Last year I wrote about the different ways that I preserve strawberries and did a comparison of two of my favorite commercial pectins I use to make freezer jam, complete with a cost breakdown. Due to some feedback I thought I’d ofter more specific details on making freezer jam and why I choose it over traditional cooked jams.
Over the years I’ve made many types of cooked and canned jams (some just using the natural pectin in the fruit) and found our family just doesn’t like the flavor as much. They are too sweet with less fruit flavor. Plus, they didn’t always gel and we’d have to use it for syrup instead.
I find jams made with commercial pectins not only easy, but way fresher tasting and I’ve continued to use them even after I started reading labels because the ingredients are ok with me. We all have to make our own choices here, which is actually a goal I have for the blog – balance. Do what works for your family and make informed choices.
So, what are the ingredients of commercial pectin?
- Dextrose is the first ingredient, a sugar derived from sweet fruits (though mostly corn now, I suppose). It’s less than a 1/4 cup, so it’s a trade-off I’m still willing to make, even though it probably comes from non-organic corn that I try to avoid now (choices…).
- Next is fruit pectin, usually from apples or citrus.
- Citric acid (update: derived from citrus, but not the same as ascorbic acid, aka: vitamin C) is the third ingredient- it’s needed to work with the pectin to gel (the pectin and acid work this way together in nature, too).
- sodium citrate, which is the salt of citric acid
- potassium sorbate which is the preservative. This is from Wikipedia: it is the potassium salt of sorbic acid (a natural organic compound used for food preservation that was discovered from unripe berries in the 1850s) and that:
Potassium sorbate is considered to be safe because of its long term safety record and non-toxic profile. Potassium sorbate is non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Allergic reactions are rare and it is well tolerated when administered internally. Potassium sorbate exhibits low toxicity with a ratio of 4.92 g/kg, similar to table salt.
In our mainly-from-scratch diet, this small amount of safe preservative is worth it so we can have the best tasting jam in our freezer using our homegrown or wild berries and fruits.
In other words, this is a modern invention I like, and I’m not really interested in giving it up (yet…who knows in the future?). But you won’t hurt my feelings if you disagree, ’cause it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round.
So- want to make some jam?
1. Wash and crush berries to equal 4 cups. I whir my strawberries a couple of times in the food processor to get even pieces quickly, but other berries are easily crushed with a potato masher.
2. Pour boiling water into the freezer containers to do a quick sterilization while making the jam.
3. Then simply follow the instructions on the packet. As I stated previously, the packets of Ball Instant Fruit Pectin for Freezer Jam are my favorite because they use only 1/2 the amount of sugar as the boxes of pectin, take no cooking (bonus in the hot summer!), and taste super fresh.
4. Mix 1-1/2 cups of sugar with the contents of the packet in a bowl.
4. Add crushed fruit and stir for 3 minutes. Toward the end of the 3 minutes, you will feel that the mixture is already starting to thicken.
5. Pour into the containers. Make sure to leave enough room for expansion during freezing.
These containers made for freezing have a marked top that I fill up to, but 1/2″ is a good measure for other containers. 2012 Update: I now use glass containers for freezer jam – they don’t fit as nicely, but I feel better about it, plus they look nicer on the table. And I haven’t had any breakage issues.
That’s it. Seriously, it’s that easy and quick. If you’ve been making jam, what’s your favorite way to make jam? And if you haven’t what’s stopping you?