Strawberry Picking - Part 2 - Freezer Jam!

Strawberry freezer jam...  SO YUMMY! If there is one homemade treat that you need to make this summer, it's strawberry freezer jam!  I have never made it before this year, but it is soooo stinkin' easy!  I made a few batches already, so let me share and you can learn from my mistakes, so you don't waste any precious berries! :)

I was at Lowe's in April to get gardening gloves for Isaiah and myself, and I saw canning supplies near the seeds.  At the display, they had loads of different jars for canning, pickling mixes and pectin, both regular and instant.  I picked up Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin, because what could be easier than instant anything, right?  Within the next week, I made my first batch of strawberry freezer jam with instant pectin and store bought berries from Aldi.  

The instant pectin is very easy to use, no cooking or heating water, just measure and mix.  To make freezer jam with instant pectin, wash the berries, cut off the greens, and mash them with a potato masher.  Measure out 1 2/3 cups of the mashed berries and set it aside.  Measure 2/3 cups sugar into a bowl and thoroughly mix with 2 Tbsp of the Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin.  Add the mashed strawberries to the sugar and pectin mixture and stir for three minutes.  Spoon the jam into clean jars and ta-da, you're done!  It turned out okay, but it wasn't the same strawberry freezer jam that I had remembered from my youth.  It was not quite as sweet and it was a bit runnier.

I did a little research, and found that perhaps it was because I had used instant pectin versus regular pectin.  On my trip to Triple B Farms for strawberry picking, I found that they had Natural Dutch Jell pectin.  It was very inexpensive, so I purchased it to try for my next batch of freezer jam to be made with Triple B strawberries!  The day after we picked strawberries at Triple B, I tried my hand at a batch of strawberry freezer jam with regular pectin.  Surprisingly, it was very easy too!  You prepare the strawberries the same way, wash, hull, and mash.  Measure two cups of mashed strawberries, and then mix in four cups of sugar.  On the stove, mix 1/3 cup (heaping) of Dutch Jell with 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Pour the pectin and water mixture into the fruit and sugar mixture and stir for three minutes.  Ta-da, done!  It's almost as easy as instant pectin, but it is sooooo much better!  

For my first batch, I didn't have any jars and was a little overly eager, so I actually emptied a few jars of expired jarred goods from my fridge, like Smuckers strawberry jam, vlasic pickles, and Tostitos salsa.  I was a little leery of doing this because I was afraid of the lids transferring flavors and smells from the prior contents.  I scoured the interwebs to see if I could do this or not, and I didn't find much information, so I tried it anyway.  I would NOT suggest doing this, especially with pickles!  What was I thinking?!  I guess I was just a bit over zealous...  For my later batches, I used real canning jars (courtesy of my mom), which only need to be cleaned with soap and water for freezer jam.  This was a much better idea! 

Mashed berries and strawberry jam in the correct jars!

The four cups of sugar that is called for with the regular pectin may seem a little excessive, but when using pectin to make freezer jam, it is necessary to follow the instructions precisely to have your jam set up properly.  Besides, the jam is AMAZING with that much sugar, and it's still probably less sugar than store-bought jam!  If you wanted to use less sugar or no sugar, there is another pectin type that you can buy at any grocery store (or even Lowe's!).  Triple B Farms sells Dutch Jell Lite, which works with less sugar, too. 

Making my own freezer jam was super easy, and I get a warm, fuzzy feeling because I know that the only thing in my jam is strawberries, sugar, and pectin!  It's amazing on fresh baked bread, which I'm making right now (just so I can eat some jam, actually), and on top of vanilla ice cream!  Yummy!  Now, here's hoping that my eight jars will last for a few months...  I just bought vanilla ice cream, so the outlook is not so good. ;)
Ready to freeze!

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