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Make a small batch of easy, lemony strawberry preserves

Recipe: Sunny strawberry-Meyer lemon preserves without added pectin

Strawberries macerate in sugar before they are quickly cooked into a small batch of lemony-sweet preserves.

Strawberries macerate in sugar before they are quickly cooked into a small batch of lemony-sweet preserves. Debbie Arrington

Dab of preserves on a plate
Meyer lemon adds a sunny note to the berries.

Sometimes I have the urge to make jam but not too much – especially if I have limited fruit. These easy preserves take only 1 pound of strawberries, 2 cups of sugar and one Meyer lemon – no added pectin necessary.

Compared to jam, preserves have larger pieces of fruit – even whole small berries. Larger strawberries are quartered or sliced.

This recipe does take a little advance planning. To bring out their juice, the strawberries need to sit in the sugar for six hours (or overnight). This process helps the berries retain their bright red color.

Added just before cooking, the Meyer lemon juice and zest add a bright, sunny note to the berries.

The result is soft and spreadable. Keep the finished preserves in the refrigerator.

Sunny strawberry-Meyer lemon preserves

Makes about 1 pint (2 cups)

Ingredients:

1 pound strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered (about 2 cups)

2 cups sugar

Zest of 1 Meyer lemon

2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

Instructions:

In a large stainless steel or non-reactive bowl, mix strawberries with sugar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours (or overnight), stirring occasionally.

Strawberries boiling in a pot
Bring the berries to a boil, then simmer.

Transfer berries, sugar and syrupy juice to a large heavy pot. (It needs room to bubble.) Add lemon zest and juice.

Over high heat, bring strawberry mixture to a boil, stirring often so it doesn’t stick or burn. Let boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and let preserves simmer, stirring often, until desired consistency (about 10 to 15 minutes).

Remove from heat and transfer to a sterilized jar or other container. Cover and store in the refrigerator. May be frozen up to 6 months.

When is jam (or jelly or preserves) ready? To test consistency, freeze a small plate in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. Spoon a ½ teaspoon of preserves onto cold plate and return it to freezer. Check in 2 minutes. If the jam/jelly/preserves doesn’t run when the plate is turned sideways, it’s done.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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