Canning strawberries is an easy and versatile way to put up the berry harvest. While strawberry jam may be tasty on toast, canning whole strawberries means you preserve the whole fruit for use in pies, toppings, tarts and treats all year long.
Most people preserve strawberries by canning them as a strawberry jam, dehydrating strawberry slices, or freezing whole berries for more versatility. Living off the grid, our freezer space is limited and shelf-stable food preservation methods are always preferred.
We can up a lot of strawberry jam in the summer months, and my favorite recipe is this low sugar strawberry jam that’s just the right amount of sweet to make the flavors really pop. I’ve also been experimenting with a no sugar strawberry jam, and it comes out wonderfully if the fruit is sweet and flavorful from the start. Beyond jam, a lot of our harvest goes into homemade strawberry wine that puts a smile on my face and spring in my step all year long.
And still, there are strawberries and more strawberries. Our everbearing strawberries are really prolific, and even with two little ones in the house, there are plenty more strawberries to preserve once we’re done with jam and wine. I load up try after tray of strawberry slices into the dehydrator, but still, I can’t keep up. There are some times of year where preserving strawberries seems like a full-time job, and that’s when canning strawberries whole in their own juice comes to the rescue.
How to Can Strawberries
Canning strawberries is simple, and only takes two ingredients: cleaned, hulled whole strawberries and a bit of sugar. The berries are dusted with sugar and then left to sit for about 6 hours to release their juice. This allows you to can the strawberries in their own juice, so the flavor isn’t washed out by canning water.
The best strawberries for canning are firm-fleshed berries, the same varieties that are rated as good for freezing. Keep in mind that very soft-fleshed fruits will disintegrate during the canning process and you’ll end up with more of a strawberry compote than whole canned strawberries.
Once the strawberries have had time to release a bit of juice, prepare a water bath canner and canning jars. Wide mouth pints or quarts tend to work best.
Bring the whole strawberries and strawberry juice to a simmer, trying to stir as little as possible so that you don’t break up the berries. Simmer the berries for about 1 minute so that they’re heated through, and then pack them tightly into canning jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Pour the boiling strawberry juice over the top, still leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace and seal the jars with 2 part canning lids before processing in a water bath canner for 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quarts. (Be sure to adjust canning times for altitude.)
The berries will shrink a bit during the canning process, so really work to get them in there if you don’t want half filled jars.
How Many Strawberries Will Fit in a Canning Jar?
The size of the strawberries will affect the number of whole strawberries you can fit in a canning jar. It takes somewhere between 2 and 3 pounds of strawberries to fill a quart jar, or about 4 cups of whole strawberries, hulls removed.
Similarly, for wide mouth pint mason jars, it takes 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of berries to fill a jar, or about 2 cups prepared.
Canning Strawberries without Sugar
Just like any high acid fruit, strawberries are perfectly safe to can without added sugar. The problem is, canning them directly in water means that sugar and flavor will leach into the water, washing out the flavor of the fruit.
If you want to can the strawberries directly in water, add about 1/4 cup of water to a pot per 2 pounds of strawberries and bring it to a simmer. Cook the berries for a few minutes until they release ample juice, and then pack into canning jars. This extra cook time will also mean softer fruit, which may lose shape more than sugared berries.
Another option is to take a small portion of the strawberries and mash them in a pan, then simmer them to extract their juice. Pour the simmered strawberries through a jelly bag to filter out the solids, and then use this freshly made strawberry juice as a no sugar added strawberry canning liquid.
This is the method I use for canning blackberries since they hold their shape best when not macerated in sugar.
Maintaining Strawberry Quality During Canning
Strawberries are a soft fruit, and they will soften and discolor during long storage. If stored for more than a few months, canned strawberries will darken. Quality and flavor are best with berries canned with some amount of sugar, but beyond that, you’ll have better berries in the long term if you add a bit of citric acid to the canning liquid.
While citric acid is not strictly necessary for safely canning strawberries, it will help them maintain color and flavor during storage. Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp citric acid per quart of fruit for the best quality after long storage.
- 4 cups strawberries, washed & hulled
- 1/2 cup sugar (optional - see instructions for no sugar method)
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp citric acid (optional)
- Wash and hull the strawberries and place them in a large pot. Sprinkle sugar over the top and stir to distribute.
- Allow the strawberries to stand in the sugar to macerate for about 6 hours (covered).
- Prepare a water bath canner and canning jars.
- Place the strawberry pot on the stove and add citric acid (optional but helps to help protect quality during storage.) Bring the strawberries (and their juice) to a simmer and cook for about 1 minute until the berries are heated through.
- Pack the berries into canning jars and cover with strawberry juice liquid, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
- Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace and seal with 2 part canning lids.
- Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (pints) or 15 minutes (quarts), adjusting canning times for altitude.
Note - Sugar is optional, and strawberries can be preserved in either plain water or juice instead. The flavor is much better with a small amount of sugar to balance the sugars that will be lost to the canning liquids. Feel free to reduce the sugar if you'd like, but I'd suggest a minimum of 1 tablespoon per pint.
Alternately, for very sweet dessert berries, the sugar can be increased to 3/4 cup or even 1 full cup per quart of berries.
How to Use Canned Strawberries
The main downside canning strawberries as whole fruits is the loss of both color and texture. The berries tend to bleed their brilliant red juice into the surrounding liquid, and that liquid soaks up a bit of their flavor too. The best way to use home canned strawberries involves incorporating both the juice and fruit into a single dish. Here are a few tasty ways to make use of your canned strawberries:
- Strawberry Pancake Topping ~ Start by straining fruit from the canning liquid and then cook the juice down on the stove into a rich strawberry syrup. Place the whole fruit on the pancakes and then drizzle the thickened strawberry syrup over the top.
- Strawberry Pie Filling ~ Similar to using them as pancake topping, strain the fruit into a pie dish and thicken the canning liquid with a bit of corn starch before pouring it over the top of the fruit in the dish.
- Strawberry Cheesecake Topping ~ The same process as making strawberry pie filling, but make the thickened pie filling in advance and then let it cool in the refrigerator before using it to top a cheesecake.
More Strawberry Preservation Recipes
- 30+ Ways to Can Strawberries ~ Jam, syrup and more…
- Strawberry Vinegar
- Strawberry Mead
- Wild Strawberry Jam
- Fermented Strawberry Soda
- Fermented Strawberries with Honey & Whey
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