If you have children who live at home, you might want to just click right past this post – unless, of course, you don’t mind spoiling your kids a bit, from time to time.
I started making this type of jam over 30 years ago as a young homemaker. To be honest, it was mostly because freezer jam is so quick and easy. I was quite intimidated by the whole “canning/water bath” thing that’s necessary for traditional jams and jellies and was terrified that I might not do things just right and end up poisoning someone. I also wasn’t crazy about the idea of slaving over a boiling pot of water on a hot summer day.
Besides being so easy, another bonus of the freezer jam method is that the fruit is not cooked (or barely cooked), unlike traditional jam. Because of that, it keeps it’s fresh taste and beautiful color. If you were to compare a jar of strawberry (or any other flavor) freezer jam and strawberry traditional jam, I think you’d be shocked at the difference. Regular jam becomes quite dull in color as it cooks, whereas freezer jam retains the same pretty color as the fresh berries you start with.
That’s where the “spoiling” comes in. My kids got so used to eating delicious homemade freezer jam, that it didn’t take long before they were sticking up their little noses quite disdainfully, not only at store-bought jam, but also at every kind of jam or jelly, except for freezer jam. Their taste buds became quite accustomed to the fresh, fabulous taste.
So if you want to spoil your kids/family/friends – for life; go ahead and start making freezer jam. I did want to give you fair warning though ……….
I’ve made a zillion different types of freezer jam over the years; strawberry, raspberry, peach, plum, fig, cherry, blackberry, currant, grape, lots of combinations like apricot-cherry or Fruits of the Forest, even freezer marmalades. This past week I found beautiful nectarines on sale at a local market and decided to add another variety to my freezer jam repertoire. I’ve learned a few tricks in my jam-making escapades that make the whole process quite simple and thought I’d share them with you in this How to Make Freezer Jam post.
One of the main drawbacks to freezer jam is that, because it’s not cooked, it can be difficult to completely dissolve the sugar which gives the jam a “grainy/sugary” texture. With a bit of trial and error, I figured out that a short stint in the microwave will totally eliminate the problem, and yet the flavor is still fresh and the jam beautifully hued.
If you don’t have a ton of freezer space, freezer jam can be prepared and poured into quart-size ziplock bags. Squeeze out the air, seal the bags and stack them flat in the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, just thaw then empty the contents of the bag into a jam/jelly jar.
Pectin, a thickening agent is necessary for making freezer jam. Most fruits actually contain some of their own pectin, but not enough to give a good consistency. Pectin can be purchased either in powder or liquid form. I use both, though in this Nectarine Freezer Jam, I used the powdered version. Pectin can be quite expensive but, with experimentation, I learned that generic versions work as well as the big name brands and are usually much less expensive. I have had great results with the Kroger brand as well as other generic pectins.
Like I said earlier, the process is super simple. Combine fresh fruit and sugar in a large microwave-safe bowl. Stir for a minute then place in microwave for 3 minutes. Stir again and take a little taste. If the mixture is still a bit grainy, return to microwave for a couple more minutes. The pectin is then combined with water in a small sauce pan, brought to a boil and cooked for one minute before being added to the fruit/sugar mixture. A three minute stir (kids are great at helping with this) is all that’s needed before the jam’s ready to be ladled into clean jars.
Even if you’ve never made jam before and don’t feel like one of those old-fashioned super cooks, I promise, you can do this! You really can; and your family/friends will be quite thrilled with you. And when those cold winds blow next winter and you pull out a jar of jam as fresh as a summer day, well let’s just say you’ll be thanking yourself over and over! A pat on the back just might be in order too!
Tips on How to Make Freezer Jam:
- Measure carefully, jam making is an exact process and if you don’t measure correctly, you’ll have unsuccessful results.
- Don’t try to double the recipe, instead make two separate batches. I often make two batches at the same time in two separate bowls.
- Use ripe fruit, not over ripe and not under ripe for best results.
- Have fruit at room temperature when starting to make jam.
- Crush or dice fruit, don’t use a food processor, jam should have bits of fruit in it. Using the food processor makes jam a bit foamy too.
- You can use either liquid or powdered pectin, just be sure to follow the measurements on the package insert for fruit/sugar ratio (and if using powdered pectin, for the correct amount of water).
- The directions will usually say to “thoroughly mix the fruit and sugar, wait 10 minutes, add the pectin and then stir for 3 minutes”. I have found that this method often produces grainy results, as the sugar does not thoroughly dissolve. I mix the sugar and fruit well in a large microwave-safe bowl, then place the bowl in the microwave and cook on high for 3 minutes. This bit of heat really helps dissolve the sugar, without taking away the fresh fruit flavor or color. I then proceed with adding the pectin according to package insert directions.
- If using glass or plastic jars, be sure to leave about 1/2 inch space at the top to allow for expansion in the freezer.
- A wide mouth funnel works well for filling the jars.
- Jam will keep in the freezer for up to a year and 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator.
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- 2 1/4 cups chopped fresh unpeeled nectarines, stones removed (about 2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 box powdered fruit pectin I used Kroger Can-Jel, but any kind of pectin is fine. If you use a different brand however, be sure to use the fruit/sugar ratio and the amount of water that's recommended for that brand on the package insert. Each brand is a little different
- 3/4 cups water
- Measure sugar into a large microwave-safe bowl.
- Measure fruit into a separate medium size bowl.
- Add fruit and lemon juice to sugar and stir thoroughly.
- Place bowl in microwave for 3 minutes. Stir well for 1 minute. Take a tiny taste. If fruit mixture still has a grainy consistency, return to microwave for another 2 minutes, then stir well.
- Combine water and powdered pectin in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Stir pectin mixture into fruit mixture. Stir for 3 minutes. (Kids love to help with this part. I used to set a timer and let my kids stir, stir, stir.)
- Ladle into clean jars, filling to within 1/2 inch of the top. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours, then store in freezer for up to a year or in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks
My powdered pectin box insert didn't have directions for nectarine jam so I followed the instructions for peach jam instead. I didn't peel the nectarines as their skins are so much thinner than peaches and I like the flecks of beautiful red color.