Strawberry Preserves & Al Christian

Over the weekend we had the privilege of hosting one of the great influences in my husband’s life, Al Christian. Al ran the Swine Teaching Farm at Iowa State University for over 50 years and is a living legend in the pig-world as far as anyone I know is concerned. Mike worked for Al while he was at Iowa State and we’ve kept in touch with him over the years. My husband rarely asks for anything (besides bacon or cinnamon rolls), but when he mentioned having Al for dinner, I couldn’t put the evening together fast enough.

Smoked Ribs
We worked on making dinner the entire day by smoking ribs and a pork shoulder, I baked a cake and made cornbread and cut up fruit. I also made my husbands favorite salad of quickly pickled cucumbers and onions. Let us not forget the strawberry preserves either. They were the star of the show. Simple and sweet, much like our dinner guest. The best part of the night was watching my son (who does tend to make strange with most people) really enjoy Al. They even joked around a bit, and with the back of his hand my son slid a piece of watermelon across the cornbread crumb laced counter to Al and mocked him until he picked it up and put it in his mouth.
Pigs with Al
Good friends and good recipes are hard to come by. The simpler the recipe or relationship, the better, at least I think. Strawberries, sugar and lemon juice is all it takes to create the most delightful accompaniment to cornbread, toast, biscuits, and these preserves are also UNDENIABLE on top of homemade ice cream.
Preserves are much like jam, but the pieces of fruit are left much larger, sometimes whole, depending on size. Jam is stabilized with added pectin, but preserves are not.
Strawberries and Sugar
PS: Around town, you can find 2# packages of strawberries on a fire-sale for $1.99 per container!
Chop them up a bit if they are large. If they are small, you can leave them whole.
And if you know Al, and wouldn’t mind leaving a message for him in the comments, it would certainly mean a lot to him. We plan to have him back soon… breakfast next time maybe, and I’d love to show him this post and the comments from all of the people he influenced over the years. If you have a personal story you’d like him to have you may send them to and I will print them out and give them to him next month. He sure means a lot to our family.

Until next time.

Strawberry Preserves

Simple preserves can be the most delicious accompaniment to a variety of baked goods or even as a topping for ice cream.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings: 8 large quilted jelly jars
Author: Cristen


  • 6 pounds strawberries hulled, sliced in half if large
  • 3 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 2 TBSP Lemon Juice


  • Combine ingredients in a large stock pot, bring to boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer (stirring occasionally) until preserves fall off of the spoon somewhat thickly in a sheet (meaning they don't drip). Spoon mixture into jars, add lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, remove, let cool.
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  • Reply Katlyn July 14, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Al judged the Story County Fair when I was in 10th grade. Ot was my sister’s first year showing pigs and was really excited for showmanship. He asked her to tell him about her pig and she said she got it from a breeder in SE IA and Al laughed and said loud enough for most of the pavilion to hear “Oh yes I know the Steffensmeiers!”. She won that class (which was her first showmanship class ever) and came out with the biggest smile I had ever seen. It was such an honor to be able to show under such an influential and prominent man in the swine industry. We also came home with Champion Derby Gilt, Champion Gilt on Carcass, Champion Pen of 4, and a Champion Heavy Weight Derby Barrow so he must’ve liked us as much as we enjoyed showing for him!

  • Reply Lindsey Haley July 14, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Truly a living legend in the pork industry! Looks like a fun evening was had by all. I’ll be trying that scrumptious-looking recipe very soon!

  • Reply Jenn July 14, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    Al was always my favorite judge at the Story County 4H Fair. And years later, while I was working at Hickory Park, he always made sure to say hello and reminisce a little about my derby pig days. Even when I thought, “aw shucks, he probably doesn’t remember me.” But he sure did!
    Thank you, Al! Hope you are doing well!
    All the best,
    Jenn (Hanson) Hindman

  • Reply Claire Masker July 14, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Al was still at the teaching farms when I was in school. I will never look at a Big Gulp the same ;)

  • Reply Amy Smith July 15, 2015 at 10:54 am

    So glad Al could enjoy this time with your family. Al is one of a kind, and is loved by everyone. He’s never met a stranger and remembers everyone.

  • Reply Elizabeth Edgington July 15, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    I was lucky enough to have Al and Tom Baas teach a pork fellows class I was in during college! Al also taught my dad when he was I college and remembered us both when we would see him out and about at ISU sporting events! Thank you Al!

  • Reply Gary Wilson July 16, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    When Al speaks….People listen. They learn from the Master. Al is truly a Prince among Men. When I taught, I sent some of my most talented students to mentor under him. They commanded stellar jobs and will carry the experience to their graves. I have shown under him and consider him to be the most influential person to ever step in the tanbark. He has given me a never ending love of this industry……Thanks Al. superhog.

  • Reply Ashley Bushman Culp July 16, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    I was fortunate to meet Al as a grad student of Tom Baas. I’ll never forget how impressed I was that he remembered my name after a brief introduction shortly after I came to Ames. I was impressed by the fact that he not only appeared to be so good with names, but also that someone like Al Christian even knew who I was. I always enjoyed visiting with him. Over the years we have kept in touch (in recent years, not as much as I’d like). I would often call him for counsel before judging a show. Generally speaking, I was nervous before a show, regardless of the size or prestige. Al told me that he was always a little nervous before a show and when there came a time that he wasn’t nervous, he should be worried and think about retiring as a judge. I still think of that each time I judge. I mean, if Al Christian says it’s ok to be nervous, then it must be OK! He is truly an inspiration and I feel privileged to know him.

  • Reply Denise Broek July 16, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    What a blessing!! Al was a very dear friend of my father John B Broek. We saw him often during the summers of fairs type conferences and testing station events. Always a humble, generous and considerate man. We’ve enjoyed watching Al and his grandson dabble with Berkshire hogs. Supper sounds like it was awesome! If you get to northwest Iowa Al we’d love to see you!! Denise@Broek Swine Genetics

  • Reply Joyce Krug July 16, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    We know you like your jelly, Al! They know it at HyVee, too.

  • Reply Brad Hall July 17, 2015 at 12:33 am

    Probably the best two years of my life were the ones working for Al at the swine farm. Great guy who taught me a lot about evaluating hogs and life lessons !

  • Reply Carlton Jones July 17, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    There’s no way I can ever forget the countless baseball games Al came to growing up playing on the same team as his grandson, Parker. Whether it was a cold, rainy April day or a hot, muggy game in July, you always new Al was going to be there!

  • Reply Lyle Dorjahn July 17, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    Al Christian. …simply one of the best!

  • Reply Lane July 18, 2015 at 1:31 am

    Love this man! Such a dedicated, hard working and fun guy who loves Berkshires. Al is always smiling and gives great hugs! Miss him! Great post! Thanks!

  • Reply Trent Tiemann July 18, 2015 at 2:03 am

    I always enjoyed Al, a man of tremendous character

  • Reply Aaron Schafer July 18, 2015 at 4:06 am

    Al has been one of the greatest influences in Sue’s and my life. Not a day goes by that something that I do isn’t directly correlated to the education that he gave me in my time at the ISU Swine Teaching Farm.

  • Reply Ron and Mary Esther Pullin July 19, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Al grew up here in Black Hawk County and even though we are sheep people he stops by to see us when he judges at the Wisconsin State Fair or the Iowa State Fair. We are always grateful for his friendship. Al is one of a kind. Thank you Al for all that you have done and all of the people that you have influenced in the USA;

  • Reply Brooke July 19, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    My grandpa, Bill Owen, has known Al for a long time! He speaks very highly of him!

  • Reply Jeff Mayes July 21, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I learned so much from Al in the years I was in Ames, not just the time I spent with him at the teaching farm, but also anytime we ran into him at shows all over the country. Some of my most fond memories were the philosophical discussions at coffee each morning. I cannot thank this great man enough for the things he taught me, but I will continue to try.

    Thanks Al!


  • Reply Jeff Anderson July 21, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I worked for Al from 2002-2004. He truly is a living legend, I always thought of him as a second father. I learned some life long lessons, not only about the swine industry but about how to live life to the fullest. I think about him a lot even though I don’t get to see him very often. Love you and miss you.

  • Reply hilman schroeder September 17, 2016 at 3:10 am

    al and i have been for fifty years were not to sure about magic mike he was lucky to find you—-hilman

    • Reply Cristen September 21, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      Haha, Hilman you are one funny guy! Mike sure thinks the world of you both. I’ll let him know about his new nickname. Hugs to you, Cristen

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