So… you’re sitting on a few quarts of strawberries that you excitedly picked, or blueberries that someone returning from a long weekend in Michigan gifted to you. Now what? You could freeze them (berries freeze well!) But if you’ve ever wanted to try making jam, this is a great time to start — and you don’t even have to deal with the canning part, if you don’t want to!
I grew up having my grandmother’s strawberry freezer jam on toast every time we went to her house. I never knew there was any other kind, really; I mean, doesn’t everyone keep a freezer in the basement full of homemade strawberry jam? No? Just my Gram?
Well, the best thing about freezer jam is that it’s just jam without the canning process. No boiling water bath, no measuring headspace to the millimeter, no following a recipe to the dot, no special jars with special lids and special rings that you have to sterilize and keep hot while you ladle hot lava into them, trying not to get burned. No checking the lids to make sure they’ve all “popped” in. Freezer jam is considerably faster than canning, and requires far less time over a hot stove (if any).
If I were going to suggest just one purchase before making jam (even freezer jam) it would be a canning funnel. They’re inexpensive (under $5), and they’ll save you a lot of mess. Most canning funnels are made to fit small and wide-mouth canning jars, but check against the jars you plan to use, just in case.
You’ll find that recipes for jam, vary considerably in their proportions of fruit to sugar. Even among recipes for strawberry freezer jam, you’ll find anything from 1:1 to 3:1 (berries:sugar, by volume). The Ball Blue Book has a Triple Berry Freezer Jam calls for 4 c. crushed berries and 1.5 c. sugar (2.67 : 1). The Betty Crocker recipe for Strawberry Freezer Jam calls for 4 c. strawberries and 4 c. sugar (1:1)!! Alton Brown’s recipe uses weights for both ingredients, and calls for 2# of strawberries and 11.5 oz sugar (about 3::1 by weight). There is no one “right” recipe here.
Before making your jam, sort through your berries and toss any that are bruised, green, or look like they’re breaking down. Clean the remaining fruit well. Then pick your recipe! I’ve made Alton Brown’s before, and it’s delicious. And the Ball Blue Book has never steered me wrong. But here are a few more:
- The Pioneer Woman Strawberry Freezer Jam
- Martha Stewart’s (stone fruit) Freezer Jam
- Strawberry-Nectarine, and Citrus-Pear
Now, go enjoy your jam-making! (and jam-eating!)