Pickled Strawberries

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No canning is required for these simple pickled strawberries; you just make a pickling liquid and pour it on top. These are the perfect blend of tangy and sweet.

We love them on salads, served with cheese and crackers, and tucked into a grilled cheese sandwich. Sounds weird, I know. Give it a try anyway. You might find, like us, that this is one of your favorite food preservation recipes of all.

The completed jar of pickled strawberries is showcased on a kitchen counter, accompanied by fresh strawberries, a lemon, and a background of kitchen tools and bread, ready for serving.

Pickled Strawberries

A tangy, sweet, and slightly spiced twist on fresh strawberries.
Prep Time 15 minutes
chilling time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes

Equipment

  • 1 quart jar, sterilized
  • saucepan
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Ingredients

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries hulled and halved
  • 1 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • Zest of 1 lemon in large strips

Instructions 

  • Prepare Strawberries: Wash the strawberries, hull, and cut them in half. If they are very large, you might prefer to cut them into quarters.
    A wooden cutting board holds expertly quartered fresh strawberries ready for pickling, with a whole strawberry in a white bowl to the side, showcasing the starting point of the pickling process.
  • Sterilize Jar: Ensure your quart jar is properly sterilized before using it to prevent any bacterial growth.
  • Make Pickling Liquid: In a saucepan, combine balsamic vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.
    A wooden spoon stirs the pickling liquid in a cream-colored saucepan, emphasizing the hands-on aspect of preparing the recipe.
  • Add Spices: Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, add the peppercorns, fresh thyme, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes to infuse the flavors.
    A saucepan holds the pickling liquid ingredients including thyme, peppercorns, cinnamon, and lemon zest, ready to be heated, illustrating the first steps in creating the pickled strawberries.
  • Assemble: Place the prepared strawberries into the sterilized quart jar. Carefully pour the hot pickling liquid over the strawberries in the jar, ensuring the spices are distributed evenly. Leave about a half-inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
    The process of pickling is shown in progress, with a stainless steel funnel leading into a jar, where sliced strawberries await the spiced vinegar mixture being poured from the saucepan.
  • Seal and Cool: Close the jar tightly with its lid. Let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled to room temperature, refrigerate the jar. Let the strawberries pickle for at least 4 hours before using them for the best flavor development.
    The same jar of pickled strawberries is featured prominently with the lid open, against a backdrop of fresh strawberries in a white container, a lemon, and kitchen utensils, offering a fresh and inviting culinary scene.
  • Serve: Enjoy your pickled strawberries with salads, cheeses, or as a unique garnish for drinks and desserts.
    A close-up of a toast spread with cream cheese topped with a slice of pickled strawberry and thyme, illustrating a delicious way to enjoy the recipe.

Notes

The pickled strawberries will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks but we  prefer to eat them within a week so they aren’t too vinegar-y. 
If you can’t find white balsamic, the best substitute is actually apple cider vinegar.  Regular white vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar are too strong!
Adjust the sugar level according to your taste preference. For a less sweet version, reduce the sugar by half.
Experiment with other spices like star anise or cloves for different flavor profiles.

This recipe turns ordinary strawberries into something special. Like just about anything, it’s better with local, in-season produce. But I’m not a snob about it and storebought strawberries will still be good!

The same jar of pickled strawberries is featured prominently with the lid open, against a backdrop of fresh strawberries in a white container, a lemon, and kitchen utensils, offering a fresh and inviting culinary scene.

🥣 important tools and ingredients

Good news, no giant pots of boiling water are required. You’ll only need simple kitchen tools for this one.

The freshness of the strawberries and the type of vinegar used will both directly affect the finished producct.

An overhead view of ingredients and kitchen items laid out on a marble countertop for making pickled strawberries. This includes a white bowl full of fresh red strawberries, a cinnamon stick, fresh thyme sprigs, whole black peppercorns, sugar, large strips of lemon zest, and two empty glass jars. The arrangement is neatly organized and ready for the pickling process.
  • White Balsamic Vinegar. White balsamic is a milder and sweeter alternative to traditional balsamic vinegar. You can find it in the vinegar aisle of most grocery stores. It’s crucial for adding a gentle acidity without overpowering the strawberries.
  • Fresh Thyme. You can find fresh thyme in the produce section. It imparts an earthy, minty flavor. This complements the sweetness of the strawberries. It adds a subtle depth to the pickling liquid.
  • Cinnamon Stick. A cinnamon stick is available in the spice aisle. It infuses warm, aromatic flavor into the strawberries. It’s essential for creating a nuanced and spiced taste profile.
  • Lemon Zest. Lemon zest, obtained from the outer skin of a lemon in the produce section, adds a bright, citrusy note. It’s important for balancing the sweetness and acidity in the recipe.
  • Black Peppercorns. You can find whole black peppercorns in the spice aisle. They introduce a sharp, pungent flavor. It contrasts with the sweet and tangy elements. They’re essential for adding a subtle spice.

These components work together, and each ingredient is important.

A preparation set-up for pickling strawberries, featuring a chef's knife, a wooden cutting board, a cream-colored saucepan, and an empty mason jar with a lid. The items are arranged on a marble surface, indicating the initial steps before beginning the recipe.
  • 1 Quart Jar, Sterilized. You need a sterilized quart jar to store and pickle the strawberries. Without any bacterial growth, it ensures the preservation of them.
  • Saucepan. You need a saucepan to combine and heat the pickling liquid ingredients. This allows the flavors to meld together .
  • Knife and Cutting Board. You need a sharp knife and a stable cutting board. They are crucial for hulling and halving the strawberries. They prepare the strawberries for even pickling.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons. Accurate measuring tools are important. They maintain the balance of flavors in the pickling liquid. They ensure the right ratio of sweetness, acidity, and spices.

If you don’t have an official mason jar, that’s okay! An old pickle jar, scrubbed clean and sanitized, will work fine!

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Now that you have the right equipment, let’s move on to some helpful tips. They’ll ensure your pickling adventure is both enjoyable and successful.

✨ Tips for the best pickled strawberries

If you know how to boil water, you can make this 😉.

  • Strawberry Selection: Choose ripe but firm strawberries for the best texture. Overripe strawberries may become too soft during the pickling process.
  • Sterilization Technique. To sterilize the jar, you can either boil it in water for 10 minutes or heat it in the oven at 275°F for about 20 minutes.
  • Temperature Control. When pouring the liquid over the strawberries, ensure it’s hot, but not boiling. High temperatures can soften the strawberries too much.
  • Balancing Flavors. If you’re unsure about the sweetness or acidity, start with less sugar and vinegar. You can always taste the pickling liquid and adjust before adding the strawberries.
  • Spice Intensity. The longer the spices stay in the jar with the strawberries, the more their flavors will become. If you prefer a milder taste, consider removing the cinnamon stick and thyme after a few days.
  • Shelf Life Check: Keep an eye on the strawberries as they pickle. If you notice any off smells, discoloration, or bubbles, it’s best to discard them. These are signs of spoilage.
  • Serving Suggestions. Experiment with serving pickled strawberries in different dishes. They can add a unique twist to both sweet and savory recipes.
  • Reusing the Pickling Liquid. You can reuse the leftover pickling liquid to pickle other fruits or vegetables. This adds a unique flavor twist.

If you’re curios about the basics and safety of making refrigerator pickles in general, this is a good overview.

🥫 Storage and Make Ahead Instructions

These keep well in the fridge in terms of safety, but for the best taste, eat within a week. We like them best on day 2-4.

  • Refrigeration. Once the strawberries cooled to room temperature, store them in the refrigerator. Make sure you seal the jar . This will keep them fresh and flavorful for up to 2 weeks. For the best taste and texture, consume them within a week. They can become vinegary over time.
  • Avoid Room Temperature. Do not leave the pickled strawberries at room temperature for extended periods. This can speed up spoilage and bacterial growth.
  • Freezing: Freezing pickled strawberries is not recommended. The freezing process can alter the texture of the strawberries. It makes them mushy when thawed. Additionally, the pickling liquid may not freeze well. This can lead to changes in flavor and consistency.
  • Check for Spoilage. Before consuming, always check for any signs of spoilage. These include an off smell, mold, or fermentation bubbles. If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to discard the pickles.

Can I use frozen strawberries for this recipe?

It’s best to use fresh strawberries for pickling. Frozen strawberries tend to become mushy when thawed. This can affect the texture of the final product.

Is it possible to make this recipe with less sugar?

Yes, you can reduce the sugar according to your taste preference. But honestly,t hey aren’t overly sweet and the recipe needs the sugar!

How long should I wait before eating the pickled strawberries?

To develop the best flavor, pickle the strawberries in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. But, waiting a day or two can enhance the flavors even more.

Can I reuse the pickling liquid for another batch?

Yes, you can reuse the pickling liquid, but it’s best to use it within a week and boil it again before using. Be mindful that the flavor intensity might change after the first use.

What are some creative ways to use pickled strawberries?

If a fresh strawberry or a pickle will work, try it! Here are some of the best ways:

  • As a Cheeseboard Accompaniment: Pair with various cheeses and crackers for a unique addition to a charcuterie spread.
  • Topping for Salads: Chop and toss them into a fresh green salad or a grain-based salad for a zesty twist.
  • Garnish for Cocktails: Use a skewered pickled strawberry to garnish your favorite cocktails.
  • With Grilled Meats: Serve alongside grilled chicken or pork as a fruity condiment.
  • On Toast: Spread goat cheese or cream cheese on toast and top with pickled strawberries for a quick snack.
  • In Wraps or Sandwiches: Add to a turkey or ham wrap for a surprising burst of flavor.
  • In Desserts: Chop and sprinkle over ice cream or yogurt for a tangy contrast.

❤️ More ways to preserve your strawberry harvest

Strawberries are a favorite around here, and when it’s strawberry season, we get to work! Here are some of our favorite ways to use them.

This recipe is perfect for anyone looking for something easy and a little different. I hope you enjoy it ❤️.

A quart-sized glass jar filled with pickled strawberries, displaying visible thyme sprigs, a cinnamon stick, and lemon zest strips among the vibrant red fruit. The jar rests on a white surface, flanked by a fresh strawberry and lemon, hinting at the recipe's ingredients.
Pickled Strawberries
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