Saturday, May 17, 2008

Freezer Jam

I am going to start a series of posts on preserving food. It is a great time and money saver and it is a lot healthier that buying canned goods.

Since it is getting to be strawberry season, we will start with freezer jams. They are very easy, not very time consuming, and inexpensive to make. One of the best things about freezer jam is, since the fruit isn't cooked, it taste more like fresh fruit than store bought jams. You can use it just like fresh fruit.

To make 5 cups (more or less) of home made freezer jam, you will need:

3 or 4 pint jars or 5 or 6 half pint jars, well washed or sterilized in the dishwasher
Lids and rings to fit the jars
4 cups (more or less) of ripe fruit, washed and crushed
4 cups of sugar (or the equivalent amount of Splenda, I guess) and
1 box of Sure-Jell or other boxed pectin

Since I have never made the non-sugar versions, you might want to look up the directions for the sugar free versions of the jam. Every box of the Sure-Jell has the recipes inside and I think they tell how to make the sugar free versions, I just haven't looked them up.

Crushing the fruit isn't as hard as it sounds. As you wash your berries, or other fruit of choice, remember to crush a little bit at a time. This will make it a lot easier to make sure that they are all crushed. You can use the back of a fork or if you have one, use a pastry fork. A pastry fork is what I use. If you have never seen one, it looks like a D shaped piece of metal with a grip on the flat side and 3 or 4 rounded cutting edges on the curved side. It is used to blend butter or shortening into flour. Get one, it is very useful.

After your fruit is crushed and it is very juicy in the bottom of your bowl, mix in the 4 cups of sugar. This has the added bonus of drawing even more juice out of the fruit and will make a much better jam. Let it set for about 10 minutes.

While you are letting your fruit set, get out a small sauce pan. Mix 3/4 cup of water and your powdered pectin over a medium low heat to dissolve. You have to keep stirring it or it will stick to the bottom of the pan but it will dissolve fairly quickly. Keep stirring until you get a good rolling boil. Then start timing it. The pectin needs to boil for at least a full minute but not more than 2.

Pour all of the pectin into the bowl of fruit. Stir all of this together for at least 3 minutes. You want to make sure that everything is very well mixed. You will notice that the liquid in the fruit is getting clearer and thicker. This is a good thing. The more juice in the jam, the better it will taste and the easier it will spread.

Now you are ready to fill your jars. Ideally, you would use a ladle and a filling ring( a funnel with a really big whole in the middle). If you don't have those things, you can just use a big spoon, but you have to be careful not to get jam all over the jars. Fill the jars to within an inch of the top. That is about at the point on the jars where the threads start or if you are using standard mouth jars, where the curve of the jar meets the thread. Using a damp rag, wipe off the top of the jar so that there isn't any food on the top. Put on a lid and tighten a ring around it. It needs to be secure but it don't have to be so tight it takes a pipe wrench to get it off.

Now you let your jam sit at room temperature until it jells up. You can tell by tilting the jar a little to see if it is still runny. If it is, let it set some more, up to 24 hours. If it isn't, put it in the freezer. It will last up to a year(if you don't eat it before then) in the freezer or 3 weeks open in the fridge.

Freezer Jam is a lot more than just something to make PB & J or to spread on toast in the morning. I have used it to spoon over angel food cake, ice cream, and even roasting meat. I used some raspberry jam to put between layers of a chocolate cake. That was really awesome.

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