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Easy Yummy Fresh-Fruit Freezer Jam
Freezer Jam: The Basics
You'll often see people talking about making freezer jam instead of traditional heat-processed jam or preserves because freezer jam is both much easier and much faster to make than heat-processed jams.
But that is't the main reason I love freezer jam. Personally, I'm a fan of freezer jam because the fruit tastes so very fresh. You can open a jar of strawberry or peach jam in the middle of the bleakest winter day in February, and be transported to the summer day when you picked perfectly ripe fruit.
Moreover, freezer jam really is astonishingly easy to make because you don't have to boil or process the containers of jam. Instead of the traditional method of cooking the fruit to make the jam, and then processing the jars of jam with boiling water, you make small batches of fresh fruit jam, then freeze them. You store the jam in the freezer for up to a year, then thaw a container of jam in your fridge when you're ready for fruit jam (putting a jar of frozen jam in the refrigerator the night before works well for me). You can keep the thawed jam in your fridge safely for roughly two weeks—assuming it manages to last that long. Mostly, it gets eaten very very quickly.
Because the fruit is not cooked, the texture and flavor are more like fresh fruit. You open a jar of strawberry or peach (or strawberry-peach, one of my favorites) on a cold day in February, and you can smell the fresh fruit, and taste it too. It's enormously cheering.
The recipe below calls for fresh strawberries; they're the easiest fruit to use, but you can use the same basic recipe with lots of other fresh fruits—peaches are amazingly good, as are apricots, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. I have a friend who makes incredible plum jam this way.
What You Need to Make Freezer Jam
Fruit It is absolutely crucial to use the best possible fresh fruit; you want it to be perfectly ripe, not over or under ripe. The fruit should be firm but not hard, and you need to taste it before you start cooking. If you wouldn't want to eat it "as is," you shouldn't use it for jam. Clean and remove any bad spots or leaves before crushing the fruit.
The fresher the fruit, the better the jam, but you can also make freezer jam using frozen fruit. I know people who use commercially frozen fruit, but sometimes during the summer it's just too hot to do anything other than clean and freeze the fruit that's just been picked. I've used that frozen fruit in October to make freezer jam (which I then give away as holiday gifts).
Sugar Ordinary table sugar.
Asorbic acid If you use peaches or apricots to make freezer jam, adding Asorbic acid (found naturally in many fruits) to the sugar mixture to prevent the peaches or apricots from turning brown.
Pectin Jam cooks tend to be a bit particular about the pectin they use. Pay attention to the instructions on the box regarding the pectin to sugar ratio. Make sure that the pectin you use is one that's compatible with freezer jam. I favor either Ball No-Cook Freezer Jam Pectin, though most recently my mother and I used Ball RealFruit Low or No-Sugar Flex Pectin because we could use less added sugar. If your jam is not setting, try bringing it just to a boil, stirring gently constantly, then letting the jam cool a bit before adding it to your jars.
Jars You can use traditional glass canning jars, but I prefer to use those plastic "ziploc" style containers. Plastic containers stack easily, and don't break if you happen to drop one. Don't use large jars; use one pint or smaller. The jam will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge, but making smaller jars reduces the risk of spoilage.
Base Recipe: Strawberry Freezer Jam
Strawberry Freezer Jam
- 2 cups chopped or partially crushed fresh strawberries
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 package of powdered pectin (1 3/4 ounce)
- 3/4 cup water
- Clean jars with lids, or plastic frozen food containers with lids to hold about six cups of jam
- Don't completely pulverize the strawberries. The pieces of strawberry need to be not much larger than a dime, and aspirin sized is better. There should be a fair amount of strawberry juice; don't waste any of the juice.
- You can adjust the sugar to taste, subtracting as much as cup for extremely sweet fruit. Don't substitute honey or other sweeteners; it won't freeze right if you do.
- Add the sugar to the fruit, stirring it in to gently but thoroughly mix it. You want the sugar to dissolve in the juice. Set the berries aside to rest for twenty minutes.
- Combine the water and the powdered pectin in a small saucepan. Keep gently stirring while you bring the solution to a boil. Boil the mixture for a full minutes. Do not stop stirring.
- Pour the pectin solution over the crushed, sweetened fruit. For three minutes, stir the fruit gently, making sure that all the fruit is coated with the pectin solution.
- After stirring the fruit for three minutes, pour the jam into the prepared jars or frozen food containers. Make sure to leave at least a 1/2 of space at the top of the container, because the contents will expand when they are frozen.
- Put the lids on the containers. Allow the jam to cool to room temperature, then freeze it.
You can use this recipe as a base for almost any sort of ripe fresh summer fruit you want to turn into freezer jam.
- Keep the same amount of chopped or crushed fruit.
- If you use peaches, mangos or apricots, you need to add a teaspoon or so of ascorbic acid, or three tablespoons of fresh lemon juice or orange juice to the chopped up fruit, to keep the fruit from turning brown.
- For raspberries or blackberries, think about crusing most of the berries and then pressing the fruit through a strainer to remove at least some of the seeds.
- Mixtures of berries work very well, as does a mix of peaches and strawberries, or mangoes.
- I can't over-emphasize that the quality flavor of the jam depends on the quality and flavor of the fruit you use. If the fruit isn't perfectly ripe, and good to eat as is, it won't be good jam.
Freezer Jam Resources and Recipes
Stephanie Stiavetti wrote a super piece for NPR on Freezer Jam: A Baby Step To Canning. She covers the basic procedure and then presents very clear and yummy recipes for Strawberry-Nectarine Jam, Citrus Pear freezer jam and Spiced Autumn Preserves made with apples, Asian pears, plums and spices.
Eating Well has a very simple low-sugar recipe for fresh peach freezer jam. I discovered that adding a few wild strawberries to the chopped peaches made it even better (if you had a cup of wild strawberries, deduct a cup of peaches).
This 30 Minutes SURE.Jell Strawberry Freezer Jam is the first freezer jam recipe I ever used.
8 oz plastic freezer jars, 5 pack
Each jar features a fill line to allow food to expand in the freezer
These 8 oz stackable jam jars with easy twist-on lids are freezer-safe, dishwasher-safe, and they stack and lock together for easy storage in your freezer.
Sometimes called a Chinois, this food press with a wooden pestle helps to crush fruit while removing the seeds.
Ball Realfruit Pectin. Ideal for making freezer jam.
Ball plastic 32ounce (1pint) freezer jam jars.
Decorative 5 ounce jars for freezer jam gift-giving.