Spring has sprung here in the U.S. The days are warm, sunny and gorgeous with lovely blooms and blossoms springing up here, there and everywhere ...........
One of the quintessential signs of spring at it's peak, in our southeastern corner of the country, is the short, but gloriously sweet season of local strawberries. One bite of a bright red, juicy strawberry - farm-picked just hours before, makes you realize that the store-bought variety you've been eating for the past few months .......... well, perhaps they weren't really strawberries after all.
I love to capture this delightful essence of spring in glass jars stored in my freezer. On short, dark and dreary winter days, all I have to do is pull out a jar of this scarlet sunshine and I am instantly transported to brighter days. Because freezer jam isn't simmered on the stovetop, it explodes with fresh vibrant flavor and color, unlike the traditional, cooked variety.
There is one drawback to freezer jam; sometimes, because it's not cooked, it can tend to be a bit grainy. Over the years, I've developed a few simple steps to overcome this problem; a bit of extra stirring and a two minute stint in the microwave helps dissolve the sugar without dulling the flavor and color. If you've never made freezer jam you REALY need to try this - I promise you won't be disappointed!
P.S. See the largest jar of jam in the pictures? I guarantee my son will be snagging that one on one of his "freezer raids"! :) (Don't tell him, but actually, I made that one just for the dear guy!)
Springtime in a Jar - Delicious Strawberry Freezer Jam
2 cups crushed fresh strawberries, about 1 quart
4 cups granulated white sugar
1 pouch liquid fruit pectin (I use Certo which is readily available at most supermarkets. At times it can be hard to find. I usually just ask at the front desk since every store seems to keep it in a different area.)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Wash and rinse glass* or plastic containers and lids in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water. Dry thoroughly. Measure exactly* 4 cups of sugar into a medium size bowl.
2. Stem and crush strawberries. Don't try to use a blender or food processor for this step as you want some small pieces of strawberry to remain (I like to use a potato masher for this step). Measure exactly** 2 cups prepared fruit into large microwave-safe bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 20 min., stirring occasionally.
3. After the 20 minutes, stir mixture for 3 minutes*** then place in microwave on high for 2 minutes. Mixture will not cook but will become warm enough for sugar to dissolve. Remove from microwave and stir continuously for 2 minutes***.
4. Combine liquid pectin and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add to strawberry mixture; stir 3 minutes.
5. This is the hard part :) - take a taste to make sure the sugar is dissolved. If it still tastes a bit grainy stir for another minute or two until almost all sugar is dissolved.
6. Fill containers immediately (you don't want jam to start to "set" before you get it into the jars) to within 1/2 inch of top- don't fill any higher as mixture will expand a bit in the freezer. Wipe off top edges of containers and cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. (I love the look of beautiful, vibrant red jam stacked up on my kitchen counter - call me old-fashioned, but there's something about it that makes me smile.) Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator.
* ~Don't worry about putting glass jars in the freezer. I've done if for at least a hundred years now, and never have had a problem. :) Just make sure to leave a half inch of room at the top to allow for expanding in the freezer.
** ~ Making jam is a very exact science. Often when I cook, I add a "bit" of this or a "dash" of that - but not when making jam. If the proportions of fruit and sugar are not correct, the jam will not set properly. I learned this many years ago the hard way; instead of jam, I ended up with a soupy sauce that was only suitable for topping ice cream. Be sure to use an accurate measuring cup, spoon ingredients into cup, then level off with a straight-edged table knife.
*** ~ Grab a magazine and set a timer for the stirring steps. Thorough stirring is essential when making freezer jam to ensure a smooth, ungrainy finished product. I like to use a plastic spatula and frequently scrape the sides of the bowl during the stirring process.
Yield: about 5 cups of jam