Food preservation is making a comeback in a big way! I've noticed an explosion of sites sharing recipes for canning tomatoes, pickles, homemade applesauce and more -- which are all great ways to extend the usefulness of your garden and fruit-bearing trees well beyond the summer months.
While I have experience canning my own jams and jellies, salsa, tomato juice, grape juice, among others, I still get a sense that many home cooks are intimidated by the canning process. I was lucky enough to learn from my mother, who walked me through every step of the process on several occasions, but I'm always seeing classes offered in my community, and I bet they're available in yours, as well, if you're willing to seek them out.
However, today I want to share a process for making and preserving jam at home that's super easy, requires few tools, and requires absolutely no cooking... Making freezer jam is the perfect starting point for anyone new to food preservation!
I picked up all of the supplies at my local Walmart. You'll find the freezer Ball Plastic Freezer Jars (these are the 8-oz. half-pint jars) and Ball Dissolvable Labels in the housewares section, as well as the pectin. Note that Ball makes several different kinds of pectin, and they are not interchangeable, so make sure to pick up the Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin that is intended for use in freezer jam.
Depending on how quickly you think you'll use up your freezer jam, you may or may not need the labels. Since the freezer jam recipe I'm sharing makes a small batch of five half-pint jars, I opted not to use labels -- we'll use up this jam well before the recommended freezer storage of 12 months.
My favorite aspect of preserving food at home is that I have complete control over the ingredients I use. I chose to use organic fruits, as well as organic sugar, in this triple berry freezer jam.
Incidentally, you can also customize this jam to your own tastes. The recipe calls for four cups of crushed berries, and I opted for a mix of one cup of blackberries, one cup of raspberries, and two cups of strawberry, but you could easily just make straight strawberry freezer jam, blackberry freezer jam or raspberry freezer jam -- or any combination you desire!
Making freezer jam is a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen. Even young kids can help crush the berries, stir together the sugar and pectin and stir together the crushed berries and sugar/pectin mixture!
A few tips for best results:
- Yes, it seems like a lot of sugar, but reducing the amount is not recommended. Sugar not only sweetens the mixture, but it prevents bacterial growth and is necessary for the jelling process. For best results, follow the recipe exactly.
- We personally don't use no calorie sweeteners, but you can substitute an equal amount of a product like the granulated Splenda for a lower calorie jam.
- Doubling the recipe is not recommended. If you wish to make more than 5 half-pint jars, make multiple batches.
- Frozen berries can be substituted for fresh -- just make sure they are unsweetened and allow them to thaw first and then crush.
- Freezer jam can be store for up to three weeks in the refrigerator and for up to 12 months in the freezer.
What's your favorite combination of berries for freezer jam?