Forget the intimidating, time-consuming process of canning when you think about making jam this year—think Freezer Jam! This far less daunting form of preserving your summertime fruits is perhaps one of the easiest, freshest ways to go. There’s no need to cook the fruit for hours and hours, so don’t bother hauling out bulky canning equipment. All you’ll need is fruit, some sugar, a little pectin, a few containers, and you’re ready to go!
The process is incredibly simple: Gather your fruits and any other ingredients you want to add, (lemon zest, for example, is a great flavor enhancer, or grab some black pepper for savory jams), mash them all together in a large bowl with a potato masher, add the sugar and let it sit while the pectin is allowed to come to a boil for one full minute on the stove. Stir it into the mixture, then pour it all into clean jars, leaving about a half inch of room at the top for expansion as it freezes. Let set at room temperature for 24 hours, and then store it in the freezer! Yep, it’s that easy! Generally, a quart of berries or other fruit, 4 cups of sugar, and a box (1.75 ounces) of pectin will fill three pint-sized glass canning jars. Be sure to check the directions on the pectin package, as some brands require less sugar in order to set.
Don’t worry about eating all that fruity goodness right away — your Freezer Jam can be stored in the freezer, unopened, for up to a year, and in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Once a jar is opened, it should be used within three weeks. Since it’s not cooked, it will spoil if left out at room temperature.
Pro-tip: The jam should thicken quite a bit overnight, but it could take a week or two to fully set. If it’s too thick, stirring it will soften it up, and if it’s not thick enough, you can pour it into a saucepan, bring it to a boil, then re-bottle it as before. It should thicken as it cools.
Here are some the tasty flavors we experimented with:
Peach-Habanero: Delicious on cornbread, seafood, and as a glaze for ham.
Orange-Ginger-Lemon-Basil: Excellent on bread or muffins, as a meat glaze, or mixed with plain yogurt.
Blackberry: Need we say more? This traditional jam is good with just about everything!
Strawberry-Balsamic-Vinegar-Black Pepper: Delightful as a topping for vanilla ice cream, or with goat cheese on a cracker, spread onto breads, or in yogurt or cottage cheese.
Previously published on The Local Dish August 2011