When I was preschool age, we had a strawberry patch. It was possible to sometimes have snakes in it. Mom had a story about me being in the strawberry patch and a snake raising its head to strike and she was scared to death it would get me. I suppose it was a harmless garter snake, but even so, that’s pretty scary for a mama to see. My oldest brother and his wife had wild strawberries on their farm and I barely remember picking them once after he’d come home from the Korean War and settled on the farm. I’ve raised strawberries a few times myself. Once, when we lived in McPherson, KS, I had them in the front of my rose garden by the patio. We have an empty lot beside ours right now, and I have had strawberries there. The last two years they haven’t done very well, but a few years ago we had a pretty good crop. Now, I’m really not a “picker”. I’m a “planter” and a “weeder”, but my husband loves the harvest so he usually picks them for me. My husband’s Aunt Rita, in Michigan, introduced me to freezer jam and it’s quite remarkable in the way it retains more of a fresh flavor. I still like to make jam when we have an overabundance of them.
Now, when I make jams, jellies and preserves, I always use pectin like Sure-Jell or Pen-Jel. I think this recipe is before those were commercially available, so to me it’s more like making candy when you cook it to a soft-ball stage or the like. Perhaps Preserves are different from jams and jellies. Do you know?
Combine alternate layers of sugar and fresh berries, using 2 cups of sugar to quart of berries. Let the berries stand in sugar overnight, or at least 8 to 10 hours, before cooking. Or heat the berries and sugar slowly at a low heat until the sugar is dissolved, and then let stand overnight.
If berries have a chance to absorb sugar before the final cooking, the fruit and syrup will be less apt to separate. Cook 1 quart of berries at a time. Use a large saucepan, and heat quickly to the boiling point. Boil from 10 to 15 minutes.
The preserves are done when the syrup falls from the spoon in thick heavy drops. Place the pan in ice water to cool. When the preserves are cool, remove the scum. Pour the preserves into sterilized containers. Cover with hot paraffin immediately. Geraldine Acker, Illinois