E-Z Jam: Frozen Assets

23 08 2009
Image by Chris and Jenni via Flickr

But wait, Pat – I’ve never made jam in my life. I don’t have a water-bath canner. I don’t have the time or space to make dozens of jars of jam. It might taste great but I’ll have to spend a fortune gearing up for a couple jars.

Whoa, slow down – jam is slow food! No experience? Jamming is easy. No canner? No problem; for freezer jams, you may only need to boil a couple cups of water with the pectin — with some recipes, you won’t even need to do that. No space or no time? Scale down – cut the recipe in half, and use smaller or larger jars than called for in the recipe to store your bounty.

I confess, as a kid I hated the kind of strawberry jam that came out of the enormous jars sold at the IGA. But one year, my mom decided we should pick-our-own strawberries. We had a big chest freezer that had plenty of room, and mom made our first batch of homemade no-cook strawberry freezer jam. I became a strawberry jam devotee that summer, and every summer after.

No-cook freezer jams are some of the simplest jams, requiring only the correct amount of prepared fruit, sugar, acid, liquid or powdered pectin and a few minutes of fruit preparation (depending on the type of fruit.) Strawberries need only washing, hulling, and crushing – they’re pretty low-effort. Other berries which don’t require hulling are even lower-effort. Stone fruits like peaches and nectarines do require peeling and pitting and grinding or chopping in the food processor, which takes a bit longer — but it’s still only half the time a cooked jam takes to prepare and process. Equipment is equally minimal: chances are you already own most of the things you’ll need.

  • large non-reactive fruit prep bowl (glass, stainless steel or enameled)
  • measuring cup (for the sugar)
  • potato masher
  • long-handled stirring spoon (I like wooden and stainless steel spoons)
  • ladle (see below for a way you can skip this…)
  • funnel (only needed if you’re using jars; skip it if you’re using square freezer containers)
  • freezer containers

That’s right – although you can use canning jars labeled “Safe for Freezing,” and special plastic freezer jam jars, any container sold at the Dollar Store and labeled suitable for freezer use will work just fine. I have even put freezer jam into plastic zip-top freezer bags (they stored flat in the freezer, but it was too hard to get the thawed goodness out!) Every freezer container that seals airtight is fair game. My favorite fruit prep bowl is an 8-cup glass Pyrex(R) mixing cup/bowl with a pour spout. Amounts are graded on the side of the bowl, so I know exactly how much mashed fruit I have. The pour spout means I can neatly fill my freezer containers without a ladle (one less thing to wash!)

Whether you use liquid or powdered commercial pectin, all no-cook freezer jams start with two basic steps:

  1. wash and prepare fruit (hull, peel, slice)
  2. crush fruit with the masher or grind it finely with a food processor or food grinder, and measure it into the large mixing bowl

At this point, the next step depends on the type of pectin. Liquid pectins usually direct you to stir them directly into the fruit and let the mixture sit for a few minutes. Some powdred pectins direct you to mix the pectin into a small amount of water, bring the water to the boil, and then stir the water-pectin mixture into the fruit. Some of the newer pectins designed specifically for freezer jams (such as Ball Simple Creations (R) Freezer Jam Pectin) direct you to mix the package of pectin with the specified amount of sugar, stir it into the mashed or crushed fruit until all crystals are dissolved, and ladle into containers to freeze. Follow the directions for the pectin product that you’re using.

Most freezer jams are soft-set jams which need time to fully jell. While they’re jelling they still taste terrific, but all need some time at room temperature to come to full texture before you freeze them.

Where lemon juice is called for in no-cook recipes, you can use bottled lemon juice (which has a higher and more consistent acidity level than fresh.) More acied is usually a good thing in jam.

No freezer space? Still no problem! Although they’re called ‘freezer’ jams, any jam can be safely kept in the refrigerator after it’s made — just use it up within three weeks. Cut your recipe so that it only makes 3 pints (6 cups.) After you fill the three pint containers, keep one in the refrigerator, one in the freezer for later, and give one to a friend or neighbor. They’ll think you fussed. You’ll know how simple it really was. Or make one large container for the fridge and four smaller cup-size containers to squeeze in your ‘fridge.

The only problem with my recipes for freezer jam is that they don’t include the best steps: Stand back; admire your work; taste; enjoy!


No-cook Berry Freezer Jam

4 c. crushed berries (about 2 quarts) *
8 c. sugar
2 80-ml pouches Certo ® (liquid pectin)
4 tbsp. lemon juice (bottled, not fresh)

  • Mix fruit and sugar together and let stand for 10 minutes.
  • While fruit mixture is standing (macerating), mix lemon juice and pectin together, and then stir into fruit mixture until sugar crystals are dissolved.
  • Fill 5 pint (16 oz) freezer containers wihin ½ inch of top.
  • Cover and let the jam stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
  • Freeze, or refrigerate and use within three weeks. Makes 5 pints.

(half-recipe: 2 cups (1 qt.) crushed berries, 4c. sugar, 1 pouch Certo (R), 2 T. lemon juice: makes 2 ½ pints, or 5 8-oz. freezer containers.)

* strawberries, raspberries & other seeded berries, and blueberries all work well in this recipe


No-cook Peach* Freezer Jam

1 pkg. (1 5/8 oz.) Ball Simple Creations(R) no-cook freezer jam pectin (or equivalent)

1 ½ c. granulated sugar

3 ½ c. crushed fresh peaches (peeled, pitted & mashed)

  • Stir sugar and contents of pectin pkg. into a bowl; blend well.
  • Add crushed peaches to sugar/pectin mixture and stir for 3 minutes.
  • Ladle jam into clean plastic or glass freezer containers.
  • Twist on container lids and let stand about 30 minutes at room temperature, or until thickened.
  • Refrigerate up to 3 weeks, or freeze for up to 1 year.

This recipe also works with plums, nectarines and apricots; use 4 c. crushed fruit (about 2 lbs. of whole fruit) to 1 ½ c. granulated sugar and 1 pkg. powdered pectin.

* about 12 medium peaches.

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