Monday, September 12, 2011

Make your own...Freezer Jam!

(this is 28 jars, or 7 batches. Flavors: peach, strawberry, strawberry/blueberry, strawberry/raspberry, plum, and blueberry. I think I've made 8 actually, we've been through 4 jars already! I wonder how long this will last?)

Here we go! Everyone have their fruit??

(I'm not going to give the exact amounts of what I used, because I don't want to get in any trouble "copying" the recipe from the current issue of Everyday Food by Martha Stewart. Which I pay for myself.)

I started with a large container of blueberries from Sam's. This is slightly less than the amount of berries you are supposed to use, so I imagine it won't quite fill up all 4 of these jars. You can use any combination of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries. I have made pretty much all those. Some I combined, some I didn't. This one will be straight up blueberry. You can also use any combination of "stone fruit", which is peaches, nectarines, plums, etc. I made those too, but didn't combine the flavors. I guess you could combine those with the berries if you want. Sky's the limit! There's just a goal of "cups of crushed fruit" that you want to start with.

I also have 4 pint-size (16 oz) jars. I usually just fill them up to the top mark inside, which is 12 oz. A full batch would fill these 4 up. Of course if you want to use smaller jars, you can, it will just fill more. I use the larger ones because a) they are about the amount we go through in one week, and b) I don't have the time or patience to deal with a bunch of little jars in my life. For using myself, I mean.

The article says you can also use Ball plastic freezer cups or freezer ziploc bags too. I think the glass jars are probably the best though. And they are just cool :)

The only other things you need are lemon juice, pectin, and sugar. There's a specific kind of pectin to use for "freezer jam". See how I have a sieve over my measuring cup? Just squeeze the lemons (2-3) over that and right into the cup. Efficient, no?
The sugar and pectin are combined in the bowl.

Here's where I go different. You are supposed to mash the berries/fruit with a potato masher, in the pot. I did that, the first time, with plums, and it took too long for me. The point of doing that is so you still have chunks of fruit in it. Which is cool with me, but I can still use my food processor for that.

I also zested one of the lemons in with the berries. This isn't in any of the recipes, but I pretty much NEVER pass up a chance to use lemon zest. The first time I zested a lemon, a few years ago (I can even remember the day, if you can believe that), changed my life! You can't really taste "lemon" taste in the jams, but it really brightens up the flavors of the other fruit. Do it. You won't be sorry!

I just pulsed it quickly a few times, just enough to chop up the fruit a little. Definitely want to stop before it becomes a puree.

Put the chopped fruit and lemon juice on stove over med-high. Takes about 3-4 min to come to a boil.

It quickly becomes syrupy-looking. And smells AMAZING. Thank you, lemon zest.

After it comes to a boil, stir in the sugar and pectin. Bring back to a boil, then boil for one minute. Takes about 5-8 minutes.

YUM. Go ahead and take a taste. Just be sure to blow on it first or you'll burn your mouth. I heard.

I read somewhere else that your supposed to skim off the foam that comes on top after you remove from heat. Not exactly sure why.

Now you're ready to fill the jars. See that funnel thingy? This is a $5 canning gadget that will make your life easier and you kitchen cleaner. Definitely worth it.

Fill them up leaving enough space for expansion during freezing. You can definitely fill them up to the top of the jar, but I choose not to. Put the seals and rings on. Be careful, the glass is HOT!!

Then you let them set out for a few hours to one day at room temp to cool, set, and seal. If you are around you kitchen after a few hours, you may hear the "popping" sound of the seals popping in. That makes me giggle. If you were canning them to keep at room temperature, this is where you would have to boil the full sealed jars and "process" them. Meh. Too much work for me.

After this, the will keep in the freezer for 6-12 months or 3-4 weeks in the fridge. Press down and make sure the top doesn't pop back up. If it does, it's not sealed all the way and I would go ahead and just use it right away in the fridge.

The whole process took me about 30 minutes. Blueberries are the easiest...just wash and go! Strawberries and other fruits require more cutting, so they take a little longer. But be sure to leave the skins on all the fruit.

My goal has been to make about a years worth of jam while the prices are still good on the summer fruit. I wish I had known about this at the beginning of the summer....I've been doing this alot trying to get it in. Next year I will be able to start in June. And I won't have the start up cost of buying the jars.

In case anyone was wondering, here's the price breakdown:

the blueberries were about $7. For the full amt of fruit you could spend any where from $5-$10, depending on what you get and how good the price is. Of course you can use organic, which hopefully I will be able to next year, so it would be higher.

A case of 12 pint jars at Walmart is about $6.50. About 50cents per jar.

So, on the high end, including buying the jars, this costs about $2.50 per 12oz jar. That's about 20cents per oz. (16cents if you already have the jar).

To compare, Polanar All fruit is about $2 for a jar....that's 20cents per ounce for a 10oz jar. Maybe a few pennies less if you buy it at Walmart. But that's weight, and I measure by volume. So, the 10oz jar of Polaner actually contains 7oz of jelly. So that comes to 29cents per ounce. See? I do the math for yall just to prove my point! ;)

I look forward to next year already having the jars. Over the fall/winter as we go through the jam I plan to use them to make butters....i.e. apple, pear, pumpkin, peach, cherry, and any other ones I can think of /hear of! I have a recipe for apple/pear butter in the crockpot from last year that I've been just waiting to try! I'm not sure if you can freeze them, so I'll have to look into how much I can make at a time and how to store them.

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