Introduction: How to Can: Strawberry Preserves

Making and canning homemade strawberry preserves is a simple project that only takes a couple of hours, but the results are very rewarding!

This recipe yields about 7 half-pint jars, but this tends to vary depending on how juicy your strawberries are.

Here is a short glossary of basic canning terms:

Band: A metal, threaded screw band used with a lid to form a two-piece cap.
Boiling-Water Canner: A large pot or kettle big enough to completely immerse filled jars; used to process jars.
Headspace: The unfilled area between the rim of a jar and the top of the contents of that jar.
Lid: A flat, metal vacuum sealing lid used with a band to form a two-piece cap.
Pectin: A substance (naturally found in apples) that aids in the gelling process of jams, jellies, etc. You will need the powder form.
Preserves: A type of soft spread where the fruit retains its shape; the syrup is much thinner than a jam or jelly.
Processing: Sterilizing jars and their contents in a (boiling-water canner, in our case) canner to destroy any bacteria or enzymes that may harm you.

Step 1: Gather Ingredients and Supplies

Gathering all of the necessary ingredients and supplies before you begin will save you time and make the canning process much smoother.

You will need the following ingredients and supplies:

2 quarts strawberries (fresh is always better, but frozen works as well)
6 tablespoons pectin (I use Sure-Jell, but any brand is fine)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
6 1/2 cups sugar

large saucepot (At least 3 quart capacity - but bigger is better. This will hold the ingredients)
small saucepot (This is just to keep the lids in, so size isn't as important)
canner or large stockpot (This is what the filled jars will process in)
wooden spoon
jelly jars (a.k.a. half-pint jars)
lids and bands

It is very helpful to have canning utensils, such as a jar lifter, lid lifter, wide-mouth funnel, and headspace tool. However, if you do not have these, you can use tongs (to lift jars out of the hot water), a fork or a magnet (to lift lids out of the hot water). Just be very careful not to drop your jars!

*all italicized words can be found in the glossary on the introduction page of this instructable

Step 2: Set Up Your Workspace

Before you start canning, it is important to have your workspace set up so all of your supplies will be ready when you need them.

First, your jars and lids (don't worry about the bands) must be hot when they are filled - this is very important!

Keep your lids hot by keeping them on the stove in a small saucepot filled with simmering water. You can keep the lids simmering until you are ready for them - just do not let the water come to a hard boil, as this could damage the seal. I usually keep the pot with my lids on a back burner so they're out of the way.

You can keep your jars hot one of two ways. You can place your empty jars in your canner or stockpot with enough water to cover them by about two inches, and let this water (and the jars) boil until you are ready for them. Or, you can load your dishwasher with the jars (no other dishes at the same time, please!) and let them run through a regular or "sanitize" cycle. Your dishwasher will keep the jars hot until you are ready to use them. If you choose the dishwasher method, you should still fill your canner or stockpot with water (enough to cover jars by 2 inches) and bring the water to a boil (with the lid on) so the water is ready for processing once your jars are filled.

Lay a towel down over your countertop. This is where you will place your jars during filling and after processing.

Step 3: Cook Your Preserves

Combine strawberries, pectin, lemon juice, and water in a large saucepot. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking. Add the sugar, stir until it is fully dissolved, then bring the mixture to a rolling boil.

While you're waiting for it to boil, you can take jars out of the water or dishwasher and place them upside down on the towel. This will let them dry off, but remain hot.

Boil hard for one minute, stirring continuously, then turn off the heat. Keep stirring until the strawberries begin to fall apart - if this doesn't happen, you can mash the strawberries if the pieces are larger than you want.

Step 4: Fill Your Jars

Flip the jars right side up (careful, they should be extremely hot!) and ladle the hot preserves into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace .

Note: If you do not have a headspace tool, 1/4 inch headspace can usually be obtained by filling the jar to the highest thread at the top of the jar, or by using a measuring tape.

After you fill each jar, wipe the rim of the jar to remove any drips (this could prevent it from sealing properly). Remove a lid from the simmering water, quickly dry it off, and place it on top of the jar. Screw on a band (just screw it on hand-tight), then place the jar in your canner or stockpot for processing.

Step 5: Process Your Jars

Once all of your jars are filled, capped, and back in the canner or stockpot, you're ready for processing. You can place as many jars as will fit in your canner or stockpot, as long as they are not touching each other.

Place the lid on your canner or stockpot, and adjust the heat to medium-high. When the water comes to a rolling boil, start your timer. Process the jars for fifteen minutes, maintaining a rolling boil for the entire processing time.

After fifteen minutes, turn off the heat, remove the lid, and let everything sit for five minutes. Then, carefully remove the jars from the canner or stockpot and set them (upright this time) on the towel covering the counter. Make sure to leave an inch or two of space between the jars. Once you've set your jars on the towel, do not move them until after they are cool and you have checked the seals - doing so could prevent the lids from sealing properly.

Note: If the metal bands loosen during processing, it is okay! Do not re-tighten them! Don't mess with the cap at all, just to make sure everything seals properly.

Step 6: Cool Jars and Test Seals

As your jars are cooling, they should start sealing. Each time a lid seals, you will hear a popping sound. You can also tell by looking at the lids whether or not they have sealed.

After at least 12 hours (but before 24 hours) you can can test your seals. Press the center of the lid to make sure it is concave, then remove the band and (gently!) try to lift (not pry) the lid off with your fingertips. If the center doesn't flex up and down, and you can't lift the lid by gently pulling, then your jar has a good vacuum seal.

In the event that some of your jars do not seal properly, you can reprocess them. To do so, remove the band and lid and empty your preserves into a saucepot. Reheat them by bringing them up to a boil, then ladle them into a clean, hot jar as before. Place a new, hot lid on the jar (make sure you wipe the rim off!), hand-tighten the band, and process them again for the full fifteen minutes.

Step 7: Store and Enjoy!

After your jars have completely cooled, label and date them. Most jelly jars come with adhesive labels, or you can make your own.

These jars can be stored at room temperature for years - if they last that long! They only need to be refrigerated after opening.

If you choose to give away some of your bounty, you can decorate your jar by cutting out a small square of the fabric of your choice, removing the band, laying the fabric down, and placing the band back on, or tying a ribbon or twine around the mouth of the jar.

After you've eaten your preserves, the jars and bands can be reused in future canning projects. However, you should never reuse lids - always purchase new lids (they are inexpensive) to ensure a proper seal.

Can It! Challenge

Finalist in the
Can It! Challenge