A “berry” good weekend – things to do with strawberries

Believe it or not, strawberry season is wrapping up here next week! So sad! However, I did do a pretty good job taking advantage of the berries this year. We bought a chest freezer, so I’ve frozen a bunch, and I did some dehydrating, canning, and wine making with the rest last weekend. A berry good weekend indeed. For many of you, berry season is probably just beginning, but whether this is your last week, or first, here is some inspiration for things to do with your berries.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling – my first blog post ever, and still one of my favourite recipes. The universe is telling us to put these two awesome items together by having them mature at the same time – you should really listen.



Strawberry Fruit Leather – Since this post, I’ve learned adding some apple sauce or other more fibrous fruit helps with the cracking and crispiness issue. But I also still love it with just strawberries.



Strawberry jam – a classic favourite of course. Or on the wilder side, add some wine to your jam and try this strawberry pinot noir jam.

IMG_2031 copy

Strawberry wine – heck yes! It’s really not as hard as it seems by the length of the post. You should really really try it. Shorter, point form directions coming soon to entice you more, since not all of you have the attention span for this novel of a post.

IMG_4461 copy

Or a non-alcoholic beverage  (or alcohol optional I should say) – strawberry lemonade concentrate!

IMG_3736 copy

Got a couple handfuls left over still? Flavour some vinegar (or vodka? Post coming soon on that, but it’s basically the same as vinegar)


Now go, quickly, before they are gone!! Pick some berries! Eat some berries! Can some berries! Dry some berries! Love the berries! And don’t forget to eat some fresh – sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in preservation.  And lay off the caffeine! (Oh wait, that one’s for me.)

Small Batch Homemade Fruit Wines

Making homemade fruit wine is such a satisfying experience – watching your fruit transform into something completely new and delicious. The length of this post may make it seem like a difficult process, but it’s really not that hard to make a small, gallon batch. So pour yourself a glass of wine, settle in, and read on. For the printer friendly version, click here.

IMG_3768 copy

Last winter we decided to try our hand at home brewing. We started with beer, and you can read our first brews adventure here. Then we tried some kit wines which you can read about in this post. The next stage of the adventure was to try some small batches of fruit wines, which we started this spring. They are actually surprisingly delicious! And I say surprising because I normally am not a lover of fruit wines because I find them too sweet. However, these “first wine” recipes, copied with permission from Joel, the owner of our local brew store, Corvallis Brewing Supply, are designed to be dry wines and they are really tasty.


Before I get into the details of how to get brewing, I just wanted to quickly (ish) list and describe the ingredients that you will be adding to your wine and why. These can all be purchased at your local brew store (if you have one) or by clicking on the links attached to them. Skip ahead if you just want the hows and not the whys.

Fruit! – OK this one is obvious, but the one thing I wanted to point out is that you can use fresh or frozen fruit for this. Use only the best quality fruit. Nasty fruit will make nasty wine.
Yeast – These little guys are what is going to turn the sugars in your fruit into alcohol. There are a large number of yeasts available on the market, but you don’t just want to use bread yeast for making wine. They are cheap, so buy a packet of the kind called for in your recipe. A few common ones for wine are Montrachet, K1V-1116, Cote de Blancs or Lalvin D-47.
Dextrose – Dextrose is fermentable sugar that is added to feed the yeast and produce alcohol. Some fruits don’t have as much sugar content as others, so extra sugar is added to balance the sugar and acidity and produce a good product. Grapes, for example, require a lot less added sugar than cane berries, such as raspberries and blackberries. This is due to the properties of the berries themselves. Table sugar, which is sucrose, can be used instead of dextrose, but it can produce a different quality product. Dextrose is a simpler sugar that can be broken down faster by the yeast, which can lead faster fermentation and to a crisper and cleaner tasting end product. I haven’t personally done a side by side comparison yet, but when I do I will let you know what people preferred. I’ve only so far tasted wines using dextrose. When using table sugar in a recipe that calls for dextrose, use 0.8 pounds for every pound of dextrose that is required.
Pectic Enzyme – This is added to your fruit wines because it will help break the fruits down and make the sugars available to the yeast to ferment. Pectin is a compound found in plants cell walls, and what this enzyme does it help to digest that for the yeast, making more sugars available. You could certainly still make wine without it, but it aids in the process. It also can help produce a clearer product by digesting the pectins.
Yeast Nutrient – This is added to give some other nutrients to your yeast so that they aren’t surviving on sugar alone. It contains vitamins and minerals, think of it as giving your yeast a multivitamin. I like the way Joel put it – think about how you would feel if all you ate was sugar. This is why you add some nutrient.
Diammonium Phosphate – This is another thing that is just a helpful nutrient to give your yeast. It’s a nitrogen source which helps the yeast along. If you are getting a rotten egg type smell from your wine, it could be because you should have added some D.A.P. Some recipes do not call for it, and I think it’s one of those things that’s not always necessary, but it only takes a very small amount so I figure why not use it. Also, as a side note, some of the things labelled “yeast nutrient” on amazon and elsewhere have this in them already, so check the ingredients to see what you’ve got.
Campden Tablets – These tablets are made of Potassium Metabisulfite, and they serve a couple really important purposes. They are not something you want to be leaving out of your recipe. Sulphites in your wine prevent a few things – the growth of bacteria and wild yeasts and oxidation of your wine. All things that you really don’t want to have happen. But as a sad side note, the suphites in wine are often the thing that give people that red wine headache. Fortunately I don’t have that issue.
Acid blend – This is a combination of three acids – citric, tartaric and malic, which come from citrus, grapes and apples. They are used to lower the pH of the wine and give the wine balance.

DONE! I know that was a lot of ingredient listing, so I’m sorry if that bored you, but I for one don’t like blindly throwing things into a recipe not knowing what they are for, so I wanted to lay out for you why we need a tiny amount of a bunch of different things. So there we go. Now on to the making of the wine. In the table below are 8 options for good first recipes to try. Already have one of these fruits in the freezer? Awesome! What are you waiting for!?!

Each of the recipes below makes a gallon of wine. They all have the same ingredients, just in slightly different proportions based on how acidic the fruit is, and based on its relative sugar content. The method will be the same for whichever recipe you try. And as a side note, before you begin I highly recommend keeping a brewing journal of dates and ingredients etc. Especially when you are brewing multiple things at a time. I must confess that I am currently not 100% sure which jug is blueberry wine and which is blackberry.

wine table

Home made wine is really not a lot of work, you actually only have a few active days when you are doing something to the wine, and the rest is a waiting game. Considering that the cheapest fruit wines I really ever see are $25 and you can make a pretty good wine at home for far less than that, I think it’s well worth it. So here is how it’s made:

Day 1:

On the first day what you’ll be doing is preparing the fruit and mixing all the ingredients together except for the yeast. Remember, when picking fruit only use the best quality fruit. Crappy fruit will make crappy wine. Also use nice ripe fruit, but not overripe. Think about when you taste a berry that’s not quite ripe. It is less sweet because it does not have as many sugars as when it is fully ripe, so a fully ripe berry will make a better wine.

Step 1: Clean and sanitize your equipment. All you’ll really need day 1 is the primary fermenter and maybe a masher or spoon to stir with. For the dos and don’ts of what to use as a fermenter, head here. I made mine, and the reason for that was because I planned to do a bunch of small one gallon batches, and we own only a huge 8.5 gallon primary fermenter for beer, so it made sense to have a little one too. Anyways, that can be sanitized either by dissolving a campden tablet in a gallon of water and letting it sit for a few minutes, or I like this sanitizer. While the equipment is drying, prepare the fruit.

Step 2: Give your fruit a good wash, check for any bad spots and remove them, and remove any stems and pits. Things like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries basically just need a good wash. For the peaches I would blanch and peel them first. Chop and remove the pits and place them in your primary fermenter.

IMG_4221 copy

I like to then give the fruit a light mash to release the juices.

IMG_4225 copy

Step 3: The next thing you’ll do combine all the ingredients except for the yeast. I top it off with water to just above 1 gallon in my 1.5 gallon fermenter (4.5-5 quarts), but go ahead and top the water up to 1.25 gallons if you’re using a larger fermenter. Give it a stir to dissolve the powders and cover it. Leave it for 24 hours. This gives the campden tablets time to kill yeasts and bacteria already in there, and the pectic enzyme to start breaking down the fruit for the yeast you’ll add the next day. Don’t wait longer than 24 hours though, or you may have your ingredients spoil. You need to get the fermentation going or other things will colonize your fruit. And that is just plain nasty. And sad.

IMG_3800 copy

Day 2: 

On day 2, you will open up your primary fermenter and pitch the yeast. Half of those 5 g packets is enough, so if you are planning on making another wine with the same yeast in the near future save the other half in the fridge. All you need to do is sprinkle the yeast on and close the lid back up. Make sure you have an airlock on your fermenter, and fill it will sanitizer or alcohol.


Now we wait for a few days. Within 12-24 hours you will notice bubbles coming from the airlock as fermentation begins. You can probably hear the yeast working too.

Day 2 or 3:

About 12 hours after you add your yeast, you want to give it a little stir. Sanitize a spoon and stir the must (that’s what wine that’s not wine yet is called).

IMG_3950 copy

Days 2-5:

While your wine is fermenting, you will notice that the fruit is constantly floating to the top. To make sure that all the fruit gets fermented, and you don’t get massive air bubbles building up underneath the fruit, you need to break that mass up a couple times a day. This is called “punching the cap.” This is my favourite stage in the process, not only because of its silly name, but also because every day you get to open the lid and smell the fermentation in progress. Using a sanitized spoon or masher, gently punch the cap, then place the lid back on. This is also a great time to make sure you don’t have any weird or nasty smells. It should smell strongly alcoholic but not like acetone, or rotting eggs, or burning rubber, or anything weird. Take note if it has any unappetizing or strange odours.

IMG_3836 copy

 Day 5ish: 

Around the fifth or so day, you’ll notice the cap not floating quite as much, and the bubbles have begun to slow in frequency. At this stage it is time to strain off the solids. There are a couple of ways that you can do this, but this is the setup I have rigged up. If you are only doing one gallon, just straining it without additional equipment is reasonably easy. If you have a full 3-5 gallon batch going, a fruit press or something more suited to 20 or so pounds of fruit may be necessary.

What I do is use a funnel (it’s actually the hopper from my food strainer) covered in a dampened layer of muslin, and strain the wine into a half gallon jar. This funnel happens to fit perfectly into the mouth of the half gallon jar.

Clean and sanitize the funnel, 2 half gallon jars and a one gallon glass jug (this is where your wine is going next). Dampen a section of muslin or cheesecloth and drape it into the funnel. Carefully dump the wine from your primary fermenter into the funnel. It won’t all fit at once of course so let it strain and add some more.

IMG_3639 copy

Once one jar it full you will want to transfer the funnel carefully to the other jar. When almost all the liquid is drained through, you can squeeze more out of the fruit if you want. Since I use a cloth that lets very little solids through, I give it a really good squeeze at this point. The cloth I use isn’t linked to here since it’s from a craft store and I was having a difficult time finding exactly what I wanted to show on amazon. Anyway, if you are using a coarser (bigger holes) mesh you probably won’t need or want to squeeze it a ton or you’ll have solids coming through. Now, if you don’t have a funnel set up, you can probably get away with straining it with your kitchen strainer and a layer of cheesecloth, again if you are doing a small batch. A jelly bag would work well too.

IMG_3644 copy

Now you have your wine strained. It’s time to transfer it into the gallon jug where you will finish the fermentation and age the wine. Make sure the jug is cleaned and sanitized. What I do at this point is actually just pour it carefully into the jug using a smaller funnel. This is not necessarily the best way to do it, but I’ll explain why I do it this way. If you just strained the fruit through a much coarser funnel or press, you will have larger particles that need to settle out. These are called the “gross lees.” If you use a coarse strainer, strain all the wine into one container, and allow the gross lees to settle out. I don’t really have any issue with this because I strain it through super fine cloth. However, if you have gross lees, or chunky bits, in your wine, let them settle, then rack the wine into the gallon jug instead of pouring it. You also mix in less oxygen this way, but I figure we’ve already mixed it in when straining it so it’s probably no biggie. Also, in this next waiting stage, any sediment is going to settle out, so if you get a bit it’s OK. Once your wine is in the gallon jug, top it off with a bit of water if you don’t have quite enough. You shouldn’t need to though if you had 1.25 gallons or squeezed the fruit well. Add another campden tablet to the wine. Place the airlock into the jug. You want only a tiny bit of space between the airlock cork and the wine to avoid oxidation of your wine. I would at this point recommend vodka or something in your airlock since at least with my iodine sanitizer, once the iodine evaporates you can get mould growth in your airlock. Mould = BAD. Awesome, now you are done for  a while! Place your jug somewhere cool, out of the sun, where it won’t be disturbed.

IMG_4461 copy

Day 5ish until ???

After the transfer day, wine making is just a waiting game. You will continue to have some fermentation for a while, but eventually the bubbling will slow and cease altogether. Admire your wine and patiently wait. Good wine does not happen over night. At this point, it’s up to you when you want to bottle the wine. At the very minimum, you want to wait until the wine is clear and all the sediment has settled to the bottom. You also don’t want any more fermentation occurring, so if there is any activity in the wine, do not bottle it. You will have to wait at least a couple of months. Joel’s instructions suggest between one and nine months. Yes, that’s a huge range. One is probably not going to be enough in many cases for it to be crystal clear, and in nine it’s probably drinkable (aged enough to be tasty and ready). I think 3 or 4 is probably plenty. Remember, as long as it’s clear, and done fermenting you can bottle it because it will still age and mature in the bottle. But wine that is bottled without good clarity isn’t going to clear anymore in the bottle.

From left to right, peach, blueberry, and raspberry wine during the aging process.


Day 100 ish

Wow, has it really been 95 days? Time flew by! It is time to bottle our wine. We haven’t seen a bubble in 2 months and the wine is crystal clear! Today what you will need is 5 regular sized wine bottles (750 ml). I don’t buy these because I think that would be insane when I already drink wine. Just save your bottles and rinse them out. You will also need 5 corks (number 8 or 9), a corker (they make two main kinds of basic ones – this round compression one, these double level ones and these floor ones), a racking cane with tubing or mini auto siphon and preferably a bottle filler.

Sanitize all your equipment and your bottles and let them air dry. Very gently rack your wine into each bottle. Don’t disturb any of the sediment on the bottom of the jug. Fill your bottle up enough that you will only have a very small amount of space between the wine and the cork. I like to actually hold a cork up to the side of the bottle and see where it will sit so I can adjust the level of the wine. Once you fill all five bottles, cork them up and you are done! Store the wine in a cool dark place and enjoy your wine whenever you desire.


If you are going to gift them, it’s super fun to make adorable labels for them (shipping labels actually work great – you can design any decorative label you want using the template in word) and add the fancy shrink wrap to the tops


Unfortunately, a gallon of wine just barely fills five bottles, so you don’t have much left over, but be sure to sample the wee bit that remains, even if it is the sediment filled stuff at the bottom of the jug. Happy brewing!

IMG_4475 copy

*this post contains affiliate links, please see the “About the Blogger” page for more information

Master Food Preserver Class – Week 6

I was a little sad that by week 6 of my Master Food Preserver class we were done with canning. Maybe that’s why it’s taken me so long to write this post 😉 But actually, I learned a lot about dehydrating fruits and vegetables, which was great because it is something I have a little less experience with doing at home.  Some of the fun things we either made in class or they had for demos are pictured below. From left to right we have: figs, green beans, tomatillos, canned apples that were dried, strawberries, zucchini, and regular apples.


One awesome thing about dehydrating is there are not too many safety concerns, as with canning. Things are more flexible, such as how large you want to cut pieces of food and how long you want to dry them. Now they should be sufficiently dry, but there is still a bit of flexibility there. Microorganisms and enzymes require water, so when you dehydrate food, you make conditions that are not favourable for food spoilage. It has been shown that pathogens can survive the food drying process, but there are actually no documented cases of people becoming ill from home dried foods, so it is a pretty safe preservation technique. You can also pretreat fruits with either an acid solution (citric or ascorbic acid), or sodium metabisulfite, and blanch vegetables to reduce this risk even further. Also, let’s keep meat in the back of our heads as a side note. Today I’m referring to drying fruits and veggies, and week 7 we talked more about drying meats, which have a couple safety steps that you need to remember.

Fruits and veggies can be dried using a dehydrator, your oven, solar dehydrators, or many things like herbs can simply be air dried. Commercial dehydrators, like this one which I have, can be a worthwhile investment if you are going to do a lot of drying. Using your oven often creates a lower quality product, partially because ovens are not really designed for the low temperatures at which you normally would dry things. The oven will also take longer and use more energy than a dehydrator.

Here are a few things we made in class.


IMG_3246 copy


IMG_3232 copy

And what they look like after they’ve been dried. Janice described them as a tart, sweet surprise. Perfect description!


So how does the nutrition of dried foods compare to fresh? One of the things that does become diminished in drying is the vitamin C, and this is because it is a water soluble vitamin, and drying eliminates much of the water content of the food. Doing pretreatments of fruit, such as the ascorbic acid dip, helps to reduce nutrient loss, preserves colour and flavour and increases the quality and storage life of dried foods. As an example of these pretreatments, fruits can be dipped for 10 minutes into pure pineapple, orange or lemon juice, or a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid per quart of water. To destroy more of the pathogens and be extra safe, this can be increased to 8 teaspoons of ascorbic acid per quart of water. Be sure not to over soak the foods, or nutrients can end up being lost, and drying time will increase. For many vegetables, you should blanch as a pretreatment, just like when freezing, to destroy enzymes. Different vegetables should be blanched for differing amounts of time, but in general they should remain firm but still be tender. That can be hard to gauge, so look up blanching times and other awesome information in this great extension service publication found here

One of my favourite ways to dehydrate is by making fruit leather, such as this strawberry fruit leather I posted recently. Fruit leathers have a few advantages. First, I love the reduced amount of chopping. Slicing strawberries, like pictured above, and drying those, is a heck of a lot more effort than pureeing in a blender and pouring on a tray. You do need the extra trays, however, but I think they are worth the investment. I prefer the texture somewhat as well, because fruit leathers are done when they are still a bit tacky, and not brittle.

In class we made “pizza leather” which is 15oz of stewed tomatoes, 8 oz of tomato sauce, and dried herbs on top. It is a pretty tasty snack.

Spreading tomato sauce out for the pizza leather.

IMG_3217 copy

And once it is done. I think it would be delicious slapped on a toasted English muffin with some mozzarella cheese. mmmmmm.

IMG_3248 copy

Vegetables can be great to dehydrate to later use in things like soups. For these, we pretreated the celery by blanching for about a minute, but we did not treat the zucchini or onions.

When you want to use dehydrated vegetables, some times you will want to rehydrate them first. Soak them in 1.5-2 cups of water per cup of dried vegetables, and add more if needed. They should plump to the size before they were dehydrated. They can also just be put straight into soup or stew and rehydrate in the broth.

IMG_3220 copy

Zucchini chips are a great way to use up excess zucchini. You know that you will be rolling in it soon! My first one is about ready to harvest.

IMG_3224 copy

Dried green beans. Yup, just randomly inserted here because they were pretty.


Dried foods should be stored in air tight, food grade storage containers. Canning jars are pretty great for this if you already have a lot on hand. Some times though, little critters can still get in there. Ewwww. Obviously, discard something this nasty.

IMG_3244 copy

And finally, our bounty of dried foods. It’s crazy how much things shrivel down. OK, now I am hungry. Time for some lunch.

IMG_3558 copy

*this post contains affiliate links, please see the “About the Blogger” page for more information


Countin’ your cans… for bragging rights, and a purpose

OK, so it may seem like I’m just doing this post to brag about the abundance of goodies in my overflowing pantry, but I swear there is also a purpose beyond making you jealous of me. Why keep a tally of how much you can each year? Well I’ll tell you why. My first year canning, I discovered in February that I only had three jars of salsa left! THE HORROR! I couldn’t make more until August! I never should have shared that red gold with anyone; it is too delicious. So last year, I canned 82 pints of it. HA! That’s not even hyperbole – but, when I do salsa I go big with the batches and split it with a friend, so 40 or so of those went into my pantry. Point is, are 40 pints of salsa going to get me through until I can make more? So far so good! I’ll let you know if it lasts. So, to get to my point at last. Do you have any idea how many jars of something you eat in a year? Are you always kicking yourself come late winter saying, “I wish I canned more ____!!”? This year keep a tally with me. I promise it’s not a contest, but if it were I think I’d place pretty well 😉 Here’s my canning closet in early November, when the bulk of the real canning season was over.

canning closet
Here she is, the 2013 canning list, just shy of 500 jars

Jams – 95
16 half pints strawberry jam
17 half pints strawberry rhubarb jam
6 half pints raspberry jam
9 half pints blueberry jam
8 half pints fig strawberry jam
8 half pints apricot jam
8 pints strawberry Pinot noir jam
6 pints blackberry cinnamon tequila jam
17 pints spiced cranberry jam

Who in their right mind needs 95 jars of jam!? No one, absolutely no one! Now having said that, these make excellent gifts. 5 went to my nana for her birthday, many went to family members for Christmas, a few went as wedding presents etc. You can have too much jam, but you’ll never have it go to waste.

Pie Filling
11 quarts strawberry rhubarb pie filling
17 quarts blueberry pie filling

Ya eating 28 pies is a lot, but when you are scrambling two hours before a potluck wondering what the heck to bring, man will you be glad for home canned pie fillings.

Pickles and Relishes
28 pints pickles
7 pints pickled asparagus
14 pints pickled carrots
6 quarts pickled beets
8 pints spicy dilly beans
8 pints zesty zucchini relish

You can never have too many pickled goods. They make a good snack, a nice treat to bring to ladies wine night, or a great topping. And this is coming from someone who a few years ago would pick the pickles off her burgers at a restaurant.

Fruits and Fruit Juices
15 quarts peaches in syrup
7 pints applesauce
5 quarts cranberry juice
10 pints of strawberry lemonade concentrate

I need to get more into fruit things, this area is actually kind of lacking for me. But dang I really like making the juices, SO GOOD.

Tomato Products
82 pints salsa
10 pints salsa verde
29 pints tomato sauce
8 quarts crushed tomatoes
5 pints country western ketchup

My favourite category for sure – always can have more tomatoes!

Pressure Canning
14 pints beans
64 half pints tuna
10pints chicken stock
6 quarts pressure canned beets
20 half pints corn

Always great to have these things on hand for a quick meal!

Overall, I think I need to add more savoury to my sweet this year, but I’m pretty proud of this list! What canned goods do you always run out of first? Keep track with me this year so you can better gauge how much you eat, and how much to make of your favourites.


Well as much as I hate to admit it, autumn is upon us. But don’t fret – there are still a few more canning adventures ahead! Fall means apples, so I canned up some applesauce!


My strategy to avoid burning is to peel and eighth the first few apples and get them heating over medium high heat, stirring frequently.


After the first few are going I get lazy and stop peeling them – I know Victorio will save me from the peels. If you don’t have a strainer though, you probably want to peel them. Get the canner, jars and lids ready while it heats.


Once all the apples were heated and starting to fall apart I ran them through the strainer. Look how pretty that is! Heating them takes 10 to 20 minutes depending on the apple variety and how many you do. If you don’t have a strainer puree them in a blender or food processor.


Return the sauce to the pot and bring it to a boil. This is when you would add a little sugar to taste if you like, or some nutmeg, cinnamon or other spices. In this case, I just left it plain and will add things when I open it because some of them I plan to use in baking. You can also add a little lemon juice for added safety since some apples are less acidic than others. One tablespoon per quart.


Maintain the boil while you fill jars with hot sauce leaving a half inch head space. Wipe rims, apply lids, and tighten the bands finger tip tight. Process the jars at full rolling boil for 20 minutes. When the time is up remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. 12-24 hours later check the seals, remove the bands, wipe clean and store.