I used to be scared of making jam. It sounded complicated and like a heck of a lot of work. Plus, it never tasted good enough that I’d go through the trouble to make it myself. I have enough to fill my day, thank you very much. Then one day I tasted strawberry FREEZER jam, courtesy of my in-laws.
I swear the clouds parted and my taste buds did their happy dance.
It was so. darn. good.
I was finally motivated to put on my big girl panties and attempt to make jam. For every beginner out there, let me tell you that freezer jam is WAY less complicated to make than cooked jam, in my opinion. I also believe that it tastes one gazillion times better. So there. Plus, I know that what goes into the jam that I’m feeding my kids, so I feel better about what I’m putting in their bellies.
This freezer jam only uses 4 ingredients. Totally manageable, right?
Strawberries (duh), pectin, sugar and water.
The most time consuming part of this process is getting the strawberries ready to be turned into jam. Each batch of strawberry jam takes 4 cups of crushed/chopped berries.
Sometimes we pick our berries and sometimes we buy them pre-picked. Then we wash, cut off the stems and pulse the berries a couple of times in the blender to get them ready. My family prefers their jam chunky, so I try not to get too carried away with the blender. You DO NOT want to turn the berries into juice.
As for a recipe? It’s easy. We use the one that comes in the pectin box. The pectin is the magic ingredient that makes your jam set or firm up.
When you go down the baking/canning aisle in your grocery store to find pectin, there will be 2 or 3 types. I’ve tasted jam made with all of them and it’s all delicious. However, I prefer to use the Sure-Jell pectin in the pink box because its recipes use less sugar and fewer ingredients than some of the other types of pectin. Regardless of which type you use, there will be a recipe sheet inside the pectin box for COOKED and FREEZER jam using all sorts of berries. It’s very handy and takes all the guess work out of the equation. Just make sure you are reading the right recipe!
This year we processed about 30 gallons of strawberries! We use it for jam, smoothies, jam, pie, jam, oh and jam.
Yes, we are jam addicts. Okay, mainly me.
Some tips I’ve learned:
1) When we process a large batch of berries, we pre-portion the chopped strawberries into 4, 8 or 12 cup portions. The pre-measured portions then go into a freezer bag. Lay the bags flat in your freezer to save space. That way, the bags can stack when frozen. Then I just thaw a bag and make a batch or two of jam at a time as needed. Besides saving on freezer space, it gives me flexibility in how I use the berries throughout the year.
2) When making the jam, be sure to thoroughly stir the pectin into the sugar BEFORE you add the water. Otherwise you get clumps of pectin that you need to break up when you are stirring the mixture on the stove.
3) You’ll know within a few minutes of pouring your jam into the container if your jam is going to set-up. As the mixture cools, it will start to firm up. If you wait the allotted time period, as indicated on the box, or are worried about your jam not setting up, Sure-Jell has directions on how to “save” your jam.
4) I use a soup ladle to spoon my jam mixture out of the pot and into the containers. Don’t scoop right off the top. If you do, you’ll end up with some containers that have more fruit than the others.
5) It is normal for the fruit portion of the jam to rise to the top and the “jello-like” portion to sink to the bottom. Make sure you STIR you jam before serving it. Unless you are my husband, then by all means, scoop the fruit off the top and leave me the nice gel chunks!
My last tip is to make sure your kids get in on the fun too! My little guy, under supervision, likes to press the “pulse” button on the blender. He is also in charge of lids…counting out the right number of lids and making sure they fit right! What would I do without him?
Speaking of lids and containers, these square containers shown above and the small pint containers are plastic and I bought them at the grocery store or Wal-mart. They are designed especially for freezer jam.
Freezer jam makes great cheesecake or ice-cream toppings. It also makes the world’s best strawberry lemonade. Just put a spoonful (or two) in your lemonade, stir and enjoy!
So, there you have it!
Freezer Jam makes me happy! Hope you try it! Let me know if you have any questions.