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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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)

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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.)

Flavoured Vinegar

Have you ever bought a flavoured vinegar from the grocery store? A delicious herb vinegar, or perhaps a fruity or berry vinegar? They are crazy expensive compared to buying a gallon jug of vinegar and making your own at home. Perhaps they aren’t even available in the grocery store you typically frequent. Even if this isn’t something you’d necessarily typically buy, I bet you would find many uses for them, and they make a lovely gift. Flavoured vinegars make delicious salad dressings, marinades and sauces and are a great use of excess herbs in the garden too. I just picked a ton of sage, dill, and rosemary because it got way out of hand in my garden and made an herb vinegar from it. It’s really quite nice! I wish I still had oregano and basil too! Flavoured vinegars are simply made from soaking fruit or herbs in vinegar until they reach the desired strength of flavour. The OSU extension publication on this topic is great, SP 50-736, and here I’ll show some pictures of the ones I’ve made so far – herb, strawberry and raspberry. Some of these things are off season, but you can still use frozen fruit, things that are still in season, like citrus and cranberries, garlic and peppers, or perhaps you grow herbs inside, still have some growing, or have some you dried or froze. The options are endless, so let’s get started!

Here are my strawberry and raspberry vinegars on the day I was straining them. Such a beautiful red colour!! Strawberry one is partially poured off to strain.

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For making flavoured vinegar, the easiest thing to use is just a quart or half gallon canning jar. Any glass or food grade plastic container will do though. Wash the jars and sterilize them by boiling for ten minutes. Select whatever type of vinegar you’d like to use and buy it in bulk by the gallon. I typically just use white vinegar, but white wine vinegar is very nice as well, or apple cider. Or go ahead and get crazy and mix vinegars together. I remember when we made them in Master Food Preserver class Janice saying that flavoured vinegars are awesome because there are basically no rules. It’s certainly much more true than canning. Keep things sanitized and clean but otherwise you can get creative.

For flavouring your vinegar, you’ll use herbs, fruits, or vegetables. For herbs you want a few sprigs of fresh herb per pint. Wash, pat dry, add to the jar and cover with vinegar. If using dried, use 3 tablespoons of herbs per pint of vinegar. For fruits you can use fresh or frozen and basically just fill your jar about 2/3 or so full with rinsed fruit and fill the jar to cover with vinegar. You want about a 1:1 ratio of fruit to the vinegar covering it. Feel free to add extra spices, and get creative. Vegetables, such as peppers, onions and garlic can also be used to flavour vinegar. Get creative and have fun. Basically fill your jar and let them sit.

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Leave your vinegar alone for at least a couple of weeks. Three or four weeks is enough to achieve a nice flavour, but longer isn’t going to hurt anything. I made my strawberry one in May and didn’t get around to straining it until November. It’s dang delicious. Basically you can strain it whenever you taste it and are happy with the flavour. If it gets too strong, simply dilute it down with more of the vinegar you had used to make it in the first place.

When it’s time to strain, sterilize a jar of the same size that you have your vinegar in, place a funnel in the jar, and add a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Pour the vinegar into the filter.

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It can take a while to strain so be patient and change the filter out a couple of times if you need to. Depending on what type vinegar you made, the filters may get clogged. Herb vinegars just with large leaves tend to drain fast but if you have some fruit that breaks apart it may take a little longer and clog up the filter. Just be patient and swap it for a new filter a couple of times.

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A strainer and a coffee filter will also do just fine.

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Keep going until you get all the vinegar strained. Then store it in whatever cleaned and sanitized containers you would like to.

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These are the jars I’ve used to store my vinegar. The little ones are actually from tonic water and the large one is an old marinade jar. You can also just store them in canning jars of course. I would go for glass over plastic personally. To keep track of what I have, I love adding cute labels to things, and also when giving them as gifts. For these I’ve used the Avery 22922 labels which are 2×2 inches. I love them because you just download the template from their website and print whatever you want on the label. The round ones are Avery 22926. They’ll fit on a regular mouth jar, just barely so you have to be careful applying them, but they are awesome for wide mouth lids. They also sell 2 inch diameter ones rather than the 2.5 inch, Avery 22807. It’s always a good idea to label with all your ingredients as well. Label with your base vinegar, fruits, herbs, vegetables or spices added. This would be cute as a back label. It could also be nice, if giving this as a gift, to include a recipe for what you might use the vinegar for, such as a favourite salad dressing recipe.

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They are also really cute stored in fancy jars. I think I might get a set of these ones. After straining them you can also add another sprig of herb for decoration if you so desire.

To maintain flavour and colour, you can add a small amount of sugar as well, but I don’t generally like to do that or feel it’s that necessary. Store in a cool dark place. You can keep it in the refrigerator if you want, but it is not necessary. You can also actually can it in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes, but it’s pretty shelf stable as is so that’s also not mandatory. But of course don’t use it if off flavours, colours or odours develop. Enjoy!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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My mini primary fermenter

We have recently ventured into the realm of homemade fruit wines and are love love loving it. However, I have learned at least one lesson the hard way, which of course I will share with you so you don’t make the same mistake. I hope you can learn from my dumbiness, and perhaps get excited by the prospect of making your own wines. I think it’s easier than you might expect. I’ve now posted the full instructions on how to make it, which can be found here.

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Our first fruit wine was strawberry, pictured below. To make a gallon batch (of which we made two), we used about 4 pounds of berries, and placed them with the other ingredients into a gallon glass container. It seemed from the instructions that we were following from our local brew store like this was what they had in mind, but I think we were mistaken.

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Now, I’m a scientist, and not an idiot (at least I thought not), so I’m not sure why I thought this would be just fine, but I did. The problem with making wine like this is that fermentation produces a lot of carbon dioxide bubbles. Especially in the first few days after pitching the yeast, and especially when there is a lot of added sugar, as with these. With a fruit wine, these bubbles get stuck below that mat of fruit floating at the top (called the cap)… pressure builds up… and… yaaaaa I think the photo below says it all (sorry it’s rather blurry). Narrow neck plus mat of fruit plus carbon dioxide equals kaboom! Strawberries on the ceiling. I noticed pressure was building up a bit, so I put them in the kitchen sink thinking that the pressure might cause the top to pop out, but I never expected it to happen with such force. Yes, that’s a whole strawberry on the ceiling. I wish I could say we were home for the incident, but we had to go to school, so sadly I am not sure how loud this was, or when it happened, but both of the corks were violently launched off the bottles and fruit chunks hit the ceiling. We did just top it off with water and still saved the wine (it actually still tastes surprisingly good), but it was time for plan B before attempting raspberry or blueberry, which were about to come into season.

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Enter the homemade primary fermenter. I bought these containers on amazon actually originally for making dough for bread. This is a whole other story, but I just bought these two books, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and Healthy Breads in 5 Minutes a Day, and needed a 6 quart container for that. The one I saw came in a 2 pack, so I was inspired to use the second one to make a mini fermenter. It’s 1.5 gallons, so it’s perfect for filling it to the gallon mark, and leaving a 2 quart head space. If you just want to get them for brewing, this 8 quart version might be even better. All we did was drill a hole in the lid the size of the stopper we have. But as you can see we didn’t have the correct sized bit and kind of burned the edges of the hole to try and fix it and now have an oval, so it’s a bit sketchy, but with a little glue around the edges it’s now perfectly air tight! Really any food grade plastic tub with an air tight lid would work, get a 2 or 3 gallon one! Another thing I love about this one though is that it’s translucent so I can see the brewing in action.

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Ta-da. Now brewing is a breeze! After about a week in the primary fermenter, we strain off the big chunks of fruit and age it in the gallon glass jugs, so you really would just need one or two little ones and multiple glass jugs if you wanted to have a number of things brewing at once. I think this is also great to have for trying out a small batch of a new beer, wine, whatever, of which you aren’t sure you want a full 5 gallons. I love these little batches, a gallon is about 5 regular bottles of wine, then we can decide to make more if we love what we’ve made. Not sure how other people do it, but this has been working great for us! Just don’t fill it too full or you will still get fruit sneaking into the stopper and airlock. Have you ever made fruit wine? What do you use?

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Making a mini primary fermenter on Punk Domestics

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

This recipe is one I’ve made every year since I started canning, from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I’ve never made the rhubarb drink on the next page, but am really excited to try that one too. Stay tuned. When I got really excited to make the rhubarb one as well, saying it would be excellent with gin, Kiki called me out, saying we can’t make things just because they taste good with gin. Or can we? My favourite way to use this concentrate is actually with just a couple tablespoons in my gin and tonic. I swear, I really don’t drink that much gin. Of course you can just drink it as lemonade by adding water, tonic water, or ginger ale. I bet this would be amazing if you used a soda stream for some carbonation! Mix 1:1 or 2:1 water to concentrate, although I usually make it even weaker since it is really quite flavourful.

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Ingredients:
6 cups hulled strawberries
4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups granulated sugar (or much less if you like it the way I do!)

Here’s how we made it:

First, prepare the berries. Ball tells you to simply puree the strawberries in a blender. By all means you can totally do it that way if you like, and I have made this 3 or 4 times that way, but this year I decided to try and get rid of some of the seeds. To make the lemonade seedless, and partially because I just love an excuse to use it, I cracked out the Victorio food strainer. I ran my 6 cups of berries through multiple times, to get rid of the seeds. It’s kind of nice not having those pesky seeds in a beverage. I don’t mind them in jam, which is why we just used the extra poop you see coming out the left there in the jam we were making.

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Next juice a bagillion lemons. OK maybe not a bagillion. We found that 4 large lemons were pretty close to a cup of juice. A fun tip to get more juice out of them is to microwave them for 20-30 seconds. It really did seem to help.

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Combine your lemon juice, strawberry puree and sugar. We actually decided to do 1/4 of the sugar in this recipe. You can certainly adjust it to taste, or maybe try sweetening with honey or something. That could be really good. It definitely decreased the yield quite a bit, but this actually means you use less jars and lids, and if you decide it’s not sweet enough you can always add more sweetener when you open up the jar later. Heat the lemonade over medium high heat. Don’t boil though, bring it up to 190F.

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Remove from the heat, and fill your jars, leaving a quarter inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and tighten the bands finger tip tight.

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Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, check seals, remove bands, clean, label, and store. Enjoy a nice summer treat all winter long! Or just make it and consume immediately!

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Strawberry Freezer Jam

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Freezer jam is a super quick and easy alternative to making canned jam. I love canning, and think everyone should learn how (do it, do it now!!) but there are also a few advantages to freezer jam. First, you don’t have to cook the berries at all. This means you can keep a little more of the natural consistency and taste of the uncooked berries. It’s also faster, and you don’t need a canner, jar lifter or anything like that. I think it’s a great gateway into canned jams, although I did about a million jars of canned jam before ever trying it. But, if you have a little bit of extra freezer space, all you need is the jars, pectin and the berries to make quick an easy freezer jam.

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Ingredients:
4 cups crushed fruit
1.5 cups sugar
1 packet freezer jam pectin

For this endeavor I used Mrs. Wages freezer jam pectin, but Ball and many other brands also make freezer jam pectin.

First, wash, hull and crush the berries.

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Separately, combine the sugar and pectin together and stir to evenly mix them.

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Stir in the crushed berries and then continue to stir the jam for 3 minutes.

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Now all you do is pour it in jars. Leave a half inch or so of head space for the jam to expand when it freezes. Put on the lids and bands. Let it set up at room temperature for a half hour or so prior to freezing it.  You can leave it longer if you want, just not longer than 24 hours. After that just pop it into the fridge or freezer. It will keep around 3 weeks in the refrigerator or a year in the freezer.

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Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Now you really have no excuse to buy store bought jam anymore. This takes under a half hour and yields about 5 jars.

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Strawberry Fruit Leather

Lately in the field I have been eating basically peanut butter and jam sandwiches and granola bars, so I needed some new snacks to mix it up a bit. With strawberry season in full force, this strawberry fruit leather did just the trick. All I did for this leather was puree strawberries in a blender. No added sugar, no added nothing. You can certainly sweeten to taste with a bit of sugar or honey if you like, but I don’t really think it’s necessary.

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How to make it! First, wash, hull and puree the berries.

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Pour the puree onto the fruit leather trays. Unfortunately most dehydrators come with either none or one of the fruit leather trays. But they aren’t too expensive, so I bought 4 more.

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Deydrate the fruit leather at 135-140F. My manual says it should take 4 – 8 hours. I’ve done a couple batches now with 5 full trays and it took about 8 – 10 hours. The only real issue I had was a bit of cracking. Around the crack I had a bit of “case hardening,” which is when you get the outer layer drying, but the middle is still wet. I just kind of punctured it and smeared it into the crack. I think this could be avoided by not pouring such a quite thick layer of puree. Perhaps.

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Almost dry but a titch cracked.

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You can tell that it’s done when it is a bit tacky still and not yet brittle. Watch carefully when it is almost done so that you don’t over cook it. It will also be a little more brittle once it cools, so if it seems nearly done it might be, so cool it and check that it’s ready. Once it’s ready, tear it or cut it into pieces. Deeeelish.

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Store in a plastic bag or whatever you like at room temperature. It will keep quite a while, but I bet you will gobble it up pretty quickly.

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