For years the term "freezer jam" eluded me. I never spent much time pondering it, but if I had been pressed to define it, I would've guessed it was something you spread on a frozen dessert. Or jam made in the freezer, like how icebox cake is made in an icebox.
Fortunately, after a U-pick spree in Seattle several years ago, I complained to my mother over the phone that I had to cook jam during an unusual heat wave. She clued me in: I didn't have to cook the fruit to make jam. And I could store the jam in the freezer. Ah-ha.
Why You Should Be Freezer Jammin'
With no-cook freezer jam you get to preserve the bounty of summer without the fuss, heat, equipment, and time that canned jams require. All you need is ripe fruit, sugar (or other sweetener), freezer jam-compatible pectin, and about 15 minutes of easy kitchen time. Before you know it, you'll be proudly scooping up homemade jam for toast, smoothies, yogurt, or just by the big spoonful.
Uncooked freezer jam is a little different than its cooked counterpart. It doesn't have that thick, cooked-down texture and flavor. Instead, it looks and tastes like the ripe fruit. And freezer jam is not shelf-stable, so for long-term storage, it must go in the freezer. Then, when the winter days are closing in on you, all you need to do is pop open a jar and thank yourself for saving a little jar of summer.
Because the process is so simple and there's very little set-up required, no-cook freezer jams work great even with relatively modest harvests. Experiment with whatever you find at the farmers' market. Even if you pick up just a couple of pints of berries, you can make small, city slicker-sized batches in hardly any time at all. Even making several types of jam in one afternoon is easy enough.
Pick up whatever is ripe and looks good to you:strawberries, peaches, mango, cherries, blueberries. I even tried making an uncooked rhubarb jam—delicious, even with its raw celery-like texture.
Another bonus to no-cook freezer jams: without the harsh heat of traditional jam-making, you can add fresh herbs and taste their bright flavor months later. You can even spike your jam with a small amount of flavor-highlighting alcohol.
There are several different types and brands of pectin to choose from. Just make sure the label specifies that it works with no-cook freezer jam recipes then follow the specific instructions provided.
I've used both Ball instant fruit pectin and Pomona's Universal pectin—these were the easiest for me to find. I like that neither of these varieties relies on massive amounts of sugar for the jam to set. The Ball pectin is a little simpler to use, but I appreciated that Pomona's has no preservatives. Otherwise, the ingredients and the overall process are the same for both; see the slideshow for the basic steps.
The main thing to remember is this: stir your pectin well. Otherwise you could get lumpy or unevenly set jam.
Here are some examples of no-cook freezer jams that I've made. With the exception of the last, savory jam, they each yield about five cups. Once these jams have set, they should keep for two weeks in the refrigerator or one year in the freezer. If you want to start out with smaller batches, go ahead and halve the amounts. If you use a different pectin than the ones I used, be sure to check the label before you start jamming—some of them require more sugar to set properly.
About the author: Kumiko writes the blog Recipe Interrupted. She believes that having a few cooking techniques under your belt can help make home cooking creative and easy, and is excited to share these basics here on her regular column Technique of the Week. A graduate of Brown University, the Institute of Culinary Education, and a mother of two hungry girls, Kumiko is always trying to keep her Brooklyn kitchen smelling of something good.
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