After two years of making jam, I am poised to make some changes this year. I love the process of canning, but I realize like beet salads, not all jams are equal.
Over the past few years I have been canning classic strawberry and raspberry jam, among other things. Since strawberries are usually the first berries to ripen each spring those are the ones I start with. As I see that strawberries are starting to show up in the market, I need to be honest with myself that I have not been totally pleased with my past results.
Part of my personal ethos is that if I go to the time and effort to make something, and I am still thinking about the store-bought inspiration, something is wrong… I am in favor of preserving the best of the season, but not if the end result is something just sort of okay. It seems like a crime to take beautiful, ripe berries and cook them into something that does not resemble those fresh beautiful gems. So, last year I changed things up and made both classic canned raspberry jam, as well as two different recipes of freezer raspberry jam (one with Pomona’s Universal Pectin and one with Certo Sure-Jell). The whole family had a clear favorite of these three and agreed that it rivaled the delicious store-bought version that our family enjoys (Our favorite local store-bought jam: Sunfresh Freezerves). My kids loved the most classic homemade freezer jam recipe, made with liquid pectin, and our homemade jam was happily consumed all year long… lasting our family through April of this year (we make lots of cream cheese and jam sandwiches)!
This year my plan is to cut out making the jams that lose the beauty of the original fruit and instead only make the berries into freezer jam that will be gobbled up by the family… Because, after all, that’s the point, right? And just for the heck of it we’ll start the freezer jam extravaganza with strawberry jam this year. Hopefully I can make enough freezer jam this season to get us through next May! We’ll see, we will have one more sandwich eater this time around! (Note: I still plan to do traditional canning this season, but only with fruits that work well with this process.)
Freezer jams are extremely easy to make. They take about half the time of the cooked method, and result in a softer set, fresh fruit taste. They do require a lot of sugar, so look for Sure-Jell for Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes, if you are looking to limit the amount of sugar used. I am using the Sure-Jell Certo recipe for Quick & Easy Freezer Jam. Although I try not to use any added pectin in my cooked jam, I have had my best results using liquid pectin in my freezer jam. When making freezer jam, as with any jam (and especially with strawberries), it is important to measure exactly, otherwise your jam may not set correctly.
Classic Strawberry Freezer Jam
2 cups crushed strawberries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin (Certo)
Wash and rinse plastic containers with tight fitting lids. Use 1 to 2 cup size containers.
Wash and cut up berries, discarding stems. Crush berries 1 cup at a time, using a potato masher for best results. If using a food processor, pulse to a very fine chop. Do not puree. Jam should have bits of fruit.
Measure exact amount of prepared fruit into a large bowl.
Measure exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl. Stir sugar into prepared fruit. Mix well. Let stand 10 minutes; stir occasionally. Stir pectin into lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir pectin mixture into prepared fruit mixture. Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes. (A few sugar crystals may remain.)
Pour into prepared containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at top of container for expansion during freezing; cover.
Let stand at room temperature 24 hours until set. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks. Or store in freezer for up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator.