The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Wild Strawberry Preserves

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012

Issue: June, 1983

Sometime in late June (maybe July this year because it’s been such a cold spring) the wild strawberries will be getting ripe. Of course, they can’t compare with hybrid berries in size but, oh, do they make up for it in flavor! If you have never tasted them, you can only guess at the difference. They are definitely worth picking. You can find them in pastures and open fields all along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Usually, when you find a patch of them, they will be so thick that you can’t step without stepping on them. It won’t take as long as you think to get a gallon of them.

I’ll give you a recipe that makes three pint jars full. For some reason, if you try to increase the batch size, they aren’t nearly as good. This recipe was given to me by Mrs. Oma Handy, who is in her 90’s. As far as I know, it is the way she has always made her strawberry preserves and probably her mother before her. I know the recipe is old. Just try it to see if it isn’t the best strawberry preserves you ever tasted.

Wild Strawberry Preserves

Cap a quart of wild strawberries and wash gently. Drain and put in a bowl and mix enough sugar with the berries to coat them and make them sweet enough. (Wild berries are usually more tart than domestic berries. I personally prefer not to add too much sugar so a little of the tartness remains.) Cover the bowl and leave setting out overnight. The next day drain the liquid that has formed into a pot and bring to a boil. (If you’re not sure if you have it sweet enough for your taste, take a sip of the liquid to be sure.) Pour this liquid back over the berries and cover them again. Do this again on the second day. On the third day pour off the liquid and bring to a boil as before, but then pour the berries in with it and cook it down a little to thicken them. Then just put in jars and seal while hot.

I’ve made this recipe many times and they always thicken on their own without adding anything to make them gel. I hope it works as well for you as it has for me. Good luck and good eating!