May is National Strawberry Month and while it may be just about over, the perfect season to enjoy them is just beginning! The cool sweetness of strawberries pairs perfectly with the heat of summer. Earlier this month we shared the story behind delicious Naturipe® Farms strawberries. But are your strawberries going bad before you’re ready to enjoy them? Preserve strawberries to ensure they’re always ready to enjoy. Here are a few practical and creative ways to do so.
Lengthening shelf life
If you don’t plan on eating all of your strawberries right away when you get home but also don’t want to preserve them long-term, take a few steps to keep them fresher, longer.
Check your new strawberries for mold, and throw away any that are mushy or fuzzy. Mold can spread quickly from berry to berry. Be sure to check any fruit they’ll be stored near, as well.
While strawberries will still break down on their own, using a vinegar wash to kill any hitchhiking microorganisms may help you get a few more days out of them. Mix one part white vinegar and three parts water in a spray bottle, then mist your new strawberries before putting them in the fridge. Excess liquid can cause them to break down even more quickly, though, so dry them off first if you feel they’re too wet.
The go-to option for preserving almost anything is the freezer. You’ll need to do some prep work to make sure your strawberries retain their flavor when they’re thawed.
It’s recommended that you eat fresh strawberries two to three days after purchasing, but frozen strawberries can last from eight months to a year. To prepare them for freezing, first weed out any mushy strawberries. You’re looking for firm, ripe strawberries; freezing won’t save them once they’ve started to go bad. Next, wash your strawberries under running water — but don’t soak them! Soaking can cause the fruit to lose its natural flavor.
Hull the strawberries by cutting below the leaves and stems at an angle to remove part of the white interior along with the cap. Now you’ll need to decide how you want to store them. If you plan to use them sliced or pureed, prepare them as such before freezing to make future preparation a snap. You can also freeze them with sugar or sugar syrup to help preserve the flavor, though this will cause them to become much sweeter.
Whole strawberries should be flash-frozen individually before being stored together. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the freezer until they’re frozen solid. This should only take a couple of hours. Once they’re completely frozen, you can store them together in a freezer-safe container. Squeeze as much air out as you can to help avoid freezer burn!
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Dry out sliced strawberries to produce sweet, crunchy snacks or toppings! Preserve strawberries through dehydration to keep them for months and use them in all kinds of tasty recipes.
First, clean and hull your strawberries. Cut them up into approximately one-eighth to one-quarter inch slices. They should each be about the same thickness to dry evenly.
Arrange them in your dehydrator with at least a half-inch of space between each slice. Dehydrate them for between eight and 14 hours; shorter for pliability, longer for crispiness. Cool them for 20 to 30 minutes. Once they’ve cooled, break one in half. There shouldn’t be any moisture visible.
For the best dehydrated strawberries, condition them after they’ve cooled. This simple process requires a few glass jars. Fill them about two-thirds of the way with the dried slices and cover them. Redistribute the pieces by shaking the jars a couple of times a day for a week. If you see condensation on the sides of the jars, the slices will need to go back in the dehydrator for a few more hours.
Making strawberry sauce
Never eat a boring, plain waffle again! Instead, make this delicious and simple sauce from fresh strawberries. It’s the perfect topping for all kinds of breakfasts and desserts.
Hull the strawberries and slice or chop them. The size of the pieces determines how thin and sauce-like your final product will be. You can even crush the pieces with a spoon or meat tenderizer to get an even finer consistency.
Put the strawberries into a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle them with sugar. The sugar will pull the juices out of the berries and form a sauce in about 15 minutes. The longer the mixture sits, the saucier it gets. This recipe keeps for about three days in the fridge, but you can freeze it to keep longer.
Strawberry fruit leather
Whip up a delicious and unique treat by turning your strawberries into fruit leather!
Prepare the strawberries by washing, hulling, and crushing them to a very fine consistency. Mix them with lemon juice and sugar before pouring the mixture onto a baking sheet. Make sure it’s even spread so your leather strips will be the same thickness.
Bake the mixture on low heat until it’s completely dry and no longer sticky. This takes a while, but when it’s done, the mixture will have a leathery texture (hence the name!). Transfer the leather onto parchment paper, then slice it and roll it up into strips. This sweet candy-like snack will keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator.
Canning strawberry preserves
Using this method to preserve strawberries requires some extra supplies, but the results are long-lasting and delicious! Here’s what you’ll need: a large and a small saucepot, a large stockpot or a canner (a pot specifically used for this process), and canning utensils like jar and lid lifters, a funnel, and a headspace tool or utensils that can fill the same role.
You’ll need several half-pint canning jars to hold your preserves. These are jars that have both a lid and a band, the circular threaded metal piece that secures the lid to the jar. The lids must be kept hot in a small saucepan with a bit of water until you actually attach them to the jars. You’ll also need to get your jars hot and sanitary before you start. You can submerge them in a boiling stockpot or run them through the dishwasher on a “sanitize” cycle.
The preserve itself consists of strawberries, water, lemon juice, pectin (a substance from apples that helps form a gelatinous consistency), and sugar. Boil and stir the mixture until the strawberries break down, then fill each jar a quarter inch of the way from the top. Use caution, as the jars will be very hot.
Place the hot jars in your canner or stockpot with space between the jars. Boil the jars for fifteen minutes, let the jars stand for five minutes, then remove them from the water to let them seal for 24 hours. You may hear popping sounds from time to time during the sealing process. Once the process is complete they can be stored at room temperature for years. Be sure to refrigerate them after opening.
If canning seems too complicated of a process, try making strawberry jam in your refrigerator. This is a soft-setting jam, meaning it’s perfect for both spreading on toast like regular jam or topping off your ice cream!
Wash and hull the strawberries, then crush them in batches in a mixing bowl. Transfer each crushed batch to a saucepan over low heat and add sugar and lemon juice. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves, then increase to high heat and bring it to a boil while stirring. Decrease the heat and keep stirring until the mixture reaches about 220 degrees.
If you want to preserve your strawberry jam, follow the canning process above. Otherwise, simply fill jars with the jam and place them in your refrigerator. Seal the jars after the jam cools. Your strawberry jam will last for about three weeks in the fridge or a year in the freezer.
Fermenting strawberry wine
This one is worth the wait! While you won’t really preserve strawberries themselves, you’ll end up with a delicious beverage to enjoy on hot summer evenings.
Strawberry wine needs to age for one year before it’s ready to drink. If you’re ready for a long-term investment, you’ll need either wild or garden strawberries. The wild yeast found on these strawberries naturally ferments the wine, meaning you won’t need additional wine yeast. The farmers market is the best place to load up on the right kind of strawberries, unless you grow enough of your own.
Set aside a cool, dark place for the fermentation process, like a closet or, ideally, a wine cellar. You’ll need a large earthenware crock for the first stage of blending and fermenting, as well as cheesecloth for straining. The second stage of fermentation requires one-gallon glass wine bottles, where the not-yet-wine needs to age for three months. After that, you’ll pour the mixture into individual bottles to finish the aging process.
More ways to preserve strawberries
There are many ways to enjoy this delicious and versatile fruit. Try out our recipe for Strawberry Daiquiri Ice Pops or share them with your furry friends with our Strawberry Puppy Treats. Check out tons of strawberry recipes on our Strawberry Pinterest Board.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy strawberries? Share with us in the comments below!