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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Berry Freezer Jam

There are certain types of fruits that just don't taste the same when they are cooked. I love strawberries but am not a fan of cooked strawberry jam. In fact, I think most berries are much better before they are subjected to heat. Have you ever noticed how both raspberries and strawberries change color when you cook them? Change color and flavor.

Fortunately, there is a wonderful alternative. Freezer jam is a great way to preserve fresh berries to enjoy year round in their just-picked perfection. I have made strawberry freezer jam for years. Two years ago was the first time that I tried making raspberry freezer jam. Wow! That stuff is phenomenal. Unfortunately, since I've moved to Florida, raspberries are a bit hard to come by.

This week I'm up in Seattle visiting my family. This morning, I went to the Issaquah Farmers' Market, and what did I find? Beautiful, fresh, sweet raspberries. I'm not sure how I'm going to get these jars home, but I'll figure it out! I also noticed that the blackberries, which grow rampant everywhere here, are ripening much earlier than usual due to the recent heat. I decided I would make some of each.

For most applications, I prefer liquid pectin. I think that it is more forgiving and leads to a more consistent product. Every container of pectin comes with a recipe sheet inside. I simply followed the recipe for red raspberry or blackberry. I needed about 2 pints of berries for each batch.

Because berries are so dadgum seedy, I like to process them through a food mill. This is my mom's Foley food mill. She's had it forever. You can see that, even though it is stainless steel, years of berry mashing have given it a purple patina. Any type of food mill will work. While I normally like a little more mashed fruit pieces in my jams, I think the trade-off for less seeds is worth it. I still typically get a good set doing it this way. Many food mills will not remove every seed but removes enough that you don't end up with a mouthful of seeds when you eat the finished product.

Mix the sugar and the fruit puree in a bowl. Stir to mix and let sit, stirring occasionally, for about twenty minutes.

Mix the liquid pectin and lemon juice and add to the sugar-puree mixture. Stir continuously for 3-5 minutes, until the sugar is basically completely dissolved. To test whether it is done, dip in a spoon and taste. If it is mostly smooth, you're good to go. Not every single sugar crystal will be dissolved. Pour jam into clean containers. You can use jars or plastic freezer containers; just be sure that you don't fill the container all the way to the top. Be sure to leave enough room for the jam to expand upon freezing.

Place lids on containers and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. If jam is set, place containers in the freezer. If the jam still seems a little loose, place containers in the refrigerator until set, up to three days, before freezing. When ready to use jam, thaw in the refrigerator before using. Jam lasts in the freezer at least one year. I have successfully kept them for over a year and a half without any problems. Jam can be used immediately after making without a trip to the freezer, if desired.

Berry Freezer Jam
Yield: 5 cups
from the Certo pectin recipe sheet

2 cups of raspberry or blackberry puree (requires about 2 pints of whole fruit)
4 cups sugar
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 pouch liquid pectin

Crush berries, running through food mill if desired to remove some of the seeds. Mix puree and sugar together in a bowl. Stir to mix and then stir periodically over a period of twenty minutes to help sugar dissolve.

Mix the lemon juice and pectin together and add to fruit mixture. Stir continuously for 3-5 minutes, until sugar is almost completely dissolved (a few sugar crystals may remain).

Pour or scoop jam into clean containers (freezer containers or canning jars), leaving at least a half-inch of head space at the top to allow for expansion upon freezing. Close containers and let sit on the counter for 24 hours. If jam has set in this time frame, place them in the freezer until ready to use. If they have not yet set, place in the refrigerator for up to three days to give them more time to set. After three days, place the containers in the freezer.

When ready to use, simply let jam thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

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