Strawberry Preserves

I don’t know what is loved more spooned on hot buttery biscuits at breakfast in the South: peach, blackberry, or strawberry preserves. Every Southern home cook has his or her special recipe for strawberry preserves, and this is the one I’ve been using for decades, every year beginning with the day in June when I see the first local berries in the field or the market. The berries must certainly be ripe (with no white cores), but make sure they’re also firm enough to withstand the necessary boiling process. Allowing the berries to stand overnight before canning causes them to plump up beautifully. Afterwards, you can either put them up cold and seal them with hot paraffin (tilting the jars slowly back and forth till the paraffin begins to set all over the tops) or reheat them enough so that they seal themselves in hot sterilized jars. For optimum flavor, store at least 4 months before serving.

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Ingredients

  • 1 quart slightly firm fresh strawberries, hulled and washed
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons liquid pectin (Certo)

Method

If the strawberries are large, cut them in half. In a large saucepan, combine the strawberries and 2 cups of the sugar, bring slowly to a boil, and cook rapidly at a boil, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the remaining sugar, return to the boil, and cook for 8 minutes longer, stirring in the lemon juice 2 minutes before removing the pan from the heat. Add the pectin and stir well. Skim off any foam from the surface, cover, and let the strawberries stand overnight, stirring when possible.

Stirring constantly, return the strawberries to a boil and remove immediately from the heat. Ladle into four ½-pint sterilized jars to within ¼ inch of the tops, seal, and store for at least 4 months at room temperature before serving.