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Author Topic: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!  (Read 5473 times)

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heathert

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Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« on: June 01, 2010, 04:34:28 AM »
This is my first attempt at making a batch of strawberry preserves and it didn't work out.  :'( My problem is that the mixture didn't 'gel,' and I can't think of anything I didn't do according to the recipe. Has anyone had this happen and did you figure out the problem? Would it help if I include the recipe?

I'm so disappointed.

Heather
« Last Edit: June 02, 2010, 07:53:32 AM by heathert »

cicero

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2010, 06:42:47 AM »
please post the recipe as it might help.

in general, if this is the first time you are making preservers/jam, it could be that - like my first attempt - you are so afraid to over cook that you are under cooking. that's what happened to me. also - sometimes the jams 'gell' a bit after the cooking process stops.

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mechtilde

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2010, 08:08:25 AM »
Strawberry is one of the hardest preserves to set, because the berries are very low in pectin.

You might want to consider using either a recipie with "additional" fruit, such as lemon juice to increase the pectin levels, or use additional commercial pectin to help it set. Also, how did you test the preserve? Did you just take it to the correct temperature, or did you do either the flake test or cold saucer test as well, because strawberry does have to cook for longer than other low pectin fruits- sometimes you have to do it for so long that you find that it has "caught" a little on the bottom.

Could you show us the recipie you used? That might help.
NE England

Lynnv

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2010, 09:41:24 AM »
I always use a pectin added recipe when I am making preserves, but strawberry is always a tough one as the berries are so low in pectin to start with.

I will second everyone else that it would help to see what recipe you used and I would add that a description of your method would help as well (how long did it cook, how did you test the set-or did you test the set at all, etc).

Lynn

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vorbau

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2010, 01:08:56 PM »
Things that I've found help:

Use powdered, not liquid, pectin. Mix it thoroughly with the sugar before adding it to the fruit.

Add acid. Lemon juice is best for strawberries. The recipe I have (great-grandmother's) calls for 1 tbls lemon juice for each 1 cup of fruit/juice.

Sometimes, re-cooking the mixture is enough to make it set. Sometimes the runniness is because the finished product is stored in a location that's too warm.

My grandmother sometimes would add homemade apple juice to help stuff set. She'd take 3-4 lb of really tart, even green, apples, quarter them (leaving peel and core intact), and simmer in 2 cups of water per pound of apples for about 10 minutes. She'd drain off the liquid and strain it, then keep the liquid in the fridge until she needed it. If I recall correctly, she'd substitute this "apple pectin" for up to half the water called for in jam/jelly/preserves if the fruit was really low in natural pectin (apricots, figs, grapes, raspberries, strawberries).

My "bibles" for preserving are "Putting Food By," by Janet Greene (she's a professor of food and nutrition at Cornell) and the Rodale Press book "Stocking Up." Their recipes are excellent and include lots of advice on how to fix problems.
Let's roll. (And you can't scare me; I've had teenagers.)

blarg314

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2010, 03:24:25 AM »

There are two things that could do this.

One is not enough pectin. For strawberries, you will need to add extra, either in the form of pectin powder, or in the form of lemon juice and pith.

The other is if you didn't cook it to the right temperature. If you are new to jam making, I'd use a thermometer, and keep cooking until it reaches 105 C/ 220 F, adjusting the temperature if you live at a high altitude.

I'd avoid on-line recipes from things like cooks.com until you are experienced at it. Go to a professional cookbook or site for things like candy or jam making, because the recipes have to be right to work.  And for jam-making, only use recipes that measure by *weight* not volume, for better accuracy.


Bethalize

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2010, 04:52:00 AM »
You have my sympathy. I've made jam exactly once and I had the opposite problem - it set so hard that it was impossible to get out of the jar! Apparently when Mrs Beeton says "half a lemon" she means the itty bitty Victorian lemon rather than the tropical monsters we get now.

Sugar thermometers are totally worth it. I used to use the drop method and could never get it right. The sugar thermometer showed me that the last five degrees of heat can take longer to attain than all the preceding degrees!

heathert

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2010, 07:53:18 AM »
I apologize for the delay. The book I used is called Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and I used the recipe called "Strawberries On The Top Preserves."

Uses 6 8-oz jars
5 cups halved hulled strawberries
6 1/4 cups white sugar
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
4 tbsp lemon juice, divided
1 cup + 2 tbsp water, divided
1 package 1.75 oz regular powdered fruit pectin

1. In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar, lemond zest, 2 tbsp of the lemon juice and 2 tbsp of the water. Stir well and let stand at room temperature for 3 hours.
2. Prepare the canner, jars and lids
3. Bring the strawberry mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring occasinally, for two minutes and then remove from heat.
4. In another large stainless steel saucepan, combin remaining 1 cup water and remaining 2 tbsp lemon juice. Wisk in the pectin until dissolved and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring constantly for 1 minute and then add to the strawberry mixture and stir for 3 minutes.
5. Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot preserves. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
6. Place jars in canner, ensuring they're covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes, then remove the jars, cool and store.

I don't think I took the lid off the canner after I processed them, but otherwise, I followed (or at least I think I followed) everything according to the recipe. Any ideas?  And thank you all SO much!

Heather

vorbau

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2010, 12:02:51 PM »
HeatherT, I have a couple of suggestions -

First, did you remove the jars from the canner and let them cool as soon as the processing time was up? Extra heat is probably the most common reason stuff doesn't set.

Secondly, I'd probably try either doubling the amount of pectin called for, or add a little more lemon juice.

My favorite recipe is this one:

12 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled & drained
1 1/3 cups honey or sugar
1/4 lemon juice
4 tart apples, quartered, cored, unpeeled and finely chopped (I use a food processor)
1 pkg regular powdered pectin, mixed into the sugar (if that's what you're using), or dump it in the food processor with the apples and give it a couple of whirls


Put the strawberries in a large non-aluminum pot, add the honey and lemon juice, stir and crush lightly - or heavily, if you want jam vs whole pieces of fruit. Add the apples, stir well, bring to a boil, them reduce heat and simmer till thick, about 20-30 min. To see if it's ready, drop a spoonful into a chilled bowl and tilt it - if it's as firm or as runny as you want, it's ready.

Put into jars and process in a boiling water bath for 5 min. Remove jars and let cool thoroughly before storing.

I find that using honey gives a better, more "berry" flavor and a thicker, stiffer jam. And you cannot taste apple at all.
Let's roll. (And you can't scare me; I've had teenagers.)

heathert

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2010, 12:07:29 PM »
Vorbau,

Thanks for the recipe. I also have a feeling that I should have boiled it a lot longer than the recipe stated, if your recipe is any indication. I will try again!

Heather

HushHush

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2010, 02:18:34 PM »
I made strawberry jam for the first time using the Pioneer Woman's recipe (www.thepioneerwoman.com) and it came out perfect. Its very similar to the Ball receipe posted but no lemon zest and you don't have to let it sit for 3 hours.

heathert

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2010, 04:11:24 PM »
WoogsGal,

That recipe from Pioneer Woman is interesting, but I thought for preserves you want the strawberries to be halved, not squished? I did notice her recipe is for jam but we like the bigger strawberry pieces, so does that make a difference?

Heather

blarg314

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2010, 11:02:09 PM »

I will say that this is a recipe that I would discard as being too imprecise. It uses volume rather than weight, so the proportion of fruit and sugar will vary depending on the fineness of the sugar and the size of the fruit, and you never actually test the jam to see if it is done. My guess would be that the cooking time wasn't long enough.

Lynnv

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2010, 12:00:40 PM »
I much prefer recipes that go by weight rather than volume, however, this one doesn't look too far off from what I use (since an awful lot of recipes, unfortunately, are done by volume).  I would guess that your strawberries were a bit on the ripe side-which makes it harder for the gel to set-or that the boil time was a little too short.  A lot of recipes for pectin added jams don't call for a gel test-which I think is a complete mistake.  I have had good luck with the Ball recipes.  They don't tend to be very exciting, but they have been reliable for me.  This one, however, looks a little overcomplicated for me-and I am not sure why they are having you macerate the berries, then add the pectin that has been dissolved in water.  If nothing else, I think it brings things back to the boil much too slowly for a powdered pectin recipe.  Of course, I tend to measure my sugar and then toss it in the oven (in an oven safe bowl with a pouring spout) at 150F so that it will dissolve and come back to the boil more quickly for powdered pectin recipes-I just think that preserves the fresh taste better.

My strawberry preserves recipe is as follows:

(I know-I just said I like measured recipes better than volume recipes, but this is how this one came to me and I haven't converted it yet)
9-10 cups whole small strawberries (halve or quarter larger ones, but try for smaller ones), hulled
1/4 cup fresh strained lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1 to 1.5 packages powdered pectin (I use a little more if the fruit is really ripe, a little less if it is a little more green)

Get your jars and lids ready.
Mix the berries, pectin and lemon juice and bring to a full rolling boil.  Use a deep pan, as this stuff will splash and pop like crazy!
Add the sugar (warmed if you like it), all at once, and stir like crazy.  Bring back to a full boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for 1 full minute. 
Remove from heat, test for set (bring back to the boil for 30sec to 1 min if needed).
Hold off heat for 5 min, stirring regularly, to try to keep the strawberries from all floating to the top.
Jar, lid, water bath for 10 min (make sure to adjust for altitude-I have to boil longer, which means I often need more pectin since I am well over 5K feet), pull and let cool. 

I do tend to end up with strawberries at the top and jelly at the bottom-it just isn't that pretty.  But it is tasty.  I also don't make this unless I have really lovely strawberries.  Otherwise, I make jam with crushed fruit...but this sure can show off pretty berries well.

At that, it doesn't always gel up properly.  I think strawberries are just tougher than other fruits, in general.

The original recipe called for liquid pectin, but I have never ever had good luck with liquid pectins, so I adapted it for powdered.
Lynn

"Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat."  Robert A. Heinlein

ZaftigWife

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Re: Trouble making strawberry preserves, help!
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2010, 12:04:10 PM »
I can't help with canning advice, but I will say that I made strawberry jam for the first time recently and it was awesome - my coworker talked me into making freezer jam, and I couldn't believe how good it was!  I used the recipe on the Sure-Jell box (the low sugar kind), and it set very nicely.  It tastes like fresh strawberries because the fruit isn't really cooked, just mixed with the hot sugar and pectin.  Of course, the drawback is that it has to be stored in the freezer because it isn't shelf-stable.  But it sure was easy!