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Intersting article at NPR

Freezer Jam: A Baby Step To Canning

by Stephanie Stiavetti

For years I researched the art and craft of preserving summer fruit, but I could never bring myself to go ahead and try it myself. What if I did something wrong? What if my jars exploded in the heat? What if I hurt myself or someone I cared about?

These "what-ifs" kept me mired in doubt and dismay while many summers passed, taking their bounty of fresh fruit with them. When winter inevitably followed, I always regretted my fear of canning and planned a bevy of canning projects for the following year — which, of course, never happened.

Welcome to my vicious cycle. I have, however, broken through my preserving paranoia so that I can enjoy peaches, nectarines and strawberries all year long. I found a baby step on the road to heat-processed canning: freezer jam.

The first summer I made freezer jam, I enjoyed it so much that I preserved everything I could get my hands on. Peaches, plums, nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, you name it. I lined my freezer with row after row of colorful jars, many of which made their way home with friends after dinner parties and high-tea afternoons. Well into February I had fresh, homemade jam every morning to spread on my toast and mix into my homemade yogurt.

Making freezer jam follows the same process as heat canning, with one primary thing missing: heat. Since you store freezer jam below zero degrees, you don't need to bring the jars to a boil, which means you lessen the chances of accidental contamination or heat-related mishaps. These two risks prevented me — and many others, I've learned — from traditional canning, and I was overjoyed to find that I could make my own jam without the element of danger that goes along with sterilization and storing at room temperature.

Besides mollifying your canning phobia, there's another benefit to not boiling your jam. Uncooked fruit stays much fresher than cooked preserves, so when you crack open your treasure in mid-January, it will taste more like the fresh summer fruit you picked up from the farmers market. Some brands of pectin require that you use boiling water in the initial mix, but this short stint on the stove won't affect the flavor or texture of your fruit.

Most freezer jam recipes contain only three or four ingredients and require half an hour or less for preparation. It's a simple process: peel, chop, mix and freeze. The safety and simplicity of freezer jam makes it a perfect kitchen project for children, who love the idea that they made the tastiest part of their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Since I started making my own fruit preserves, I've also noticed that I spend less money on produce. Grocery stores and farmers market booths usually sell me their slightly bruised fruits for pennies on the dollar, and this substantially cheaper bounty lasts me all year long, shrinking both my summer and winter grocery budgets. For jam-making, get fruit that is as ripe as possible. Slightly bruised or dinged fruits are fine to use — in fact, this is what makes them cheaper — but you should remove any spots with a paring knife, taking care to remove any mold.

If you have children in the house, you might also notice yourself spending less on lunch fixings because decent store-bought jam demands a pretty penny these days. When I make freezer jam, the cost comes out to around 50 cents per 8-ounce container, and I have to say that the taste of homemade jam blows grocery store brands out of the water.

Making freezer jam is easy, but there are a few things you should keep in mind when you make your first few batches. Follow these tips to keep from repeating my mistakes.

Pectin is the fruit-derived gel that holds jam together and creates a thick consistency. It's important to buy a brand of pectin that is compatible with no-cook freezer jam. Read the instructions carefully, as recipes can (and will) vary from brand to brand. Different kinds of pectin call for different amounts of sugar, so read the directions or your jam won't set correctly. Freezer jams always run a touch thinner than heat-processed preserves, but they should still set to a nice, spreadable consistency. If you prefer a thicker jam, you can heat your fruit to a boil for two minutes before freezing.

When making the recipes below, I used Ball No-Cook Freezer Jam Pectin, with which I've always had good experiences. You can also use any number of other brands, and these days many kinds of pectin allow you to use alternative sweeteners such as honey or Splenda, which is good news for those avoiding refined sugar.

If you do decide to use granulated sugar, it's a good idea to use a superfine variety so that it will dissolve more easily into your fruit. Instead of spending extra money on a specialized product, make it yourself by pulsing regular sugar in a food processor five or six times. Be sure to measure your sugar before grinding it, as it will yield a greater amount once the granules are broken down, and adding extra sweetener may cause your jam to be too sweet.

While you can purchase special plastic containers made for storing jam in the freezer, it's not necessary. You can use whatever sealable plastic containers you have hiding in your cupboards, or you can use good, old-fashioned Mason jars. I usually go with the jars because the whole point of this exercise (for me, anyway) was to act as a precursor to heat canning, and nothing invokes the memory of my grandmother's summer jam more than cute, 8-ounce glass jars with a ribbon tied around the top.

If you decide to use Mason jars, a word of caution: Do not use glassware with "shoulders," or a curvature in the jar just beneath the lid. Instead, use straight-sided jars with a wide mouth. When you freeze liquids, they expand inside the container and push against any curves or shape differences. In the case of glass jars, this can cause breakage and a sticky, razor-sharp mess in your freezer.

After a summer of making freezer jam, I was finally comfortable enough with the process to attempt heat canning. My first batch of preserves, an elderberry-peach recipe that I made up on the fly, came out perfectly and completely free of mishap. While these days I'm much more comfortable with heat-processed canning, I still make freezer jam so that I can preserve the freshness of certain fruits that taste better uncooked. It is still a staple in my house.

**Because freezer jams are not sterilized, you cannot keep them at room temperature.**

Makes enough to fill five 8-ounce jars

~Strawberry-Nectarine Jam~

2 1/2 cups nectarines, peeled, pitted and chopped (about 2 1/2 pounds)

1 1/2 cups strawberries, cored and chopped finely (about 1 pound)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup sugar, ideally superfine

In a large bowl, crush nectarines with a potato masher until you have a chunky consistency. The goal is to release a small amount of liquid while keeping mostly good chunks of fruit pulp to give your jam a thicker texture. Add the strawberries and crush a little more, just enough for the strawberries to release some juice and mix with the nectarines. Add lemon juice and mix with a spoon for 30 seconds.

Prepare sugar and pectin according to package directions. They may call for you to add sugar directly to the fruit first, or you may need to add the sugar to the pectin before mixing both into the fruit at the same time. Regardless, make sure that when you add the pectin to the fruit, you stir constantly for at least 3 minutes. Pectin can create lumps in your jam if it's not carefully mixed in, and the only way to prevent this is by stirring relentlessly.

Fill clean jars with jam, leaving about 3/4-inch of headroom so that the jam has room to expand in the container. Store in the freezer for up to 6 months, or in the refrigerator for 1 week.

~Spiced Autumn Preserves~

1 1/2 cups apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 1/2 cups Asian apple pears, peeled, cored and chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup plums, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups sugar, ideally superfine

In a large bowl, crush apples and pears with a potato masher until they are about halfway pulverized. You should still have soft chunks of fruit, but nothing larger than a half-inch. Using a spoon, stir in lemon juice until it is well combined.

In another bowl, gently crush plums until they have a similar texture to the apples and pears. Pour plums into apple mixture and stir well with a spoon. Mix in cinnamon and cloves, stirring until completely incorporated.

Prepare sugar and pectin according to the package directions. When you mix the pectin into the fruit, make sure to stir for at least 3 minutes. Lumps are a common pitfall for beginning jam makers, and vigorous stirring will prevent them from forming.

Fill jars with jam, making sure to leave 3/4-inch at the top so that it can expand. Store in the freezer for as long as 6 months. Once jam is defrosted, it will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.
That's a good article and she didn't miss anything that I can see. I have never done freezer jam, but my wife and daughter have both made them before. I do the cooked jam for two reasons, maybe three. We never have any room in our freezers. Freezer jams generally take more sugar than cooked jam. Being a tightwad, that makes a difference to me. The third reason is that I am very familiar with the cooked jam process and I feel comfortable with it. Freezer jam doesn't ship very well either. She brought up one point though with which I cannot argue and is quite valid. Cooking jam reduces that fresh-fruit flavor while freezer jam will taste more like the real thing. I am going to a class tomorrow evening that is being put on by our university extension office and being held at our local library. The subject of the class is freezing and dehydrating foods. I'm really looking forward to it. The circular I saw says that it will be a hands-on class. Maybe I should take some gloves.
Bloe, I should have added a "thank you" for posting that. It's a very good article.
Hm, I thought I posted a reply last night. Guess it didn't go through for some reason. Oh well.

I'd never heard of freezer jam, the only kind I know how to make is the cooked. I see your point about freezer space, though, Randy. I always freeze lots of fresh blueberries in the summer, and space in the freezer is pretty tight by this time of the year.

You'll have to fill us in on your class. It sounds like a good one. I dry a lot of peppers, but that's about it.
Randy you just keep COOKING your jam cuz if you cook it then some lucky person will no doubt get a treasure from you in the mail.
Please keep us posted on what you learn at your freezing and dehydrating class. Inquiring minds want to learn
I will. I'm really looking forward to it. Bobbi (Woodstock) said they don't have a master canner program in her county any more. I thought briefly about taking the classes about 10 years ago, but the requirement for so many hours of volunteer work kept me from pursuing that.
I went to the class, but really the only thing I learned was from another fellow in the class. I have a bunch of pears to dry and I was thinking of immersing the sliced pears in lemon juice (ascorbic acid) to keep them from turning brown. The fellow in class said he uses pineapple juice and confirmed that pears are one of the worst for turning brown. I will stick with the lemon juice idea though as pineapple juice adds a considerable amount of sugar. My purpose for drying the pears and apples are for snacks for balancing blood/glucose levels. I don't generally have a snack in the morning, but there are enough hours between lunch and dinner that I have a snack at 4:00. The dried fruit snack is one ounce of dried fruit and one ounce of almonds or peanuts for the protein.
That was a great article, Blue. I picked up a book on preserving jams and jellies while waiting in line six hours for Pat Conroy to sign my book this past weekend...should have looked here first. I really like the sound of the Spiced Autumn Preserves and will have to give that a try next month after I get back from my annual apple run to NC.
I did see sort of a demonstration last evening with one of those seal-a-meal thingies. I say sort of because it didn't work. They are supposed to suck the air out of the bag to minimize freezer burn, but the sucker didn't work. She showed us an alternative method though that will always work and that was done with a soda straw. You seal the ZipLoc all except where the straw goes through then suck the air out by mouth. When all the air is out, withdraw the straw while maintaining negative pressure. That means keep sucking. Seal the bag the rest of the way when the dtraw is withdrawn. I commented to the gal sitting next to me, "No maintenance!" Works every time.
It never even occurred to me to try that. Just goes to show you're never too old to learn. LOL
You can also put the open zip lock baggie in water. Keep the open top out of the water, and the water pushes all of the air out of the baggie. A friend of mine bags up fish that way for freezing.
Son-of-a-gun! Never thought of that. Course I never thought of the straw idea either until I saw it done. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to