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Preserving berries with an oven and stovetop.

Gray Simpson

Joined: Jan 12, 2012
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
I want to preserve some strawberries, but without a pressure cooker, dehydrator, freezer, etc. Just your standard oven and stovetop, then store at room temperature. I tried dehydrating sliced strawberries with the oven on "warm" and partly open, but it was very slow (I only have two oven racks) and the radiant heat was a bit much while the heating coil was on. I also tried mashing a pint of berries and letting them boil for an hour, but they burned on to the glass pot I used. Maybe I should try again at a lower temperature.

I don't want to use a lot of refined sugar and I also want to protect the nutrients -- I read in "Ferment and Human Nutrition" that cooking too long or with too much heat can destroy certain nutrients.
Jordan Lowery

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
look into solar dehydrators or even just regular ones.

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Jonathon Coombes

Joined: Nov 24, 2010
Posts: 26
Dehydration would give you the longest preservation time and the idea of the solar dehydrator will help you a lot.
Another variation is a fruit leather as a possibility as these keep quite well, but can require a lot of sugar initially.

If you are okay with a shorter preservation time then doing canning/bottling could work just using a pot on the stovestop for your jars,
but again this technique uses sugar as the preservative, so it is hard to avoid.
Stefan Pagel

Joined: May 09, 2012
Posts: 27
The solar food dryer by Eben Fodor is a great book which also has plans for building a solar food dehydrator he came up with. It's on my endless list of things to do and build over the next years...

24 acres of grass/bog land in the Scottish Highlands
(Kune kune pigs, pygmy goats, chickens)
Planned: Build a RMH in the animal house, Build a green house
Jeanine Gurley

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1393
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
This is an important topic to me and I have been giving your question a lot of thought - bottom line - I couldn't come up with any better answer than dehydration.

All other methods of safe preservation seem to require resources/inputs such as electricity, additives, prep time and so forth.

I ended up going the dehydration route. Last year I bought a very well reviewed, semi-large capacity dehydrator. The company said that in the most expensive areas of the country that it should cost about 6 cents an hour to operate it. So if I pack it to capacity and run it for 18 hours then I have spent 1.08 US. Since my electricity is a bit cheaper than that and I don't ever run it on the high setting then my cost is even less.

I dehydrated pounds, and pounds, and pounds of produce. The tomatoes were gone within just a couple of months because they were so good. We make all of our own garlic and onion powder now with the dehydrated onions and garlic. I could go on and on.

If you open a jar of food and it feels a bit soft but does not smell or have any signs of mold you can just pop it back in and dehydrate some more.

I am still working full time, learning how to raise meat and egg birds, trying to grow all of our food, work a garden at a museum and sit around and surf the net like I'm doing now ---- Dehydration is GREAT, it takes virtually none of my time.

I know you said you didn't want to use that method but I just had to put my two cents in about it because I had been looking for easy safe ways to preserve food that were not dependant on long term energy use (freezer) or required a lot of my time and or knowledge to prepare (canning). And I didn't want a bunch of sugar (jelly/preserves).

1. my projects
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
Bottling's easy...
In NZ we usually fruit bottle using 'the overflow method'.
As long as the product has enough acid (basically any fruit), those things like botulism that freak out American canners aren't an issue.
Sugar isn't a preserving agent in bottling, heat and an oxygen-free environment are. Using no sugar has a major impact on texture and flavour though.
Kylie Harper

Joined: May 04, 2012
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6, Kentucky, high water table
Leila Rich wrote: Using no sugar has a major impact on texture and flavour though.

In your opinion, does no sugar have a negative or positive impact on texture and flavour for bottled strawberries?
Gray Simpson

Joined: Jan 12, 2012
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
I found these on Google:

Overflow method of bottling fruit and vegetables is where you have everything boiling and cooked(eg peaches in syrup) carefully put the fruit in jar then add syrup till full , ease out air bubbles then add syrup to overflowing, put on seal and screw band tight.Check that all domes are down when cold ie sealed properly, remove bands , wash bottles and store.

I'm not risking botulism. Maybe I will get a dehydrator.

Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
Kylie, sugar and salt help to stop fruit collapsing.
As far as I know, strawberries are too acidic for botulism to survive.
Botulism is something we don't worry about over here, but we generally only bottle fruit, which have a high enough level of acidity.
Gray, I haven't made a solar dehydrator, but they're supposed to be really effective.
Austin Max

Joined: Mar 15, 2012
Posts: 98
Location: South Central Kentucky
I have made a ton of fruit leather in the oven. Blend the fruit, pour out on parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake as low as you can get your oven, about 170 degrees on most ovens. If it is drying to fast I turn the oven off for a bit then turn it on again. When its leathery pull it out and roll it up in the paper. For long term storage I usually stick it in the freezer, but I was in Utah so it's pretty easy to store dried goods there. I have never had any spoil sitting out for month plus, not sure about more humid climates though.
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