I finally had a chance to pick some strawberries today at a farm about 5 minutes down the road (nice!). My patch is being rehabilitated this year, so I am only getting handfulls here and there.
One benefit of waiting to pick (almost too long) is that the price is lower at most farms. At this one, the standard bucket they provide was $5, down from the $7 they charge at the height of the season. They said it holds about 6 lbs., but after weighing ours at home we had 13 lbs. total from two buckets, making the berries .77/lb. Not bad.
Behind the tray are four quart bags of sliced and sweetened berries. I sprinkle just 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar to 8 cups- it’s basically just to help retain color and flavor in the freezer- then mix it together before bagging them. These are so good in the dead of winter for breakfast. I think everyone in my extended family puts some up this way to enjoy later. I love to eat them only partially defrosted, so they are still a little icy.
On each side are the two batches of freezer jam. I make freezer jam not because it’s easier (bonus!) but because I like the fresher flavor of the jam made with less sugar and no cooking.
I’ve been bothered in the past by the idea of commercial pectin, and I tried a “natural” pectin that was expensive and had a distinct aftertaste, sort of like fake sugar, so I just stick with the commercial stuff now. The only other way is to make a pectin out of apples, but then the jam usually has to be cooked and loses that “fresh” flavor. Everything’s a give and take…
Anyway, I used two different pectins this time (because the Sure-Jell was on sale with a coupon!) and thought I’d do a little comparison:
The Low Sugar Sure-Jell
- Uses 4 cups of crushed fruit to 3 cups of sugar
- Has to be brought to a boil and then boil for a minute before adding the fruit (you don’t ever boil with the fruit in, though).
- It makes 6-8 8-oz containers (pkg. says 6, I got 8)
- can usually be found on sale for $1.99-$2.50. I had a $1/1 mfc so got mine for .99 each.
- It takes about 10-12 minutes (after prepping berries), depending on how fast your mixture comes to a boil to complete the jam.
- It’s a pretty stiff jam.
Ball No Cook Freezer Jam
- Uses 4 cups crushed fruit to only 1-1/2 cups of sugar
- There is no boiling required at all.
- Makes 5 to 6 8-oz containers (again, I got more that the pkg. said…maybe my containers are small? Though they are the normal freezer containers)
- Is usually priced at around $1.30 and I haven’t seen a coupon for them.
- Takes about 5 minutes after prepping the berries.
- It makes a looser jam.
Both have their pros and cons, but I really like the Ball no-cook type best and was so glad to discover it a few years ago. I know it doesn’t make as much, but it uses less sugar and costs less (without a coupon), and I find the flavor just a little brighter without the heating that the berries get with the Sure Jell. It’s just an added bonus that it takes half the time as the Sure Jell, too!
Even with purchased pectin, berries and sugar, this is a frugal way to get some high-quality, local fruit products. When I broke down the prices, it worked out to $1 for each of the bagged strawberries, and .41 for each 8-oz of jam.
Plus the satisfaction of doing it yourself (with a daughter’s help)= priceless.