Friday, July 8, 2011

The Whole Strawberry: Strawberry Puree

can all

this poster is part of a fabulous art exhibit on the war art used to encourage women to preserve foods for Allied Victory

check out the collection by clicking on the photo above

Hello ladies!  I’ve been trying my hand at food preservation, the strawberry has been one of my main test subjects thus far in my persuit to learn to freeze, dry, and can. In doing so I have discovered that you can get multiple ‘products’ out of a few batches of strawberries, and I wanted to share a few of them with you.  I’ll start with Strawberry Puree.

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Traditional Jam is delicious, but its SO high in added sugar I just can’t believe it.  7 cups of sugar to 4 1/2 cups of strawberries.  Crazy!  I was interested in learning how to make sugar-free jam, and planned to pursue it, but I was also curious if I could just find a way to can strawberry puree.  Just plain old strawberries, pureed, on the shelf for use in the winter months.  This would save me space in my freezer and give me access to just the plain fruit without the added sugar, something I could use for multiple purposes when the need arose.

Many of the canning sources I looked at didnt give you instructions on how to can fruit puree, but I did find one good source, and you can find it here if you are interested in step by step instructions.  I really cannot emphasis enough that it is important to take the time to read up on safe canning procedures because the LAST thing you want to do is get something harmful growing in your canned goods that you then pass on to your family.  So read up before canning.

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I rinsed, hulled, and halved 12 cups of strawberries, using the ones from the flat I purchased that were a bit softer and imperfect for the puree and leaving aside the more firm, just ripe berries to enjoy raw.  I put the halved strawberries with 3 cups of water in my extra large stock pot (1 cup of water per every quart, or 4 cups, of fruit), and brought the berries to a boil on high heat.

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As soon as the berries started to boil, I removed them from the heat.  Likely with other, more firm fruits you would need to cook them longer, but in this case this was just what was needed.  I then pressed the berries through a sieve, saving the rich juice I extracted from the berries.  When all the pulp was gathered, I returned it to the pot, brought it just to a boil, and then canned it in sterilized cans and lids.  I processed the cans for 15 minutes per the instructions for fruit purees, and voila:

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Now, my first thought when I was done with this was: wow, 12 cups of strawberries and all I got was three cups of puree!  Not exactly the most efficient use of the berry, I thought at first glance.  But then, as I looked at the pot and the bowl of the fruit juice strained out of the puree, I realized that I had two fabulous bi-products from the puree that I could use. 

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First, a light went off that I had been wanting to make some sugar-free strawberry jam, which requires you to either use a honey-syrup or a fruit juice.  I assumed Id have to use a canned juice like white grape to sweeten it, and I thought that both the honey and the white grape could add a flavour to the jam that would overpower the strawberries.  But as I looked at the bowl of rich, pulpy, delicious-tasting strawberry juice that I extracted from the berries through the sieve, I realized how easy it would be to use this by-product of the puree to make the jam!  I measured what I had and I had exactly two cups, which would be enough for two whole batches of sugar free jam.  I was excited and thankful I had stumbled upon this “whole buffalo” idea almost on accident.

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Second, I looked at the pot i had been cooking the berries in, and realized here was about four-six cups of less concentrated but still very flavourful strawberry ‘juice’.  What could I do with this?  I tasted it and decided it would probably not be rich enough to use for jams or jellies, and while we could drink it or add it to iced tea as I had done with some of the extra juice I had from canning cherries, I got a different idea all together.  Homemade jello!

jello ad for photo credit, click on photo

My husband really likes jello, which I sometimes find strange as its never been a dessert that I gravitate towards, especially as the stuff from the box basically consists of sugar and artificial flavours and colors.  Ugh.  But what if I made jello from this all-natural juice, with maybe some honey for additional sweetening and some gelatine?  I tried a batch and it was a hit with the fam.  I’ll post this recipe soon. 

I am so glad I decided to make this puree, because not only do I have three jars of pure fruit puree I can use in the winter, but I discovered that by doing one batch of puree, I can then have the juice I need to make two batches of sugar free jam (which I have since made), and about three batches of homemade, naturally sweetened jello.  Now thats what I call using all the buffalo! :)


Mary said...

That's great!!

Our Family said...

Dang girl. You've been a busy bee! I love strawberries and what you did with your lot!
I'm not sure I could ever do that but I certainly admire your dedication :)
Enjoy the fruits of your labor ;P

The Armchair Housewife said...

Thanks, Ladies. Courtney, if I worked 12 hour days I wouldnt even be going grocery shopping for the strawberries, let alone making jam! This is part of my "job", as a home maker, is to try to make our dollrs stretch, etc. You already have a job! :) Thanks for the comments, ladies!

Laura said...

Can I say that you are amazing?
You ARE amazing!!! I'm so impressed.


Tina Caryl said...

Hi. I wanted to thank you for your post. I was searching for ideas on canning strawberries and came across your great idea for Jello. What exactly would you use the pulp for? I was wanting to can them semi whole but I love the idea of using the juice for jam and jello.