This single recipe can structure your days during strawberry season by providing a variety of fruit desserts to enjoy now and a cupboard full of jam for next fall.

It is particularly appropriate for working people because the jam is prepared in short steps over a four-day period. You can pick (or buy) berries in quantity on a weekend and eat a few, unadorned, perfect berries for dinner that night. On the following day sort through the berries, hulling those that seem less than perfect and reserving them for the jam. The perfect berries can again be saved for eating fresh at the table, this time, with sour cream and brown sugar or Grand Marnier and Whipped cream topping.

The washed, hulled berries are sprinkled with sugar and allowed to stand in the refrigerator overnight to draw out their juices. On the following day -or the next evening after work-cook the berries and sugar until thick.

This step requires a lot of standing, stirring and skimming, but the reward-those warm, sweet, foamy strawberry-flavored skimmings-are tantalizing when poured over top-quality vanilla ice cream. I dream about that mement all year long.

That night the berries are again allowed to set in the refrigerator so the juices will thicken. On subsequent evenings you can ladle the jam into sterilized jars. For long-term storage it is suggested that the pints be sealed and processed. However, you can complete this step at your convenience.

The recipe is simple enough for children to prepare with proper supervision. It has the added advantage of being a science lesson in heat, condensation, evaporation and cooling. Always follow jam and jelly recipes exactly because time and quantity variations almost always cause problems.

OVERNIGHT STRAWBERRY PRESERVES

(Makes 2 pints) 2 quarts fresh whole strawberries 4 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Wash, drain and hull berries. Measure out exactly 6 cups.

Combine prepared fruit in layers with sugar in a shallow pan. Allow to stand overnight in the refrigerator or other cool place. Do not cover too tightly. The berries will form a syrup with their juice.

Heat berry-sugar mixture to boiling, stirring gently. Cook until syrup is thick as honey-at least 15 to 20 minutes. Skim off foam. You do not need totest this recipe for the jel point.

Again let stand overnight in shallow pans so the fruit will absorb some of the syrup and the syrup will thicken. Meanwhile, sterilize half-pint canning jars in boiling water. Moisten lids with boiling water and set jars and lids on a clean cloth. Ladle jam into clean jars, wipe the rims of the jars and seal with lids and screw bands. Process in hot water bath canner at simmering temperatures-not boiling-for 30 minutes.