With the bounty of summer upon us, it is a great time to involve our kids in harvesting and preserving seasonal produce.
Freezer jam is one of the easiest ways to make good use of seasonal goodies, and to get your kids in the kitchen. Believe me – when they slather their toast with homemade jam next January, they will remember with pride that they made it!
The basics:I am an avid canner, and my pantry is stuffed with jams, marmalades, sauces and canned fruit. But traditional water bath canning -- which involves sealing the mason jar and boiling it in a pot of water -- can be intimidating and time-consuming. So I've started making more recipes that can be frozen instead.
Freezer jam maintains a microbe-free environment because the jam is placed in a freezer-safe container and frozen -- for up to a year. You can then defrost (in the fridge or microwave) and use it within three weeks of opening the jam. It's also safer for kids to help, for obvious safety reasons.
The containers:There are plenty of plastic freezer jam jars at the grocery store (usually next to the pectin – Ball is a common brand), and they work very well. You can also use surplus Tupperware-style containers, or freezer safe glass mason jars. Using mason jars is a little trickier because they are glass, so make sure to use smaller containers (half pint or smaller) with straight sides and leave a good bit of headspace at the top of the jar (1/2 to 1 inch). Another tip is to leave the lids off until the jam is frozen to make sure that the jar won’t crack from expansion.
Recipes: Specific recipes for your jam will depend on the berry and brand of pectin you are using. In order to get a good firm jam, follow the directions that come with your pectin carefully. This recipe is for strawberry freezer jam using Ball Instant Pectin – for other berries or kinds of pectin, follow the directions on the pectin box.
- 5 cups crushed strawberries
- 6 T. Ball Freezer Jam Pectin (I like Ball’s Instant Pectin, sold in packets or jars with the purple label)
- 2 cups sugar or Splenda
- Mix pectin and sugar in a large bowl. Hull and wash your berries, crush them and add them to the pectin mix.
- Stir for three minutes. If you have one, a stand mixer is a great tool for this step.
- Ladle into freezer-safe jars (plastic, or freezer-safe small mason jars).
Preserve it:Let jam stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate or freeze. The Ball recipe says that this jam stores in the refrigerator for three weeks and the freezer for up to one year.
When you are ready to eat the jam, defrost it in the fridge, and keep it in the fridge for up to three weeks. I always label my frozen food and jams with the name and the date I made it. A sharpie and masking tape work well.
Kid participation:Kids can help measure and mix the sugar and pectin. If you have a kitchen scale, show them how to use it and let them help weigh the berries and other ingredients for an extra math lesson.
- They can help wash and hull berries – a butter knife works well. They may like to help chop strawberries with a butter knife or safety knife. Crushing berries and stirring the jam is also a great way to involve the kids.
- Don’t forget to let them run the kitchen timer for the three minute stirring session!