Technique: Preserving Place’s Martha McMillin on her award-winning strawberry preserves

Try on a hot biscuit or draped over ice cream
Strawberry preserves
Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Few sights inspire us to take a crack at home canning more than a farm stand overflowing with just-picked strawberries. A jar full of glistening homemade preserves makes a year-round prized treat, whether smeared on a hot biscuit, dolloped onto goat cheese, or draped over ice cream. Here, Preserving Place’s Martha McMillin explains how to make her award-winning recipe.

1 Sterilize seven 8-ounce canning jars and have them ready in a canning pot full of hot water. Keep clean lids in a small pot of warm water, with sterilized rings nearby.

2 Briefly rinse and drain 6 pounds of strawberries. Hull and leave whole, or cut in half if very large.

3 Place strawberries in a wide, large, nonreactive heavy-bottomed pan. Stir in 4 cups sugar and 1⁄3 cup pure bottled organic lemon juice. Bring to a steady boil over medium heat, stirring gently so as not to crush the berries.

4 When sugar dissolves and mixture turns soupy, add 2 green apples (cored, seeded, and quartered) and boil 20 to 30 minutes, skimming off any white foam and stirring frequently until mixture has thickened to a syrupy consistency.

5 Remove apple pieces before they fall apart, then cook mixture approximately 30 minutes longer. Remove from heat once the color and aroma of the preserves deepen and intensify, and mixture is thick enough that you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir
6 Remove jars from the canning pot and bring the water to a hard boil. One by one, place a funnel into each jar and ladle in the preserves, leaving ¼ inch of space below each rim. Run a thin knife around the inside edges to remove air bubbles, which can trap bacteria. Wipe down the top rims and sides of the jars. Place a lid on top of each jar and twist on the ring.

7 Place jars into the boiling water. The water should cover the jars by at least one inch. Cook for 10 minutes at a steady, hard boil.

8 Remove jars and place on folded towels. Do not disturb for 24 hours, then press down on the center of each lid to check whether it has sealed. If the lid does not move, that indicates a proper seal. If it pops back up, the jar should be refrigerated and used immediately. Date the can and be sure to use within one year, or within two to three months after opening and refrigerating.

Basic training
New to canning? Learn more about the water bath method on the Ball canning equipment website at

Martha McMillin
Illustration by Joel Kimmel

About Martha McMillin
In 2013 McMillin left a 31-year career in law to open her Westside storefront that puts up local produce the old-fashioned way. Of the store’s 15 different preserves, pickles, and condiments, one of her bestsellers is strawberry jam, which she and her team are making this month as strawberries come in season.

This article originally appeared in our April 2016 issue.