As regular readers of The Bitten Word know well, we're both from the South. We grew up with mothers or grandmothers who would "put up" (as in, preserve) all kinds of food in the grand Southern tradition, from beans and squash and tomatoes to all manner of fruit preserves and jellies.
But it took a trip to Maine before we had freezer jam.
It was the summer of 2007, and the two of us took a little trip to Maine to visit our friends Dan and Wendy, a terrific couple that Clay had known from college. We flew into Boston, rented a car, and leisurely made our way up the New England coast, stopping frequently for all kinds of culinary treats -- lobster rolls, Whoopee pies, Moxie cola.
Dan and Wendy's house, outside the adorable town of Belfast, is a picturesque place -- long and low, covered in white clapboard, with a large barn just off the house. The broad green lawn behind the house stretches down to a small, cold swimming pond before getting lost in a tangle of Maine woods.
Our first morning there, we sat on Dan and Wendy's back deck, drinking coffee and basking in the warm morning sun. Wendy brought out a lovely, simple breakfast: English muffins and a jar of bright red strawberry freezer jam.
The idyllic setting already felt like a dream. The jam made it feel like Heaven.
Making freezer jam is delicious and incredibly easy. With traditional jam, you thicken the fruit by cooking it and boiling it down. In making freezer jam, however, you use pectin to thicken. And since you don't cook the fruit, the jam tastes intensely like the fresh fruit itself.
We've made it ourselves twice now, once with blueberries last summer, when they were at their cheapest and most abundant. And we just made it this summer, with strawberries we hand-picked from our CSA farm.
This is a great way to make use of fruits in season -- and it's a really economical option, too. By purchasing seasonal fruits, you're getting them when they're most affordable (and when they taste the best!) and then preserving them to enjoy throughout the year.
And you don't need any special equipment. We have some Bell jars that we used for our jam, but we also saved salsa and sauce jars and filled them all with jam.
The result is jam that tastes deliciously sweet and impossibly fresh. It's like bottled summer!
Here's the basic ratio for freezer jam, which is printed on the box of Sure Jell pectin -- the recipe our friend Wendy swears by:
-- 2 cups mashed fruit
-- 4 cups sugar
-- 1 pouch pectin
-- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
-- Clean the fruit and mash it.
-- Add the sugar and stir. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-- In small bowl, stir the pectin into the lemon juice.
-- Stir pectin mix into berries and stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes.
-- Pour into sterilized containers, leaving 1/2 inch head room for expansion during freezing.
-- Let stand at room temp 24 hours until set.
It will last up to three weeks in the refrigerator or up to a year in the freezer.