What's the difference between freezer jam and regular jam? Essentially, cooking. The former isn't cooked, so it tastes more like fresh fruit, but it also needs to be stored in the fridge or freezer due to its highly perishable nature (whereas properly cooked jam can be stored at room temperature in a cupboard).
If you have the room in your freezer, freezer jam is definitely the way to go. It not only tastes more like fresh fruit, but is much simpler to prepare. No canning equipment necessary. All you need is the fruit, pectin, sugar, and some clean jars. Because freezer jam is more perishable than its cooked counterpart, you want to store them in small jars, so they can be finished in a reasonable time.
In order to control the sugar in your final jam, use "no sugar necessary" pectin, such as the Sure Jell kind I used. There may also be "freezer jam" pectins out there, but this one works for that purpose (the instructions include ones to make freezer jam). Using regular pectin would probably work, too, but if you're like me and don't like things to be overly sweet, you don't want to have to use a lot of sugar in order to activate the pectin. In fact, I actually used less than the instructions call for, which it explicitly warns not to do (so as not to compromise the jam setting). It worked fine for me -- I used just under 2 cups of sugar, though the instructions say to use 3 cups -- but your mileage may vary.
In order to make strawberry freezer jam, all you have to do is crush the fruit, heat up a sugar/pectin/water mixture, add one to the other, then ladle into clean jars. Couldn't be simpler. When you're heating up the pectin mixture, be sure to constantly stir. After it reaches a boil, you should let it boil for one full minute. It's considered boiling when you can't stir away the bubbles anymore.
Let the filled jars sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours to let the jam set, then viola! Delicious, homemade jam. The jam can be stored in the freezer for 1 year (thaw in the fridge) or refrigerated for up to 3 weeks. Once you've opened a jar, use it up within a week. (That's why smaller jars are better.)
The recipe that follows is specifically for strawberry jam -- and it's my reduced sugar version. Follow the instructions that come with the pectin for other fruit and best results.
Strawberry Freezer Jam
Makes about six 8oz jars of jam.
- 4 cups (about a quart) strawberries, washed, hulled and crushed
- 1 3/4 cup organic sugar
- 1 package fruit pectin
- 1 cup water
- Using a potato masher, crush the strawberries in a large bowl. Leave it as chunky as you like -- depends on if you like large pieces of fruit in your jam. Do NOT use a food processor; this will liquefy the fruit.
- In a large pot, mix the sugar together with the pectin until well combined. Add the water and stir. Heat over medium-high, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a FULL boil. Let it boil, stirring, for one full minute, then remove from heat.
- Carefully and quickly pour the crushed fruit into the pectin mixture and stir for one minute, until well combined.
- Ladle the jam into clean jars, leaving about 1/2-inch room at the top, then set the jars on a counter at room temperature for 24 hours. Store in freezer for 1 year (thaw in the fridge) or refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. Once you've opened a jar, use it up within a week.