My basil tutorial seemed to be such a hit that I thought I'd come back with a second easy one: freezer jam.
Many people would like to make their own jam but are intimidated by the process of canning and the initial cost investment that it requires. Let me say that canning your own food is very, very simple once you get the hang of it and I'd be glad to write up a tutorial if there is enough interest. However, I want my readers to be able to enjoy their own fresh berry jam without worry so I'd like to present you with a few simple steps to making your own freezer jam with no canning supplies required! This method does not take very long---in fact, I made some the other night and it was done before my bread machine finished it's 58-minute cycle!
Please be aware that this tutorial is for BERRY jam only. There are different processes in canning different jams but this process will work with any kind of berry: strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.
Please also be aware that this tutorial is for FREEZER (or refrigerator) jam only. It is very important that you refrigerate or freeze this jam as soon as it has cooled. This will not be safe in your cupboard or pantry and consumption of it will lead to serious food-borne illness. It is VERY safe and delicious when it's been refrigerated or frozen.
You will begin by thoroughly washing any amount of any berry. If they're freshly picked, you'll want to look them over good for any bugs. My bushes are in a shady part of the yard that stays wet for days after rain so there are a lot of slugs and snails hanging out there. I have to check thoroughly for tiny offspring that like to hang out on my bushes! (Ewww...!!) You will probably have the best results if you have at least 2 cups of berries---but really, you can do this with any amount.
Next, place your berries into a bowl and crush them. You can use a potato masher, a pastry blender, a fork, or your bare hands if you don't mind stains! I found out that my Pampered Chef Mix 'N Chop tool works excellent for this. If you don't want seeds in your berries, you can push them through a mesh strainer sieve...but I just keep them in there. It takes less time and I get more jam that way! Besides, if you take out all the seeds then it's not jam anymore...it's jelly!
After this, you should measure your berries to see how many cups you have. You'll need equal parts berries and sugar. So, if you've got 5 cups of berries then you'll need 5 cups of sugar.
When you have an idea as to how much jam you're going to have, you'll need to round up containers. You can use regular canning jars with lids and rings---they work just fine in the freezer and the ring over the lid forms a tight enough seal for the freezer. Again, please don't leave this jam in your pantry as it will not be sealed tightly and will form deadly bacteria. You can use any container that has an airtight seal for storing your jam in the freezer. I've used Rubbermaid-type and Pyrex glass containers with the plastic lids with great results. If your jam is going right into the refrigerator, you could even just pour it in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerated jam will keep for about a month---if it lasts that long!
Now it's time to cook. Mix the berries and sugar together in a large pot. I use a 16 qt. stock pot; however, not everyone has one of those! You can use any kind of saucepan but you'll want to fill it no more than half way. So, if you've got a lot of jam to make but a small pot, you'll just need to do it in batches. You are going to be boiling your jam for awhile, creating foam and splattering. If you've got your pot too full then you run the risk of boil-overs or burning. Burns from boiling sugar are some of the most painful burns!!
When your pot is about half full (or less) with the jam/sugar ratio, grab something to stir with that will keep your hand up as far as possible from the boiling jam. I have a long-handled wooden spoon that works well in my stock pot. You can use any kind of wooden, bamboo, or nylon tool. Pampered Chef scrapers work good for this. If you're not sure you've got the right tool for this, use whatever you have but wear an oven mitt to protect your hand from splatters. If you don't have an oven mitt, wrap a dish towel around your hand!
Put the pot on to cook over med-high heat. At first, you'll only need to stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let it sit there and cook until it begins to boil. Once it begins to bubble, you'll want to start watching it and stirring every now and then to make sure nothing is sticking. I don't have a problem with sticking but it all depends on the quality of saucepot you're using and how well it's distributing the heat. I stir anyway just to be on the safe side!
Once it's come to a good boil (bubbles across most of the surface) then you'll want to start timing. Don't start timing until this point because your jam will turn out a lot runnier than you'd like. (If for some reason this happens, use it for pancake syrup or ice cream topping! Again---keep it refrigerated!)
If you want your jam fairly runny (falls off the sides of the spoon when you spoon it from cooled jar) then you'll want to boil about 10 minutes. If you like it firm then boil for about 20 minutes. The longer you boil it, the firmer it will become after cooling. Important: keep in mind that the jam firms up A LOT during cooling. Do not expect to boil your jam until it reaches it's desired firmness because it will probably crystallize on you once it's cooled and it will not be edible! (Well, it might make some super sweet hard candy? Might have to try that after all...!!!)
Once you've boiled it your desired amount of time, you can either pour or scoop it into your containers. I like to use a soup ladle to ladle it out into the containers and then scrape the rest out with a spatula. You'll want to do this right away as it doesn't take very long to start becoming firm. Make sure and leave a couple inches of room at the top of the container as the jam might expand during freezing and you don't want to burst the container or the seal. If your pan is small and you're doing it in batches, it's fine to ladle the next batch on top of what you've already got in the containers.
You should let the jam cool uncovered in it's container until the container feels just slightly warm to the touch. Then you can mark it, cover it and place it either in the refrigerator or freezer. I like to mark my jam with the kind of jam it is, as well as the date I made it. It is very important that you write some sort of note on the container that it should remain refrigerated if you think you might forget or if it's possible that someone else might use it. I wrote "unsealed" on mine---that way I know that I've not actually "canned" it in a pressure or hot water bath so it's not safe without refrigeration.
I hope this tutorial has proved to be helpful and informative. I would be more than happy to answer any questions or provide further tips to my readers. You can contact me on my profile page.
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