We Can Do It! Freezer Jam
by Patty Liston & Alice Osborne
One of Alices daughters has been teaching her friends in New York how to make freezer jam. They go out into the orchards, come back to her kitchen, and get to work. At the end of the day, the women have freezer jam to take home. How cool is that! We wanted to share with you how easy it is to have good food, made by you, ready in your freezer.
Whether you pick, or purchase your strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, apricots, peaches, cherries and/or plums, everything can be put into a jam. Summer offers fruit at its best--why not preserve some for later?
The ingredients for freezer jam are few, but it's vital to follow the recipe exactly if you want reliable, safe, and delicious results.
Fruit Use perfectly ripe fruit. Since you won't be cooking it, the flavor of the jam is going to be much like the flavor of the fruit, meaning if the fruit is over- or underripe, you'll be able to taste it. Jam made with under-ripe fruit, besides being sour, may jell too much, while jam made with overripe fruit--besides having an off-flavor--may not jell enough.
Pectin Traditional jam recipes call for cooking; this process thickens the jam. Since you don't cook freezer jam, most recipes call for additional pectin to thicken it, giving the mixture the consistency you expect from your preserves. Commercially produced pectin is derived from fruit--usually apples or citrus. Store-bought pectin comes in two forms: powder and liquid. These are not interchangeable--you should use whichever form your recipe calls for. The most common freezer jam recipes call for powdered pectin.
The basic ratios for each packet of powdered pectin are:
3 cups mashed fruit
5 cups sugar, and
1 cup water in which to dissolve and boil the pectin.
This formula can vary a little depending on the brand of pectin, however, so the best thing to do is follow the manufacturer's instructions on the package.
Sugar Sugar inhibits the growth of bacteria, keeping your jam fresh, fruity, and safe to eat. Jam recipes are formulated to call for a certain ratio of pectin to sugar, and they will not jell properly if you don't use the correct amount of sugar. If you'd like to make less-sweet jam, you'll need to buy a special kind of pectin that's formulated to work with less sugar and follow the proportions as given to you on the package.
Before you begin making the jam, have all your jam jars ready and waiting. Use either sturdy plastic containers with tight-fitting lids, or short, wide-mouthed glass jars made especially for the freezer. It's best to choose containers that are no bigger than pint-size; the jam will not set up as well in larger containers. Wash them as you would any other dishes; there's no need to boil them like with traditional jam-making.
The process itself is simple:
Wash and stem the fruit (and peel it, if applicable).
Place it in a wide-bottomed pan and crush with a potato masher to a smooth consistency, leaving some chunks of fruit if you like.
Stir in the sugar and let the mixture sit for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, mix together the pectin and water in a small saucepan until the powder is dissolved; bring it to a boil over high heat, and let it boil for a full minute.
Pour it into the fruit and stir for a couple of minutes.
Pour the jam into your containers, leaving a half-inch of "headspace" at the top.
Cover the containers and let them sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
The jam should have thickened significantly overnight, but it can take up to two weeks for it to completely finish its jelling process. If it's too thick, stirring it will soften it up. If it's still too runny after two weeks, you can pour it into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. It will get thicker as it cools, and you can re-bottle as you did before.
Storing Your Jam
As the name implies, freezer jam is meant to be stored in the freezer. In fact, it will keep beautifully in the freezer for up to a year. You can also keep freezer jam in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Once you open a container of jam, you should use it within three weeks as well. Just remember never to keep freezer jam at room temperature, or it will spoil.
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