Back To Basics: Freezer Jam {and Why I Still Love It}

Last year I wrote about the different ways that I preserve strawberries and did a comparison of two of my favorite commercial pectins I use to make freezer jam, complete with a cost breakdown. Due to some feedback I thought I’d ofter more specific details on making freezer jam and why I choose it over traditional cooked jams.

Over the years I’ve made many types of cooked and canned jams (some just using the natural pectin in the fruit) and found our family just doesn’t like the flavor as much. They are too sweet with less fruit flavor. Plus, they didn’t always gel and we’d have to use it for syrup instead.

I find jams made with commercial pectins not only easy, but way fresher tasting and I’ve continued to use them even after I started reading labels because the ingredients are ok with me. We all have to make our own choices here, which is actually a goal I have for the blog – balance. Do what works for your family and make informed choices.

So, what are the ingredients of commercial pectin?
  • Dextrose is the first ingredient, a sugar derived from sweet fruits (though mostly corn now, I suppose). It’s less than a 1/4 cup, so it’s a trade-off I’m still willing to make, even though it probably comes from non-organic corn that I try to avoid now (choices…).
  • Next is fruit pectin, usually from apples or citrus.
  • Citric acid (update: derived from citrus, but not the same as ascorbic acid, aka: vitamin C) is the third ingredient- it’s needed to work with the pectin to gel (the pectin and acid work this way together in nature, too).
  • sodium citrate, which is the salt of citric acid
  • potassium sorbate which is the preservative. This is from Wikipedia: it is the potassium salt of sorbic acid (a natural organic compound used for food preservation that was discovered from unripe berries in the 1850s) and that:

Potassium sorbate is considered to be safe because of its long term safety record and non-toxic profile. Potassium sorbate is non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Allergic reactions are rare and it is well tolerated when administered internally. Potassium sorbate exhibits low toxicity with a ratio of 4.92 g/kg, similar to table salt.

In our mainly-from-scratch diet, this small amount of safe preservative is worth it so we can have the best tasting jam in our freezer using our homegrown or wild berries and fruits.

In other words, this is a modern invention I like, and I’m not really interested in giving it up (yet…who knows in the future?). But you won’t hurt my feelings if you disagree, ’cause it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round.

So- want to make some jam?

1. Wash and crush berries to equal 4 cups. I whir my strawberries a couple of times in the food processor to get even pieces quickly, but other berries are easily crushed with a potato masher.

2. Pour boiling water into the freezer containers to do a quick sterilization while making the jam.

3. Then simply follow the instructions on the packet. As I stated previously, the packets of Ball Instant Fruit Pectin for Freezer Jam are my favorite because they use only 1/2 the amount of sugar as the boxes of pectin, take no cooking (bonus in the hot summer!), and taste super fresh.

4. Mix 1-1/2 cups of sugar with the contents of the packet in a bowl.

4. Add crushed fruit and stir for 3 minutes. Toward the end of the 3 minutes, you will feel that the mixture is already starting to thicken.

freezer jam

5. Pour into the containers. Make sure to leave enough room for expansion during freezing.

These containers made for freezing have a marked top that I fill up to, but 1/2″ is a good measure for other containers. 2012 Update: I now use glass containers for freezer jam – they don’t fit as nicely, but I feel better about it, plus they look nicer on the table. And I haven’t had any breakage issues.

That’s it. Seriously, it’s that easy and quick. If you’ve been making jam, what’s your favorite way to make jam? And if you haven’t what’s stopping you?

-Jami

Comments

  1. YUM! We love freezer jam too! Really anything strawberry!

  2. That sounds lovely. I am scrutinizing labels myself, so I appreciate that you’ve already checked the Ball brand out.

    Yummy!

  3. Elephant’s Eye- Oh yeah- it works with any fruit, just mash/chop/etc. to the 4 c. measure.

  4. Shirley- I was writing the answer to Elephant’s Eye at the same time you posted the comment, but the answer works for you, too- any fruit. Go for it!

  5. So far this summer I have made cherry jam, strawberry jalapeno jam, strawberry jam, grape jelly, and mojito jelly. Just as soon as my peppers are ready I will be making hot pepper jelly as well. I love that I can control the amount of sugar and other stuff in our jelly. My kids would rather eat my grape jelly on their PB&J than anything from the store now.

  6. I tried Pomona’s Universal Pectin for strawberry jam this week and it is delicious. I used a little bit of Splenda but the recipe said that honey, sugar, or even no sweetener could be used. The jam jelled up very nicely (compared with other low-sugar pectins I’ve tried in the past) and the strawberry flavor is pronounced. I’ll definitely be using it again!

  7. Elephant's Eye says:

    Bread and jam. Will be linking back to your bread post tomorrow. Would this freezer jam work with plums if we get a harvest again nest year?

  8. Jenny- You go, girl!

    Elizabeth- unfortunately, that’s the pectin we tried that had the aftertaste we didn’t like. I’m glad you had a good experience with it though.

    Adopted- Oh No! You can use anything you want- canning jars are made to go in the freezer, so you’re good. :-)

  9. Another great post…I hope you do more “Back to Basics” posts in the future..I really like these!!! I’ve never tried making any jam…canned or freezer jam. Not sure why…:( !!! I like collecting ideas that I know I’ll use…if not right away, than definitely in the future!!!! You’ve got lots of real useful tips…I like that!!!…especially since I’m living on a soda pop can budget..hee hee hee :)…

    Back to the freezer jam, could I also use glass containers for the jam? Or is plastic better in this case?

    Hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  10. Shirley says:

    Thanks for doing a post on this. I’ve wanted to do freezer jam for a while but didn’t know it was that simple to make. Does this method work with saskatoons as well. I live near a ravine where they grow wild so I have easy access to them!

  11. AdoptedbyGrace says:

    Do you have to use special containers to freeze the jam?
    It would be sad – I have tons of canning jars!

  12. Oh no, glass would work great, Heather. Just like I mentioned, you can pretty much use anything in the freezer and canning jars are made to freeze, too. I just find them harder to store in the freezer and usually need all my jars for regular canning.:-)

  13. Thank you for posting! Just just made freezer no sugar preserves last wekend using strawberries. It came out not thick, which is how I like it, because I didn’t use any pectin at all. It uses three cups of white grape juice that you boil down to one cup to give a concentrated sweetness to the fruit. It is quite tasty–we went through two pints already!

  14. Always Nesting says:

    Just this year I learned to make freezer jam. I used the end of last years frozen blackberries with strawberries and blueberries. Fabulous mixture. I was so proud of myself – like a kid :)

    So, I’ve picked blueberries (28 pounds in the freezer) and I’m anxiously awaiting the sweetening of our local wild blackberries to make more jam. I love the photo of your strawberry jam.

    I noticed you use plastic containers – my neighbor does as well. I used glass that are freezer safe. Since I’m new to this freezer jam experience, is one better to use than the other? I’m so glad you did this post and I’ve been able to learn more about freezer jam.

  15. Always nesting- I bought the plastic “freezer containers” years ago and so continue to use them, but freezer-safe glass is great (some would say better). Use what works for you!

  16. This looks like a wonderful recipe. I’ve been looking for freezer jam recipes to use:)Thanks for sharing…

  17. Anonymous says:

    Nice site for making freezer Jam. I got my first crop of rasberries this year, so I thought ” Oh No Problem I’l make Freezer Jam, well I made it to the directions on the package and was sitting out as it says for 24 hrs. left home , came back and Jam was running out of my containers. I have never made this before, so I don’t know what I did or How to correct. I did use 2 boxes of pectin which asks to boil with 3/4 cu. H20, but I didn’t pour all pectin in my rasberries. Do You have any ideas as to what happen and should i just freeze it now ?? Mistified

  18. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Anonymous- Wow, running out of the containers? I’ve never heard that before. Did you leave an inch of room in the containers?

    I always do one batch at a time, as I’ve read that doubling up doesn’t work. So use only one box of pectin and make one batch at a time. As for the current batch, I’ve always used jam that didn’t turn out as syrup, just freeze it and use as needed. Sorry, I don’t think there’s a way to firm it up now…

  19. Hi,
    I’ve just been looking up recipes for strawberry jam and come across your website. I’d never heard of freezer jam before but it sounds a great idea. Can I point out an error though – according to wikipedia Vitamin C is not the same as citric acid. Vitamin C is a form of ascorbic acid.

    • Oh, you’re so right Dean – my bad! While both are found in citrus fruits, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is used to preserve color while citric acid can be used instead of lemon juice to tomatoes to make them safe for water-bath canning (and apparently works with pectin to gel). I’ll update that in the post, too – thanks!

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