Monday, August 16, 2010

Freezer Jam

Happy Monday, all!

Today we're going to talk a bit about jam, because I spent a good part of my weekend making it with Mother Humble and I don't have anything else ready.

Mother Humble has this thing about jam, while other mothers might worry about their children's health, finances or career. My mother seems primarily concerned with how much jam we have.

It is so obsessive, that I seriously feel I could tell her some crazy story about my life being in total chaos and the first thing she would ask me would be, "...but sweetie, do you have enough jam?"

She asks about it during each of her visits. She never believes it when I say we're stocked, that we have tons of jam. Instead, she checks my supply and determines--regardless of how much is actually in there--that my supply is woefully inadequate. Inadequate, only if I want to serve scones to all of South Asia.

Maybe that's the life lesson she's gleaned from her half century of existence, you must stockpile jam.

A lot of jam.

War? Societal collapse? Armageddon? Llamas?

No problem. I have a lot jam. I'm going to make it.

You can make it too. Freezer jam requires no cooking or canning know-how and since it isn't heat treated the fruit flavor stays bright and fresh.

And since you store it in the freezer, there is no worrying about sterility or pesky microbes.

This time of year you can go to your store or farmers market and clean up on local fresh fruit. When making jam you want to pick fruit that's perfectly ripe. After all, you're not going to be doing much to this fruit, so you want fruit that tastes good. Ripeness also effects the way the jam sets up. Jam from soft over-ripe fruit can set up rather soft. So you should use firm ripe fruit to make your jam.

Some of the fruit in the kitchen today:

Now I'd love to give you a jam recipe, but because it calls for pectin and not all brands or types of pectin are interchangeable, giving a universally useful recipe is basically impossible.

The best thing to do when making freezer jam, is to follow the instructions given to you by the pectin package. Mother Humble is rather particular about finding brands that don't call for any heat being applied to the fruit (some brands will call for a quick minute on the stove).

So if I'm telling you to follow the recipe posted on a cardboard box, then why the blog post? Well because freezer jam is easy, it's good and I'm pretty sure not everyone knows how easy it is to make at home.

Even your kids can make it!

So to all you wannabe jam-makers, dreaming of pretty little mason jars with jewel-hued fillings, but are put off by the prospect of canning, freezer jam is for you.
Mother Humble's Freezer Jam
I don't just use this jam in all my baking because I have a freezer full of it. I use it because it tastes like fresh raspberries and gives my desserts terrific color and flavor.

In lieu of a recipe, I'll give a quick photographic run-down of how simple it is. Now keep in mind, the food processor isn't necessary, you can smash the berries however you wish, the Cuisinart just makes quick work of it.

All it takes is a few pulses, or until the desired texture is reached with the pulp
Waiting for juice to turn to jelly

Then as called for by the recipe, I add my pectin, lemon juice, liquid glucose (corn syrup) and sugar. Chemistry then takes over and all the sweet fruit juices gel. Once it has set, I pour the the mixture into my jars, reserving about a half inch for expansion in the freezer and I'm all done.

Or as it happened, Mother Humble was done.

Then she grabbed her suitcases and left for the airport, leaving all the dishes. Really.

Thanks, mom.

(For folks curious about what brand's recipes I'm partial to, it is MCP. The pectin is well stocked in my area and may be carried nationwide. For folks outside of the U.S., try to find pectin that includes directions for freezer jam. If not available, you may need to experiment, using a readily available pectin and basic freezer jam recipes that are available online for your type of fruit (each fruit requires different amounts of sugar and pectin). Even if your pectin experiment ends badly and your juices don't gel, pour it into jars and save it. The fresh fruit syrup is delicious poured over waffles, pancakes, and ice cream.)


  1. beautiful photographs!!
    my local farmers market is wednesday… i will be off to get fresh berries…look for the mcp…gather my mason jars & print out "cute" labels (i am optimistic i will find mcp)…
    i just love these kind of projects & sooo easy…thank you ms. h!

  2. Mmm, this sounds like an easy way to make jam, I spent this weekend making some too but I as planning on canning it! Maybe I need to give this a go... ;)

  3. Newbie questions about freezer jam (since I've never heard of it before and am totally intrigued):
    1. Once it's frozen, do you leave it in the freezer until it's ready to use?
    2. Do you thaw it in the fridge or is on the counter ok for faster use? How long does it usually take (assuming size of jars you're using).
    3. Could I use plastic containers instead of glass?
    4. Once it's thawed, how long do I have to use it up by?
    5. How long will it last in the freezer?
    6. Will the texture be much different from store-bought or canned jam?

    My grandmother used to do canning when I was a little girl, but I've never attempted it by myself. It all seems very overwhelming. This on the other hand seems like something I could maybe do.

    Love your blog!

  4. 1. Yes.

    When you take it out to use it, store it in the refrigerator.

    2. You can thaw it on the counter or the fridge, yes. However, the jam should not be allowed to sit at room temperature for prolonged periods of time, like any other perishable food.

    My jam tends to be usable after a 30 minute defrost.

    3. Absolutely. I store mine in both glass and plastic jam containers. The glass ones are just prettier to photograph and give away.

    4. Several weeks. Roughly a month when kept in the refrigerator.

    5. I store mine for a year in the freezer, occasionally a little longer.

    6. There might be a little difference in texture, depending on the type of fruit (I've not turned every fruit into a freezer jam). However, my raspberry and blackberry jams are basically identical to the store bought canned stuff, only better. They have a much brighter fresher flavor. Which is nice, if you're craving fresh fruit and it's the dead of winter.

    Many folks prefer freezer jams to the canned variety, as my family does. We served the raspberry jam to Mother Humble's London friend, who was visiting this last week, and she was quite taken with how fresh and delicious the freezer jam was.

    Now we're sending boxes of pectin back to London with Mother Humble.

  5. Sounds delish. The fruit looks so vibrant-- I really love this time of year!

  6. Fantastic - thanks!

  7. Is it best with berries, or would peaches and plums do just as well? I suddenly have a lot of fresh ripe peaches.

  8. Penny,

    Peach? Plum? Yes.

    While this is likely not the limit of freezer jam possibilities, my MCP insert includes recipes for the following freezer jams:

    Sour Plum
    Sweet Plum
    Black Raspberry
    Red Raspberry

  9. I'm off to search the supermarket isles for non-cook pectin :-}}

  10. Have dreamed of making jams, but always put it off because of the sterilization processes. You have opened my eyes to a new and wonderful possibility, thanks!

  11. Oooh...stockpiles of jam! I'd love to be able to say that about my pantry, but I'm glad I don't have oodles of jam on hand--cause I'd eat it all!

  12. You know, my mom is the same way. I recently noticed that I was getting low on jam and told her to please bring me a few jars when she comes down to visit. Although I emphasized the "FEW" bit, I'm sure she's going to bring me about 10 jars.

  13. My mom is the same way- she's already made three different kinds of strawberry jam, plus peach jam, raspberry jam and grape jelly. I do love jam, though, and tend to make lots as well. I make some for my freezer but also can some. The brand of pectin available in my area is SureGel, and with it you have the option of either making freezer jam or cooked jam.

  14. ohh I love making jam isn't it so magical? It is such a summer thing!

  15. I love your blog, the pictures always look so delectable and professional. Have you posted them on Fiddme yet?

  16. Oh, so lovely! Jams make me happy...would gladly be stranded on a desert island with them.

    Also, you can make your own pectin from (organic) apple skins if you are having trouble finding it...or are super-cheap, like me:

  17. Do you have a magical source for those glass containers?

  18. If I wanted to make a seedless freezer jam should I strain out the seeds before or after adding the pectin etc.? (Or does it even matter?)

    Thanks and love the blog!

  19. I love homemade jam, but I rarely have the time for it. By the time I get home from work, I'm usually exhausted, and my weekends are usually spent with friends.

    So when I saw this, I knew I had to try it.

    And now I have a freezer full of blueberry jam.

    I halved the recipe on the packet, as fruit can get pricy here and besides, I live alone and don't eat jam that often, but I still ended up with a ton of it. Will have to see if my mum wants some, she's even busier than me and definitely haven't the time for jam making.

  20. When I lived on Capitol Hill in Seattle and my kids were small, somebody told me there was no dwelling unit in Seattle that was more than 8 blocks from blackberries. I dunno about the rest of the city, but we had a fabulous pile of them about 3 blocks away, climbing a retaining wall on an alley. I would put the kids in their little red wagon with two or three stainless bowls, and we'd go off after dinner for dessert. There were so many they could eat all they wanted on the way home and I would have the rest in jars by bedtime.
    Cooked jelly isn't hard at all. I think the person who remembers her grandmother doing it and being overwhelmed is remembering it from a child's perspective. I have my grandmother's 1934 Fanny Farmer cookbook, which does not presume I have any high tech equipment. Combined with the modern idea of "boiling hot jelly sterilizes your otherwise clean jars just fine, thankyouverymuch" and modern screw-top lids, it produces lovely jam and jelly with minimal fuss. While I do process (meaning,"sit in a deep pot of boiling water to cover for half an hour to two hours depending on what it is") vegetables, I never do this with jam or jelly.

  21. (part 2, sorry) Basically, it works like this: Set out your clean out of the dishwasher jars on the table on a few layers of newspaper. Have on hand a damp towel, a ladle, and a handy wide-mouth funnel. Boil up some water and put it in a bowl on the newspaper, and then drop in your lids and rings. Do NOT boil THEM, because that will distort the soft ring that makes them seal. Open your tinfoil packet of Certo and stand it upright in a cup next to the stove. Now you're all set.
    The typical jelly/jam is about 7 cups of sugar and 4 cups of juice/crushed fruit, plus maybe a touch of lemon juice. (Do not skimp on the sugr; chemistry for setting demands it, and sucralose (Splenda) won't work.) Put these in a pot that's about 4 x as deep as the materials, because when they boil, they BOIL. I use a one-gallon aluminum saucepan of my grandmother's- the outside is beat up but the inside is mirror-like. Set your timer for one minute, but don't start it yet.
    Cook over high heat stirring constantly until it's a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down, then squeeze in the Certo. Keep on the heat until the full rolling boil comes on again, stirring like mad all the time, then start the timer and let it boil hard for the one minute.
    Carry the pot over to the table and set it on that pad of newspapers. If there is a little scum on the top of the jelly, skim it off with a spoon and toss that in the sink. Now use your widemouth funnel and ladle to fill the jars--quickly, now-- wipe the threads clean with the damp towel if you spilled any, and immediately screw on the lids and rings. Invert the jar and do the next one. When they're all done, stand them right-side-up and let them cool. One batch makes 7 1/2 or 8 half-pint jars or 4 pint jars. Or 15 or 16 little half-pint cuties.

    Certo is the (liquid) pectin I get around here; its product insert is very helpful in cooked and freezer jams. If your cooked jam/jelly doesn't look like it's setting up, be patient: some things may take a few weeks to really set up, but these are rare.
    Easy stuff: bottled white or purple grape juice, plain or with some anise or clove; leftover wine alone or half and half with grape juice (yummm!); mint (make a strong tea with a cup of fresh leaves, strain, proceed. Once you do one batch, rinse the pan out with hot water-- you won't need soap-- and do another. Then branch out into other stuff, crushed fruit or strained jelly or a mix.

    Seriously. One hour for two batches of gorgeous stuff. I haven't bought jam or jelly in thirty years.

  22. ::sigh:: strained JUICE. too busy at actual work today. Oh, and cranblueberry juice is delicious. Apple juice or cider lends itself to all sorts of great tweaks.

  23. Rebecca,

    I'd do it before adding the pectin.

    I'm not certain how much the texture of the jam relies on the fruit pulp, as much of it would be removed when you strain the mixture. I've never heard of freezer jelly, but I don't see why it would be impossible.


    Yea cooked jelly isn't too hard either. Though some folks will never get over their canning nerves, which is why freezer jam is handy.

    My family grew out in the Cascade foothills before relocating to the Seattle area. We did a lot of canning, preserving the produce from our large garden and dozen or so fruit trees.

    Our pantry often had rows upon rows of pretty jars full of juices, fruits, vegetables, sauces. They were always tempting to the child Ms. Humble who would break into the green beans and eat them... which never made my mother very happy.

    Once Mr. Humble and I are able to move away from the city and are situated on enough land for a modest garden, we'll probably start the canning operation again.


    Corner grocery store. They're just ordinary Ball Mason jars. They offer much nicer jars than I remember. More sizes and shapes, brushed silver lids and rings, and they come with the labels.

  24. i made my first batch of freezer jam during strawberry season and it tastes just like fresh strawberries and sugar! freezer jam rocks!

    i love your photos and they are just inspiring me to go buy tons of fruit to make jam... i may have to do that now to satisfy my craving. thanks for the gorgeous pics!

  25. whats the shelf life on jam?

    I've been wanting to try canning/freezing jams but I don't know how much is too much to make and whether I should worry about the jam going bad before I can finish eating it all up

  26. You can keep the jam frozen for up to a year then take it out and keep it refrigerated for up to 4 weeks.

  27. Ms. Humble.. cracked me up - was having an email discussion about the rock band Humble Pie and my correspondent had a comment about the vocal backup singers that Humble Pie employed during the later years.. the where named "The Blackberries" ... so, with humorous intent, I wanted to send him a picture of "The Blackberries .. did an image search on "Humble Pie" and Blackberries .. and here I am ... LOL !

  28. How can I rescue a batch of blueberry jam that did not thicken now that it is in their jars?


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