Strawberry preserves make the perfect filling for these Strawberry Crumble Bars. Strawberry flavor is sandwiched between buttery layers of oatmeal and almond crumble.
Florida strawberries are in season RIGHT NOW! Their growing season is between November and April. This means they’re not going to be around forever. I know. I’ll miss them, too, when they’re gone.
But, don’t fret! With just a little bit of planning, and some u-pick strawberries), you can stock up and savor these amazingly sweet and delicious berries year around. Because you will want to be able to eat them year-round since they are THE BEST strawberries ever!! No, I’m not exaggerating.
Luckily, towards the end of their growing season, some Florida strawberry growers open their farms to the public to pick their own strawberries. These lucky people can pick their own succulently sweet Florida strawberries from mid-March through April. It’s not just as simple as heading to the farm with a bucket. There’s a few tips and tricks to picking your own strawberries.
First, pay attention to the weather!
If you want to preserve the strawberries that day, then you can head to the farm any time you want. But, if you want to wait a couple of days before preserving them it’s suggested that you go early in the morning or on an overcast day. Berries picked at the heat of the day will ripen quicker than those picked under cooler conditions.
Don’t bring large containers. By the time you’ve filled the container, the berries on the bottom are probably getting crushed. That’s not good for these delicious gems. Also, make sure that you keep your Florida strawberries out of direct sun and heat after you’ve picked them. That means don’t store them in your trunk. It’s just an oven waiting to heat up and bake those babies.
To pick the berries, grab the stem just above the berry with your thumb and forefinger. Carefully pull the stem while using a twisting motion to separate the stem from the plant. This will allow the berry to fall into your hand unblemished.
Do not bounce from plant to plant and row to row. Be respectful of the gracious growers that open their fields for u-pick and harvest berries like they would. Also, if you find some that have insects or just look sickly, remove those and leave them in the rows away from the plant.
Once you’ve picked all those scrumptious Florida strawberries, you will need to preserve what you haven’t eaten to eat later. You can freeze them, dry them, or can them. I prefer to can them. Canning has been something my family has done for many years and is sort of comforting to me. It brings back memories of helping Mom with her pickles, making some jam or fruit butter, or using the canned fruits and vegetables that Nana used to make. There’s a story with that last one, but I won’t share it here. You’ll just have to wait on that.
My first adventure in canning was a bushel of extra ripe peaches.
They were on sale at a flea market and tasted amazing. I was up to my elbows in peach skins, pits, and juice. It was a mess! I followed the directions on the pectin package and made the most delicious, buttery peach jam I’ve ever tasted. From that moment on, I was hooked!
I’ve made hot pepper jelly, apple jelly, grape jelly, peach jam, berry jam, and strawberry jam. I’ve made countless butters including apple, pear, plum, and peach. This is my first adventure into preserves though.
Okay, I know you’re saying, “But Christie, what’s the dif?” Here’s the 411. Jelly is made with only juice. Jam is diced fruit and juice. These both use pectin which is a naturally occurring gelling agent. Butters are pureed fruits that are simmered with a little sugar until thickened.
Now, fruit preserves are like fruit butter except you don’t puree the fruit. Preserves larger chunks of fruit that are simmered with sugar until thickened naturally without pectin. With preserves you simply boil hard for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar and then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it reaches the consistency you want.
These preserves have large chunks of Florida strawberries. I wanted you to see those delicious red berries in that sweetened strawberry sauce. These preserves have captured the sunny flavor of these strawberries. The preserves are delicious on anything and everything. Toast, waffles, a spoon; anything. But I didn’t stop there. I wanted to turn these strawberry preserves into oatmeal crumble bars.
So, that’s what I did. I took the scrumptious preserves filled with Florida strawberries and sandwiched them between hearty oats and nutty almond meal. As if these berries didn’t have enough nutritious qualities on their own, I made a dessert that is healthy-ish. These strawberry crumble bars are the perfect balance of sweet, tart, nutty, and buttery all in one simple bar.
And just look at that gorgeous red color from those sinfully delicious berries in those preserves. Then there’s the butter oat topping. You can’t say you’re not drooling. Because I’m drooling. I’m drooling because I have several jars of these amazing Florida strawberries saved up in these preserves for whenever I feel like a taste of Florida sunshine!
Any time you feel like getting a taste of Florida sunshine, head over to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association Facebook, Google +, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. Not only do they warm you up from seeing all that sunshine, but has great ideas on not only saving these berries to eat later, but recipes for serving them when they’re in season again.
Strawberry preserves made with #FLStrawberry make the perfect filling for these Strawberry Crumble Bars. Strawberry flavor is sandwiched between buttery layers of oatmeal and almond crumble.
- 3 pints Florida strawberries, stemmed, cored and roughly chopped (about 5 cups)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 4 half pint jars
- 1/2 pint Florida strawberry preserves
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2/3 cup flour
- 1/3 cup almond meal
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- Place the strawberries and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Simmer on medium for 15 to 20 minutes or until the berries start to release their juices.
- Pour the sugar over the berries and bring to a full, rolling boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat and simmer until the preserves reach your desired consistency. I like mine on the thick side, so I simmered mine, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.
- While the berries are simmering, bring your jars, lids, and rims to a boil in a large saucepan. Remove the jars from the pot with canning tongs (or carefully use your silicone tipped tongs). I leave them upside down to dry on a clean towel.
- Once the strawberry preserves are ready, carefully ladle the preserves into the prepared jars using a funnel. If you don’t have a funnel, simply wipe the rims well before placing the lids and rings on the jars. Do not turn the rings too tightly; only hand tight. Turn the jars upside down for five minutes then turn upright and allow to cool completely before serving.
- Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or you can process the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes and store in your pantry for a few months.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Use a pastry blender or two knives, combine the softened butter with the 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, flour, and almond meal until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the oats.
- Remove one cup of the mixture and set aside. Place the rest of the mixture in the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish. Press the mixture to the bottom of the pan until evenly coated. Spread the Florida strawberry preserves over the crust and top with the remaining crumble mixture.
- Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes or until the preserves are bubbly and the crumble mixture is lightly browned.
- Cool before slicing and serving.