Friday, June 4, 2010

Strawberry Freezer Jam: How Many Ways Can You Do This?

 
Oh, the complications that come from trying to do something easy. Like making strawberry freezer jam. My friend Nicole Hamaker got me thinking about it a few weeks ago when she put together a lovely post on Pinch My Salt about her experience making the jam. I mentally moved on to loquats, though, since a tree in my neighborhood is heavy with the fruit. I made a couple of jars of loquat jam using traditional cooking methods, including sterilizing the glass jars and processing them afterward. Then I started toying with blackberries since I love them and they're ridiculously cheap right now. I have about five pints in my kitchen now, plus a productive lemon verbena bush, and my friend and pastry chef extraordinaire Tina Luu's excellent advice on how to pair the two.

Then I ran into strawberries at Henry's on Memorial Day. At 88 cents for a pound container I couldn't resist, even knowing that they'd have little taste. These were meant for jamming and since I didn't have the energy to do a full-on jamming session I started looking up freezer jam recipes. Again.

I found a bunch of different recipes. Here's one I saw repeatedly on different food blogs from pectin manufacturer Sure Jell.


Sure-Jell Premium Fruit Pectin, 1.75-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 8)

Sure Jell's Strawberry Freezer Jam

1 qt. (2 c. crushed) ripe strawberries, washed and stemmed
4 c. sugar
1 package fruit pectin
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.

Here's another version, this time from cooks.com:

1 qt. stemmed, crushed strawberries (once crushed, you need 1 3/4 cups)
4 c. sugar
1 pouch liquid fruit pectin
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Stir sugar into crushed fruit. Set aside for 10 minutes. In a separate bowl mix pectin and lemon juice. Stir pectin mixture into fruit/sugar mixture. Stir constantly for 3 minutes. Fill clean freezer containers immediately, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe off edges with clean cloth and apply lids quickly. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Store in freezer until open. After opening, store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

The difference is the liquid pectin instead of powder and the addition of lemon juice, which also has pectin but also adds a little brightness to offset all the sugary sweetness.

Then I happened on to something completely different from Taste of Home:

Strawberry Freezer Jam
Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts fresh strawberries
  • 5-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 package (1-3/4 ounces) powdered fruit pectin

Directions

  • Wash and mash the berries, measuring out enough mashed berries to make 4 cups; place in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, corn syrup and lemon juice. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  • In a kettle, combine strawberry mixture and water. Stir in pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; skim off foam.
  • Pour into jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Cover and let stand overnight or until set, but not longer than 24 hours. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 1 year. Yield: 4-1/2 pints.
Okay, so it's twice as many strawberries but sugar and corn syrup? Plus, there's the addition of water. And, you cook it. Someone's going to have to explain the chemistry behind this to me.

I could go on, thanks to Google, which identified scads of these recipes. Why didn't I stick with Nicole's recipe and be done with it? Well, actually, I did. Her recipe comes from the package on the Ball No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin package


Ball No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin


It's a recipe I'm a little irritated with because it calls for four, one-pound containers, which I had. However, once you actually crush the fruit and add it to the 1 1/2 cups of sugar and the pectin, you end up with far more than the 4 cups of fruit it says you should have. My yield from 4 pounds of strawberries was more like 8 cups. I wasn't happy.

Now on a whim Nicole added lemon juice to her recipe but I didn't bother with that. I did want to make the flavor a little more interesting than plain strawberry, so I grated about a teaspoon of fresh ginger into the fruit, some of which I pureed and the rest I roughly chopped with my food processor so I'd have a nice texture.


Despite my complaint about the quantities of unused strawberries I now have (and have frozen to use later), I did like the flavors and the consistency I got, although next time I'll add more ginger and maybe some cointreau. And notice how much less sugar is required here than in the recipes above. That was the turning point for me. So, with thanks to Nicole, here's the recipe:

Ball No Cook Strawberry Freezer Jam

4, 1 lb. containers of strawberries (I'd go for 2, or 3 at the most), crushed
1 1/2 cups sugar

1. Stir sugar and contents of package in a bowl until well blended.
2. Stir in 4 cups crushed fruit. Stir 3 minutes longer.
3. Ladle jam into clean jars to fill line. Twist on lids. Let stand until thickened, about 30 minutes.

That's it, plus the grated ginger I added. It couldn't be simpler. For freezing, stick to plastic containers instead of traditional glass jars, which could crack. You can pick up nice packages of 5, 8-ounce freezer containers that Ball also makes (and use them for storing other dishes later).


So, now the pressing question is what to do with those remaining four cups of crushed strawberries...


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