Sunday, June 15, 2008


Here it is. About twelve quarts of strawberry jam, ready to be eaten. (Less now, actually. We got started on it right away.)

Have you ever made freezer jam?

Until four years ago, I hadn't. Somehow I'd never even heard of it. I thought that to make jam, you had to do canning. Canning is scary to me. Granted, I enjoy the results. Mostly, though, it's associated with childhood memories I have of my mom's friend in her hot, steamy kitchen, on hot, steamy summer days, surrounded by boiling cauldrons, strange wire contraptions, and vast quantites of tomatoes. (I think raw tomatoes are scary, too.) It looked complicated, very uncomfortable, and even a little bit suspicious to me back then. I also suspected that, to do canning, you had to have your homesteading papers or at least be born before 1950. (That was before I met Mary at Owlhaven, of course. She has dispelled my myths. But I'm still not canning.)

Anyway, when I came across a recipe for strawberry jam that involved no unfamiliar contraptions or jars with parts, I just had to try it as soon as the next berry season came along. After making that first batch, my reaction was, "Wow! This is SOOO good!! And I cannot BELIEVE how easy it was! Why did I wait so long in life to try this? Why did no one tell me about this?!" I have since learned that this exact series of statements is the official, universal reaction of every first-time freezer jam maker.

Every year --until this one, I hope!--we have run out of jam before the next year's berry crop. It is a royal bummer felt 'round the household to have to go back to the store-bought stuff, with it's unnatural color and stale taste.

Just to emphasize how easy it is and how, yes, you, too, can do it: the very first year I made it, I picked berries with my 7 year old, 4 year old and crawling baby, went home, and then was able to make up a batch within the hour. And I'm not even close to supermom status. (Then I did laundry. 'Turned out they had watered the strawberry field just before we got there that year. It was muddy. Did I mention that my baby was a crawler at the time?)

You don't want to go through your whole life among the uninitiated, do you? That would be sad. You can make jam with other fruits and berries,too, and even get all gourmet with it, adding ingredients like crystallized ginger, grated lemon peel, or vermouth. There are recipes everywhere. So please, if you haven't ever tried it, be brave, find some fresh, ripe fruit, copy this recipe if it suits you, and go at it!

30-Minute Freezer Jam

Makes 6 cups

1 quart fully ripe strawberries
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin (available in most American grocery stores)
6 1-cup plastic containers (or whatever you have that's on the small side)

(Yes, 4 cups is a lot of sugar. That's how jam is. If you want to try the low-sugar jam, look for a special version of Sure Gel, and follow directions on the box. I'd like to try it next year.)

1. Rinse clean plastic containers with boiling water; dry thoroughly.

2. Wash strawberries and remove stems.

3. Crush strawberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. (I just stick'em in the blender.)

4. Measure exactly 2 cups of the crushed strawberries into a large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Mix water and fruit pectin in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling and stirring for one minute. (This whole step only takes a few minutes.)

6. Stir pectin mixture into fruit mixture. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes until sugar is thoroughly dissolved.

7. Quickly fill your containers to about 1/2 inch from the top. Wipe any drips off of the rims, and cover with lids right away.

8. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours, and it is ready to use. You can store it in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to a year.


Lovingmyamazinglife said...

I want to try this,wondering if I can use the natural cane sugar,its very course and may end up gritty in the jam.So you use the white bleached sugar?

Marian said...

Funny you should ask that. I'm using unrefined sugar for other things, too, and was wondering if it would work in jam. I got good old white sugar for most of it, but meant to try one of the batches with the unrefined sugar as an experiment. I got going with it all, and just forgot to do it! I'll bet if you stir more than usual it would still dissolve. If you try it, let me know how it turns out, ok?

Anonymous said...

I'm totally sold! I'll try this out next time we have a bunch of strawberries. We just planted a nice big patch but I'm sure we won't get a good crop until next year.