My husband and I went strawberry picking recently. The farm seemed to be overflowing with berries, and we came home with 11 pounds of perfectly ripe, bright red fruits. That’s a lot of berries. It’s really best to process fresh-picked berries the same day they’re picked–or shortly thereafter–so I had a lot of work ahead of me.
To preserve the freshness of the fruit, I knew I wanted to make strawberry jam. But the thought of real home canning–you know, sanitizing jars, cooking fruit, processing jars–was too overwhelming. I want to try it someday, but not *that* day. Freezer jam is great because it eliminates the fussy steps of traditional home canning. It’s quick and painless, and it sets up beautifully thanks to the use of fruit pectin. It’s a great way to save the freshness of summer for a winter day.
As the name suggests, freezer jam lives in the freezer until you want to eat it, then it lives in the fridge. It will keep in the former for up to a year, the latter for 2-3 weeks. Bearing this in mind, I used small glass ball jars–the 4oz babies. I’m hoping this will cut down on waste. And the little jars are adorable and perfect for gifting (perhaps along with some of my Maple Oat Bread).
Freezer jams require a lot more sugar than their cooked brethren, but the resulting jam is bright pink and fresh-tasting. It is much more strawberry-colored than cooked jams, which are an almost a maroon-colored deep red. That’s also delicious, and indeed I made a batch of cooked jam, but the bright pink stuff veritably screams out “summer!”
Here we go:
STRAWBERRY FREEZER JAM
2c. of strawberry puree (from about 4 cups of whole fruit)
one packet of Sure-Jell pectin (if you use another brand, check the recipes and instructions associated with it)
Having never done a freezer jam before, I was thrilled to find that this jam really couldn’t be easier. I used Sure-Jell pectin, which must be mixed with the water and brought to boiling before it is added to the fruit puree. I was advised by some experienced jam makers that Sure-Jell sets up a little firmer than Ball no-cook pectin. And if some simple boiling of water is all the cooking required to make this jam, I still call it a no-cook jam.
Okay. To work.
Step one: sanitize your jars and rings. I did this in the dishwasher, but very hot, soapy water will also work. Wash the lids separately in hot, soapy water if you use the dishwasher approach. These are going to be preserved, so the seal might not much matter, but it’s a good habit to get into. The waxy seal on the lids will be destroyed by the heat of the dishwasher.
First, I washed the berries. I also played with my camera while doing it and managed to get a pretty great action shot of the flowing water.
I then let them dry thoroughly. Strawberries will get moldy and mushy if they are allowed to remain wet, so I spread them out on paper towels and let them dry out for a good long time. Also, note that I hadn’t remved the stems yet. Keeping the stems intact helps the berries to last longer.
I removed the stems from a little over four cups of berries and tossed them into the food processer. I needed 2 cups of puree; I ended up with more like 3 cups. I spread the extra on angel food cake for desert. Yum.
I then processed them to a puree. Or, as the Brits say, I blitzed them. I much prefer British cooking terminology. Perhaps it has to do with my love of Nigella Lawson. If she blitzes berries, then I blitz berries.
I emptied the puree into a large bowl and mixed in the sugar. I let this stand for ten minutes. Next time I make this jam, I might add a little lemon juice during this step just to brighten up the flavor and cut the sweetness a little.
While the puree and sugar were busy getting sweet and syrupy, I mixed the water and pectin in a small sauce pan and brought it to a boil. I boiled it for one minute in the saucepan, stirring constantly. I didn’t bother to photograph that step. Boiling water is boiling water.
After it boiled for one full minute, I poured it into the fruit-and-sugar mixture. I stirred this for three full minutes.
This is the only place where this recipe gets a bit fussy. This stuff will set up quickly and become difficult to pour into the jars, so it needs to be decanted rather speedily.
To aid in the decanting, I poured the jam into a large measuring pitcher. This made the pouring easier, but it still set up quicker than I thought so there was a fair amount of mess when large globules of jam failed to find their way into the little jars. But that’s what kitchen towels are for.
I poured my jam into cleaned jelly jars. I ended up with 11 jars. NOTE: Be sure to leave a good 1/2 inch of head space in the jars if they are headed for the freezer. The jam will expand when it freezes.
I let my jars sit on the counter for 24 hours until they set up, then I stashed them in the freezer. Except for the one I popped in the fridge for immediate eating.
The final jam is excellent, and really bright pink. It is quite sweet, as freezer jams need more sugar, but sugar-sweetened strawberries are really very yummy. I can’t wait to eat this in the grey gloom of winter.