Food For Thought: A Closer Look At Strawberries

April 27, 2021

It’s a sweet time in middle Tennessee if you love the taste of strawberries! While enjoying a fresh bowl of strawberries or your favorite strawberry-enhanced dessert is wonderful, let’s take it a step further and preserve some strawberries to have when they are not in season. 

Join the University of Tennessee Extension for internet-based learning on Zoom to safely learn how to freeze strawberries and use tested methods of making strawberry jam. The Zoom event will be held on Friday, May 21, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. The link to register for the online class is https://tiny.utk.edu/ExtensionExplores21. More food preservation trainings will occur on the 3rd Friday of each month with a different topic using the same registration link.  

Here’s a closer look at strawberries. 

Tip # 1 – Selection is key. Handle fresh strawberries safely – Choose strawberries that have:

  • a bright, even, red color (strawberries will not ripen anymore after picking)
  • have a fresh aroma
  • have an intact, healthy green cap.

Avoid strawberries that are: 

  • poorly colored with white or green areas
  • are mushy, damaged, leaking juice, shriveled, or moldy
  • have dry brown caps.

To prevent spoilage and mold growth during storage, it is best to wash strawberries just before they are prepared. Place the strawberries in a clean and sanitized colander and remove any damaged fruit. Wash the strawberries under clean, running water using a kitchen sink sprayer if possible. If you don’t have a sprayer, wash, turn, and gently shake the berries under slow running water. Do not soak berries. Do not use detergents, soaps, or bleach to wash fresh strawberries as it may change the taste of the fruit and could be poisonous. 

Tip # 2 – Decision time – to freeze, can, or dry? Strawberries can be either frozen or made into delicious jams, jellies, and preserves and even dried. How you intend to use the strawberries later can determine whether to freeze or preserve. Frozen strawberries work well in baking, smoothies, or eating as a topping (over yogurt, for example). Strawberries (and other fruits and vegetables) maintain their quality when frozen for 8 – 12 months. After 12 months, they are still safe, just lower in quality. For best quality, use them by about 8 months.

Tip #3 – You may choose to make strawberry jam, jelly, or preserves. Using tested recipes is necessary for the safety of the processed food. Information concerning safe canning methods and recipe resources will be discussed during the Zoom training with follow-up how-to videos, quick tips, and accessible recipes.

Tip # 4 – Strawberries are a fair to good choice for drying and an excellent choice for making fruit leathers. Drying preserves the food so that bacteria, yeasts, and molds cannot grow and spoil the food. It also slows down the action of enzymes but does not inactivate them. Fruits may be dried out-of-doors or indoors depending on your preference. High humidity can cause issues with drying out-of-doors. A humidity below 60% is best. If humidity is above 60%, other alternatives to drying are needed. No pretreatment is necessary for drying strawberries. Please check with our Extension office for more information.

Tip # 5 – Some commonly asked questions and answers:

  1. What temperature should my freezer be?  Freeze foods at 0 degrees or lower.  
  2. Will berries ripen after picking?  No. Once berries are picked, they will not ripen. Search for berries with a red color instead of white or green areas. 
  3. Do berries have to be the same size? While same-size berries might be enticing to eat, it’s fine to use the smaller or irregular-shaped berries in preserving. They may even tend to be a little sweeter.  
  4. Can I use paraffin to seal my preserves?  Paraffin or wax seals are no longer recommended because of possible mold contamination. 
  5. Which jar should I use? Mason-type jars specifically designed for home canning are best. 

Whether you choose freezing, canning, or drying, strawberries can be enjoyed throughout the year. So register today for UT Extension Explores food preservation – strawberry style. For questions or more information, contact Mary Parker Draper at the UT Extension office at 615-735-2900. 

Emerald Green Punch

  • 2 packages lemon-lime Kool Aid drink mix
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 46 oz can pineapple juice, chilled
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 2 bottles ginger ale, chilled
  • 1 quart pineapple or lime sherbet

In a large bowl, mix Kool Aid, sugar, juice, and water. Add ginger ale and sherbet when ready to serve. Submitted by Marcia Tisdale, Elmwood/Chestnut Mound FCE Club.