So there was a time many moons ago when every spring, I’d go to Costco and buy the big containers of those big, fat strawberries and make enough strawberry freezer jam to last me an entire year, not to mention enough jam to give as gifts to friends, co-workers, and the little Mexican boys who would knock on my door and sell me homemade tamales.
And then life got complicated.
I got pregnant with my first kiddo in the spring, which automatically nixes most food-related endeavors. The next year, I had a newborn, the year after I was in the midst of a job-hating crisis and was stressed out beyond belief, and it just goes on and on. Excuses, excuses, right?
Well, I was at Sam’s Club the other day and saw one of those 2 lb. clamshell boxes of fat, juicy strawberries, and I thought, “Has it really been 6 years since I last stockpiled massive amounts of strawberry jam in my freezer??” Immediately wishing to try and make some restitution for the fact that my son, the little bean whose presence stopped my jam-making obsession, had never had jam that didn’t come from a grocery store, I bought all the fixins for strawberry freezer jam.
Now…I know I’m not reinventing the wheel here–I’m just using the recipe that’s inside the Sure Jell package. Heck, a good number of you have probably beaten me to the punch and have already made freezer jam this year. And there are probably some of you who don’t believe in freezer jam and only make canned jam (which I’ve never done…shhhhh…) and are judging me right now. But I want to show those of you who have never made freezer jam and also those of you who may have forgotten how fun and easy it is to make. Not to mention tasty. No wonder I hardly ever eat PB&J anymore–jarred jam is gross.
One thing I love about freezer jam is that you don’t cook the mixture, so it tastes really fresh, almost like fresh, sweet strawberries on your sandwich instead of goopy, sticky stuff. The only thing that’s even remotely tricky is that you have to be exact; no heaping or scant cups of sugar or strawberries here. Level it out to the top, pay attention to what you’re doing, and you, too, can have homemade jam in about an hour. Awesome, right? Right.
So all you do is find some luscious-looking berries–ripe, but not overly ripe. And seriously, if you don’t have a Costco or Sam’s Club membership and are not interested in getting one, at the very least, have someone you know who does have a membership pick you up some strawberries because the ones there are huge, delicious, and CHEAP–like I paid about $3.50 for 2 lb. of the biggest, juiciest strawberries I’ve ever seen. Can’t beat that. Unless you’re a strawberry farmer.
Okay, to get started, you’ll need to wash and dry 8- or 16-oz. freezer-safe containers. You can use glass jam or jelly jars, but it makes me nervous to have large amounts of glass in my freezer for extended periods of time, so I just use the 8-oz. disposable food storage containers (like the Ziploc ones in the picture or Gladware). Ball jars makes plastic jam containers that are a little bit cuter, but I don’t think the little bit of cute makes up for the increased cost. Plus, because of their shape, it’s easier to re-use the food storage containers for something more practical like snacks or fingerpaint.
Wash and cut the stems off 1 quart (about 1 lb.) of strawberries. Working with about 1 c. of berries at a time, mash with a potato masher or pulse in your food processor until they’re mushed but still have some chunks of fruit in there–you don’t want it to be completely smooth.
Place mashed berries in a large bowl with 4 c. sugar. My friend Jeni was telling me today about how she likes to make her freezer jam with pectin that calls for less sugar (it’s called the “Less-Sugar” variety, believe it or not) and how she really likes it because it tastes more strawberry-y and less sugary. I’ve never tried it, but I really want to make my next batch of freezer jam with that to see how I like it. HOWEVER. This time around, I’m using the pectin where you use a lot of sugar, so the directions are for that. Don’t try and cut down on the sugar at ALL or your jam won’t set up right.
Anyway, stir the sugar into the strawberries and allow to stand for 10 minutes. While the strawberries are standing, whisk together the entire packet of pectin and 3/4 c. water. It might be a little lumpy. Stirring constantly, heat to boiling and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir into strawberry mixture for 3 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved (a few granules may remain).
Ladle into prepared freezer-safe containers. Place the lids on the containers and allow them to stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Place in the refrigerator or freezer; the jam will keep in the fridge for 3 weeks or the freezer for up to 1 year.That one with the ribbon on it is for the little Mexican boys who sold me tamales and put up with my horrible Spanish…although they’re probably not little anymore and they’re probably not going to find me in Louisiana. Adios, muchachos…
Strawberry Freezer Jam
Recipe from the Sure Jell box
1 qt. (2 c. crushed) ripe strawberries, washed and stemmed
4 c. sugar
1 package fruit pectin (I use Sure Jell; I don’t even think I’ve seen a different brand)
3/4 c. water
8-oz. freezer-safe containers
Wash and dry the freezer-safe containers and set aside.
With a potato masher or in a food processor, mash the berries, leaving some chunks. Measure out 2 c. of berries into a large bowl. Stir in exactly 4 c. sugar and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
While the berries and sugar are co-mingling, whisk the pectin into 3/4 c. water in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over high heat and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir into strawberry mixture for 3 minutes or until sugar is almost entirely dissolved.
Ladle the jam into the prepared containers, leaving about 1/2″ at the top for expansion. Top with lids and allow to stand for 24 hours at room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for 1 year. Makes 5 8-oz. containers.