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you can buy your local strawberries

you can buy your local strawberries


hurry, season almost over!

...or pick your own as I did with my granddaughter

…or pick your own as I did with my granddaughter

Okay, no excuses here. Somehow the month of June has — or is — slipping past me all too quickly. Strawberries here in Connecticut were a bit late this year due to the cool spring. Then, the past week, we’ve had tropical summer temperatures. According to local farm stands, the berries will disappear within the next few days. So, here’s something that you can do to quickly capture the local strawberry experience all winter long. I stress local because in my taste bud’s opinion, there is simply no point in strawberries unless they are local and in season. The others may be beautiful, but they are generally all for show. Bred to be large, beautiful, and easily transported. Okay, enough sermonizing. Here’s the plan: strawberry freezer jam!

strawberry freezer jam — kid’s play

This really is a great activity to share with your favorite little one!

This really is a great activity to share with your favorite little one!

In my Can It! book, I have a recipe for strawberry freezer jam and tell how I used to make this with my kids when they were preschool age. Well, now I’m making it with my preschool grandkids. It’s that easy. I made a batch last weekend and timed myself. From start to finish — including all prep and clean up , everything back in its place and six lovely jars of jam waiting to freeze — took me about fifty minutes. That’s less time than going to the store to buy some jam. And the flavor of freezer jam is amazing. Because you don’t cook the berries, they keep their full, fresh, just-picked flavor. (Sounds like a commercial, doesn’t it, but it’s true.)

recipe for strawberry freezer jam

Yield: 5-6 half-pints Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed strawberries (just about a quart)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 box (1.75 oz.) dry pectin (such as Sure-Jell or Certo)
  • 3/4 cup of water (or the amount required on the pectin that you purchase)


  1. Thoroughly wash and rinse freezer containers. Straight-sided plastic in one- and two-cup sizes are best, but glass jelly jars can also be used as long as you leave sufficient head space, i.e, room at the top for expansion.
  2. Thoroughly wash berries and remove and compost stems. Cut in halves or quarters to make mashing easier.
  3. Measure exact amount of sugar.
  4. Mash the strawberries and measure exact amount. Do not use a blender, a potato masher is perfect. You want the jam to have some texture.
    4b: Here are the berries mashed up

    4b: Here are the berries mashed up

    4a. Mash the strawberries, one layer at a time. here I'm just starting.

    4a. Mash the strawberries, one layer at a time. here I’m just starting.

  5. Add the sugar to the mashed strawberries; stir until it’s mixed together, and let it stand for ten minutes.

    5. Stir until the sugar and berries are completely mixed. I've still got a ways to go here.

    5. Stir until the sugar and berries are completely mixed. I’ve still got a ways to go here.

  6. Dissolve dry pectin in water and boil for one minute.
  7. Add the pectin/water mixture to the fruit/sugar mixture and stir constantly for three minutes. The sugar should be pretty well dissolved, though you may see a few grains.

    8. Pouring jam into my jelly jars. I use my canning funnel to make it easier.

    8. Pouring jam into my jelly jars. I use my canning funnel to make it easier.

  8. Put the jam in straight-sided freezer containers, being sure to allow one-half inch headspace for expansion when frozen. Put top on containers.
  9. Let it stand at room temperature until set, usually twenty-four hours.
  10. Label and date. Store in refrigerator for three weeks or in freezer for up to one year. Trust me, you’ll eat them way before then! When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator. When you spread it on your morning toast, you’ll be transported back to summer.
9. Let stand for up to 24 hours, until jam is set.

9. Let stand for up to 24 hours, until jam is set.

apples -- before

apples -- after, aka, applesauce


What is more iconic of fall? Applesauce! What says comfort food better? If you haven’t enjoyed the pleasure of picking your own apples, you are missing a real treat. I’m very fortunate to live in an old farming community that still boasts many orchards, and most encourage pick your own. It’s a fun outing and a very economical way to get good, local apples. Not sure whether there are any pick your own options in your area? Check out for a listing of farms in your area. You’ll also find good information about local foods and food preservation.

Of course you’ll want to eat lots of your apples fresh and make apple pies, cobblers, tarts, and what not. But don’t forget the simple, homely applesauce. Using my recipe, you can easily make it in about an hour, and if you want to can it, add maybe another hour total. Applesauce also freezes very well. By the way, this recipe and many more will be found in my upcoming book, Hobby Farm Homes: Canning and Freezing to be published by BowTie Press in September of 2011. **

easy does it

Nearly every recipe I’ve found for applesauce tells you to peel and core the apple, then cook, and mash or strain. Yes, you can do this, but why would you when there’s an infinitely easier method (which is just as safe and tested) that saves you the time peeling and coring and yields more applesauce. This recipe is perfect for babies (and grandchildren — just ask granddaughter Ava) since you don’t need to add any sugar.


Apples, water, and some ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) or lemon juice to prevent darkening. That’s it. I make my sauce when the McIntoshes are plentiful. You will hear other folks proclaim the benefits of other apples, and I’m sure that they are good as well. Some tell you to use a mixture. One actually gave me the percentage of McIntosh to Fuji, Yellow Delicious, Gala, and Winesap. Okay, I don’t disagree that you might get a sparkier flavor by mixing a tangy Winesap with your Mac, but try to find a good Mac when the Winesaps are ready. So, I just use Macs. They’re generally pretty inexpensive, sweet, flavorful, and cook up perfectly for sauce. A bushel of apples will give you about fourteen quarts of sauce.


  • Wash the apples thoroughly, cutting out any bad spots. Clean the blossom end thoroughly.
  • Cut the apple into about six slices — don’t worry about removing the seeds or skin. Rinse.

    put your cut apples (skin, core, and all) in a heavy pot

  • Place the apples for about 5 minutes in a water bath containing 3,000 mg.  of ascorbic acid (that’s six 500 mg Vitamin C tablets crushed) or 3/4 C. lemon juice per gallon, or follow manufacturer’s instructions if you use a commercially prepared mixture, such as Fruit Fresh(R). This will help to prevent oxidative darkening.
  • Remove apples from water bath (do not rinse again) and put them dripping wet into a very heavy saucepan.  Ideally, you’ll want an aluminum core with stainless steel inside surface, but I’ve used heavy aluminum for years with success. A flimsy saucepan can work, but you’ll need to keep the temp very low to prevent scorching.
  • Fill the heavy pot nearly to the top with the cut apples. Add a little bit of water. For a three-quart pot, I add about ¼ cup of water.
  • Turn stove top temperature to medium high (or medium if you don’t have heavy-duty pot) and cook apples until they are very soft and the flesh falls off the peel. Check on them now and then, and stir. Depending upon the pot size and heat, this will be about twenty minutes. I do multiple pots at one time.

    cook apples until tender and mushy

  • While the apples are cooking, if I’m making enough sauce to can or freeze, I get my jars, lids, and other equipment ready. *
  • When finished cooking, pour the cooked apples into a food strainer or food mill. If you have a fancy food mixer, there are attachments that you can buy to do this, but I’ve used a crank-style food mill for years and it works great.


    cooked apples in food mill

  • Strain the apples to remove the sauce from the skins, stems, and seeds. It’s amazing how much sauce you can get in this way. From my bushel of Macs, I only lost about six cups of apple peels/seeds, and such — and that ended up on my compost pile.
  • If you are planning to use your sauce right away, you’re done! Just eat and enjoy; store any extra in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Should easily keep for a week to ten days.
  • If you plan to can or freeze your sauce, as you finish each strainer full, empty the sauce into a large pot until you have finished cooking and straining all the apples.
  • If freezing, let the sauce cool, then put in freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch head space (pints) or 1 inch (quarts) for expansion.
  • If canning, heat the sauce slowly to boiling, being careful not to scorch.
  • Working one jar at a time, pour the boiling sauce into the jar, leaving ½ inch head space. Remove all bubbles, wipe rim, adjust lids. Process in a water bath canner 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.

* In future posts, I’ll go into canning and freezing processes. They are all covered in my book, but until then, I suggest the web site from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Please beware, there are a lot of canning and preserving instructions floating around cyberspace, and not all are accurate or safe! Only use canning recipes that have been approved by the USDA.

**Portions of this post taken from Hobby Farm Home: Canning and Preserving are copyright protected, BowTie Press(R), Inc.

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