 ways to make strawberry season last all year round:
The most popular and easiest way to keep strawberries for longer is to freeze them. They won’t be the same as fresh strawberries when they are defrosted due to their high water content, but they can be used for a multitude of desserts, smoothies, sauces and cakes. Before freezing, wash the strawberries gently and remove the stems. You can choose to freeze whole strawberries or cut them in half. Lay a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for at least 2 hours until they are solid. They can then be packed into bags (making sure to squeeze the air out of the bags to avoid freezer burn), labelled and stored in the freezer for up to 8 – 12 months.
2. Make jam
A scone without strawberry jam is a wasted opportunity. This version of jam uses a bit less sugar and consists of only three ingredients – 2 cups of strawberries, 1½ cups of sugar and 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice – the acidity in the lemon juice helps the jam set so there is no use for added pectin. This jam can be frozen or used in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, but if you make scones it definitely won’t last that long. Chop the strawberries and add to a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat and stir occasionally so that it doesn’t burn. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes until thick or until the temperature reaches 100°C on a candy thermometer. Pour into a sterilised jar, seal and refrigerate.
Dried strawberries can be used as the fruity element in granola or muesli, in trail mix or just as a snack as they are. Clean and dry the strawberries before slicing thinly and placing on parchment paper in a single layer. If you have a dehydrator, set it at 57°C for 8 – 10 hours.
In the oven, use the lowest setting under 100°C and bake for 2 hours. Turn the pieces with tongs and bake for another 1 – 2 hours until very dry. You can also use a microwave on the defrost setting or an air fryer to dry out strawberries. Pack into jars and store. Check for a few days after storing to make sure there is no condensation – if there is, dry for a bit longer to prevent mould.
4. Strawberry dust
Once the strawberries have been dehydrated, they can be turned to dust that you can use to decorate desserts, add to icing, sprinkle on yoghurt for breakfast or make into jellies, or add to biscuits and cupcakes. Place the dehydrated strawberries into a blender or grinder and pulse until you have a powder. Spread onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake on the lowest oven setting for a few more hours to get it completely dry and free from any water. It can then be stored in an airtight container until you need it.
5. Strawberry compote
A compote is fruit preserved or cooked in syrup. A compote is not as sweet or thick as jam and can be cooked in just 5 minutes. It is perfect for serving with ice cream, pancakes, cheesecake or even with cheese and crackers. It can also be flavoured with extra goodies like classic balsamic vinegar, orange zest or black pepper. It’s very simple to make: take 500g clean strawberries and leave whole or chop or slice, 2 tablespoons honey, a pinch of salt and any flavouring you prefer. (For a vegan option use maple syrup instead of honey.) Bring these ingredients to a boil and stir occasionally, cooking for 5 minutes. Cool and serve.
6. Strawberry fruit leather
These roll ups are great snacks for kids and adults, and they’re healthy too. Here is how to make your own: blend 1 cup cleaned strawberries, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and 1 – 3 tablespoons sugar, depending on your taste, in a food processor. Add the liquid to a saucepan and heat, cooking for about 10 minutes until the mixture is thick and jammy. Spread this on a sheet of silicon or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at the oven’s lowest setting under 100°C for 3 – 4 hours until it’s just tacky but not sticky. Cool and cut into strips, then roll up.
7. Strawberry syrup
A simple strawberry syrup is good for so many things and can last for several months in the fridge. Take 1kg of washed and hulled strawberries and chop them up into a saucepan. Add 4 cups water and simmer for at least 20 minutes until the strawberries are really soft. Skim off any foam. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean saucepan. Don’t mash the strawberries or the syrup will become cloudy. Put the new saucepan on the heat and bring to the boil. Add 2 cups sugar and stir well until the sugar is dissolved. The time it will take to cook at this stage depends on what consistency you want your syrup – perhaps thicker for a pancake topping and thinner for a drinks flavouring. Check after about 5 minutes and decide from there if it needs to be cooked until thicker. When it’s ready, place in a sterilised jar and let it cool. It will keep in the fridge for up to 2 months.
8. Strawberry liqueur
A little splash of homemade strawberry liqueur is amazing in a sparkling punch, to sweeten sparkling water or a dry sparkling wine. It’s fairly simple to make, so why not give it a try. Roughly chop 1 cup of fresh strawberries and place them in a sterilised jar. Add 1½ cups vodka and a few sprigs of fresh thyme and seal the jar. Place in the fridge (in colder climates it can be left out) to infuse for 2 – 3 days. Strain the mixture through a sieve and strain again though a coffee filter or through a couple layers of cheesecloth so that you have a nice clear liquid. Make a simple syrup by heating 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar and boiling for 5 minutes until all the sugar is properly dissolved. Allow the syrup to cool before adding the strawberry juice and mixing well. Place in a sterilised bottle and leave for a day before using. This will keep in the fridge for 2 – 3 months.
9. Ice cubes
One of the simplest ways to add some freshness and colour to a summer drink is by freezing strawberries in ice cube trays with water. Just wash and clean fresh strawberries, leaving the green stalk caps in place, and pop one in each cavity of an ice cube tray. Fill with water and freeze. Once the cubes are solid, you can break out the cubes and store them in plastic bags. Make an ice serving bowl by freezing water between 1 large bowl and a slightly smaller bowl, adding strawberries and flowers to the water for decoration. Place ice blocks between the two bowls to keep them apart while the water freezes.
10. Ice cream
We’ve saved the best for last: creamy delicious strawberry ice cream, which is so much better that store-bought. This recipe works best in an ice cream churner but you can still try it by placing the mixture in a large container and putting it in the freezer. Take it out every hour to break down the icicles with a fork until it’s nice and creamy and ready to eat. Dice 1½ cups fresh strawberries into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons honey, ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and mix into the strawberries. Allow to sit for 30 minutes so that the strawberries release their juice. Mash this mixture together with a potato masher, or blend it if you prefer less strawberry bits, and add 1½ cups fresh cream and a dash of vanilla essence. Mix well and add to the churner for 15 – 20 minutes, depending on the type of machine. Keep it in the freezer to enjoy.
READ MORE: Make your own strawberry and rhubarb crumble