Strawberry Picking and Preserving: Strawberry-Balsamic Jam and Strawberries in Syrup

A few weeks ago, Steve and I went on an impromptu strawberry-picking adventure to Grim’s Orchard and Family Farms in Breinigsville, PA. We visited the farm last year for pick-your-own apples and pumpkins, which was a lot of fun, and decided that we would go back for strawberry-picking as soon as the season came around.

Steve picked strawberries when he was younger, so he was an ol’ pro at it. We ended up hauling home a whopping 10 lbs of strawberries for about $25 — not bad at all for some of the sweetest, ripest strawberries I think I’ve ever put in my mouth.

Of course, Steve was tasked with the all-important job of carrying our harvest, too. 😉

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I had a total of 10 quarts of berries on-hand after I included the ones that I picked up from the farmer’s market earlier in the week before this adventure. Those berries were leftover from the strawberry-rhubarb preserves that I made and have been eating with my morning breakfast ever since because it’s that damn delicious.

It may sound like a lot, but I assure you: Not a single strawberry went to waste. A small batch of strawberry-balsamic jam was up first followed by strawberries packed in syrup, using up every single berry that didn’t otherwise end up in my mouth during the washing and chopping process.

FAKfeatured-strawberrypicking1The strawberry-balsamic jam was a riff on the instructions on the back of the Ball low- or no-sugar pectin label, which provides basic ratios of fruit, sugar, water, acid, and pectin to make quick and simple jams.

Strawberries and other fruits don’t necessarily need extra acid added to them to make them safe in the canning process. The balsamic vinegar was added mostly for flavor — and I used a good-quality aged balsamic, too, so it really added good flavor. On a whim, I thought back to last year when I added black pepper to the bourbon-orange marmalade I made, so I decided to do the same here, too.

I sampled a little of the jam from what was leftover in the pot after canning and loved the sweet, slightly savory flavor. The balsamic tasted amazing with the strawberries as expected, and the pepper wasn’t overpowering at all. I think it is going to be phenomenal served with a cheese plate.

Not wanting to make jam out of everything, I decided to take the remaining berries and follow a simple recipe from Ball for strawberries in syrup. This couldn’t have been easier: 12 cups of berries, sliced in half or quarters depending on the size, added to 1 1/2 cups of sugar and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator in a covered pot. I added some lemon juice, too — again, not for the acid but for the lemony, fresh flavor.

Like magic, the sugar drew out the juices from the berries to make a syrupy, berry mess of deliciousness. I heated the mixture and proceeded with the rest of the canning process the next day. Although I left plenty of headroom (the space between the fruit and the top of the jar) before canning, I had some leakage as the jars processed. Fortunately, though, the jars sealed.

I plan to keep an eye on the jars just in case the seals fail, but something tells me that long-term storage isn’t going to be an issue for these guys. I already popped open a jar or two to stir into yogurt and spoon over vanilla cake and ice cream.

Now I’m wondering what it would be like to blend them up to make the best strawberry shake or strawberry ice cream ever. I think I’ll have to test that theory very soon…