Friday, February 19, 2010

We've been jammin'

I have memories of my mom making blueberry jam every summer from Michigan blueberries, bought while we were up at her family's cabin in the northern Lower Peninsula. [By cabin, I mean 4 room, plus pseudo-indoor bathroom, NON-winterized, former hunting cabin. It had been the first man-made structure on the lake, with few updates...]

I never helped. I never had the inclination to help or learn. Boy, am I kicking myself now!

Last winter, the desire to can or preserve produce started to really knock around my head. I researched a bit about it, but was overwhelmed with what needed to be done, and initial supply investment. Then, the husband and I visited some of his extended family in northeastern Tennessee. One morning for breakfast, he was insistent that I try his great aunt's strawberry freezer jam.

Wow. Let me tell you - it was like summer sunshine on a biscuit. I was amazed, and immediately asked her how she made it. She was adamant that it was easy, and gave me the run down.

Turns out, freezer jam is wonderful, tasty, and easy. It pretty much takes: fruit, sugar, water, and pectin. Since my husband's (great) aunt uses the yellow Sure-Jell pectin, that is what I have used. I'm not sure that there are differences in brands of pectin; I just wasn't about to try a recipe for the first time and wildly vary the ingredients.

Once you have the ingredients, you simply follow the directions that come with the box, taking care that you follow the Freezer Jam directions.

What takes the most time is preparing your fruit, and letting the jam set in the jars overnight. Here are a couple of things about the recipe I've learned:
- the first time I tried it, I mashed the fruit and had fruit pieces left. That batch did not set up well, and was not like his (great) aunt's at all. The taste was fine, but the texture wasn't quite there. The second time (and third, and all subsequent ones), I did run the strawberries through the blender, and got what was pretty much a puree. It set up beautifully. So... I recommend running the fruit through a blender or food processor. At least strawberries; at least for freezer jam.
- the recipe to which I linked says to use plastic containers. You can, but you can also use the regular glass canning jars.

I loved that I learned how to make this. Now, I can have that summer taste anytime, knowing that I made it. Plus, it is a great way to use fruit that is about to turn. Once, when I was in the grocery store, I noticed a big bag of strawberries and a smaller one of blackberries on sale (serious sale) because they were about to turn. I looked it over, saw that there was some unusable fruit, but that there'd be enough for a batch of jam, so I bought both bags. If I had not had a way to use or preserve that fruit immediately, I would not have been able to take advantage of the price reduction. I remember feeling a little thrill. And it lead to the strawberry-blackberry freezer jam experiment.

I made freezer jam several times last spring, and ended up giving away quite a few jars just before we moved from NC to IN. Aside from the strawberry-blackberry jar currently open in our fridge, I only have one jar of strawberry left in my freezer. I cannot wait for spring harvests! What about you?

1 comment:

Cam said...

Sounds like something I should try. I could use a bit of summer now:)

I remember mom spending hours upon hot hours in the kitchen at the cottage creating so much blueberry jam that that's all we had for YEARS! And I still don't eat blueberry jam...