I love good tasting preserves: jams, jellies, chutneys -- you name it. In fact, one of my earliest farm-to-kitchen connections lies within a sweet memory of strawberry freezer jam.
One of my best friends from grade school always had the yummiest jam sandwiches. The fruit was chunky and perfectly sweet, not the sugary, cavity-inducing smack I was used to in store-bought jam. When she told me it was homemade, I remember thinking, "You can do that?"
My mum was a creative cook, but not a preserver. So when my friend invited me over to share in her family's jam making day, it was an eye-opening and fascinating experience for me.
I don't have very clear memories of the actual process, beyond marvelling at the redness of the berries and the wonder of actually making your own jam. I do remember bringing home a few yogurt containers filled with berry goodness and carefully rationing them because I knew when the last container was empty, the jam was gone until next year.
While I didn't realize it at the time, it was my first life lesson of eating in season.
So when Ella and I brought home a flat (eight pints) plus four quarts of berries yesterday, I knew strawberry freezer jam was on the top of my "to make" list.
If you've ever wanted to make homemade jam but you think you can't or you're too busy or you don't have the canning supplies for cooked jam, then freezer jam is for you. It's easy and quick and little fingers can help along every step of the way because there's no cooking or boiling water involved.
To show just how easy it is, I've put together our step-by-step tutorial.
For each batch of jam, you need:
• 4 cups of crushed strawberries
• 1.5 cups of granulated sugar
• 1 45 g pouch of freezer/uncooked jam gelling powder
Yep, that's it.
Step 1: Sort the fruit to ensure there are no mouldy or rotten bits. I can't get her to clean her room but she'll do this without being asked.
Step 2: Wash and hull the berries. Feed the tops to the chickens. You'll be their favourite person Forever.
Step 3: Mash the berries but don't puree them. Wonder what your daughter means when she says, "Mama -- I love to smoosh things." Decide it's not worth investigating further.
Step 4: Measure four cups of mashed berries into a bowl. Ignore your daughter's comment that, "It looks like guts."
Step 5: Slowly add sugar to bowl of berries and gently stir. Agree with your daughter that yes, it does kind of look like quicksand. Resolve to ask your husband what kind of stories he's been reading to the children lately. Allow mixture to stand for 15 minutes.
Step 6: During those 15 minutes, chase strawberry-snatching son out of the kitchen and remind him that although he did just get home from school, it's only been an hour since last snack and he can't really be that hungry, can he?
Step 7: Slowly sprinkle gelling powder into mixture while stirring for 3 minutes. Reassure eldest child that 3 minutes isn't really that long and no, his arm won't fall off from the strain.
Step 8: Allow to stand for five minutes. Then gently stir for one minute more. The jam, not the eldest child.
Step 9: Give starving masses (aka the children) a taste test before they pop with anticipation.
Step 10: Enjoy the two minutes of happy munching sounds. Go back to step 9 - repeat three more times.
Step 11: Ladle into containers, leaving about an inch at the top for the jam to expand in the freezer.
Step 12: Repeat step 1 through 11 until you have enough jam to last until next June (we've got at least one more batch to go). Jam lasts six weeks in the refrigerator and one year in the freezer.
According to the gelling package, this entire process only takes 30 minutes but it took us significantly longer. Of course, we had to make time for some silliness.
Who knew quart containers could make so many things such as...
... and beds,
... the Eiffel tower (apparently, lamby passed out due to oxygen deprivation that high up)
... and a super hero car.
What's your favourite super simple preserve?