Monday, March 3, 2014

Freezer Strawberry Jam

A main staple in our house is Strawberry can't be bought from the store though, it has to come out of the freezer
(put there by me).  In fact we were cleaning out and rearranging our storage room and found quite a few bottles of store bought jam.  My hubby asked why we still had them, "because even if they were starving in an emergency the kids wouldn't eat it!" (he's right).  When my nieces and nephews are eating lunch at my house and I ask what they want, they ALWAYS ask, "do you have any of your yummy strawberry jam?"  PB&J it is! 
So last week when I found strawberries for $5.00 a case I knew what I thought I would be doing that day.  Luckily strawberries will last for a few days to use for jam, because an hour after I unloaded my strawberries my hubby and I ended up making an unexpected trip to Brianhead.  My son had been hurt in a snowboarding accident and I spent the rest of the day at Instacare.

Lucky for me it's still cold in my garage, because I didn't have room for 5 cases of strawberries in my fridge.  Although at the rate my kids were eating them, I was hoping there would be any left for jam.
Besides Strawberries and Sugar, these are the other 3 ingredients you will need...
I always buy MCP Pectin.  I have only used Sure Jell once, and I wasn't a fan.  They are both made by Kraft, but I prefer MCP.  The problem with this is that it's getting more difficult to find the MCP.  Wal-Mart doesn't carry it and either do some grocery stores.  I did find it on clearance in the fall at Albertsons and bought a whole case - they don't carry it anymore.  In Utah Harmons, Lins and Maceys all carry it.  For me it's worth the drive across town!   If you are using Sure Jell, do not follow these directions, follow the directions inside the Sure Jell package.  *Sure Jell also has a low or no sugar added pectin
There is a recipe right inside the box of pectin along with all directions for other freezer and cooked jams and jellies of all sorts.  What is's what thickens the fruit into a jam, without it you'd have fruit syrup.  Next is Corn Syrup - this helps the sugar to not crystalize.  Each batch calls for 1 cup.  I know plenty of people who don't use it because they don't want to add the extra sweetener and don't usually have a problem with crystallization.  I always add the Corn Syrup.  Last is Lemon Juice.  It doesn't take much, 1/4 cup per batch.  Lemon juice is used to keep the color looking good.  There have been many times that I've started making jam at 10:00 at night and have only had a TBSP of lemon juice left in my bottle.  I wasn't about to make a grocery run and stay up even later.  I've never noticed a difference in taste or color without it (& no one else has ever mentioned it either).  If I have it, I put it in.  If I don't, I don't worry about it. 
So the actual recipe for Strawberry freezer jam using MCP pectin is
3 1/4 cups strawberries (mashed or blended)
1 box pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup corn syrup
4 1/2 cups sugar
I mean really what's not to love, there's more sugar than fruit!
(My hubby thinks if he's had strawberry jam he can count it as a serving of fruit for the day!)
Along with these ingredients you'll need large bowls for mixing.  I like to have 4-6 batches going at once so I need a bowl for each batch.  ***Plastic or glass bowls, plastic or glass measuring cups, and plastic or wooden spoons, NO metal it reacts with the pectin***  You'll also need containers to put your finished jam in.  I've used pint jars (1/2 pints if I'm giving it away with a loaf of homemade bread), freezer containers, or Ziplock bags.  I had a friend who used to save her yogurt cups (with lids) and that's what she froze hers in.   My personal preference is Ziplock bags because of the way I can store them. They stack great and I can fit over a years worth of jam in one drawer of my freezer!
To start out wash and hull all strawberries.  You will average needing 2 lbs of strawberries per batch of jam (7 cups of jam yielded per batch).  Now you have a couple options depending on how you like your jam.  Chunky or smooth (kind of like the peanut butter it will be mashed up against).  At our house we prefer our strawberry jam smooth (same with out peanut butter).  My hubby and I both grew up with our moms hand mashing the strawberries so there were chunks, but lucky for me I get to throw them in the blender.  If you do prefer chunky, you can either hand mash them or use a food processor. 
 *Chunky definitely takes more time to make
Now when I make jam....I make JAM, so I like to take every shortcut I can to make the process faster.   We go through a lot of jam each year.  We love it on sandwiches, homemade bread, rolls, biscuits, scones, banana splits. 
Any excuse to have some - it's that good! 
Prepare your fruit how you like it - mine goes in the blender and I get it pretty smooth (I always leave a little extra in the blender for the next batch to help it blend quicker).  After I hull the strawberry it goes straight into the blender.  One blender full of whole strawberries turns into 4 cups of pureed strawberries.  Leaving me with about 1/2 cup for the next batch.  Pour your measured fruit in a large bowl and add 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 box of pectin.  You will want to add the pectin slowly, while stirring, so it doesn't clump.  Once you've added your pectin your fruit mixture needs to sit for 30 min to let the pectin dissolve.  As you stir if you see clumps, try to mash them up.
Since I like to have as many batches as I can going at once, I attach a post it note on each bowl letting me know what time I started that batch.  Each batch has to sit for 30 min letting the pectin dissolve in the fruit mixture.  Each batch has to be stirred every 5 minutes (helping the pectin dissolve).  Having a post it note on the bowl reminds me when I need to stir again.  As soon as one batch has the pectin stirred in, I start hulling for the next batch.  I'll have 4-8 batches going at a time
(depending on if I can guilt any of my kids are helping).
After the 30 minutes are up the corn syrup is added and stirred well.  So, so far the fruit, lemon juice, pectin and corn syrup have been added.  You will basically be doubling your ingredients when you add your sugar so make sure your bowl is big enough - and you will need room to stir. 
Add your sugar and stir stir stir!
  When you first add the sugar your mixture will go a little pink and opaque.  As you stir and the sugar dissolves, the mixture will go back to red, and more translucent.  I like to stir for a minute and then let it set for a couple minutes.  Stir again for a minute, and your ready for your container. 
I use gallon Ziplock bags, but only put about 2 1/2 cups of jam per bag - I fill three bags per batch of jam.  A gallon bag fits perfectly into the bottom drawer of my freezer and they stack much better for me than quart bags. 
I place my bag over a bowl so I can fill it easier.  Make sure as you close the bag you get all the air out.
As you can see, the bag is flat and stacks great.  Looking at this picture reminds me - make sure you add the date so you can rotate properly.   After you fill your containers, they will need to set at room temperature for 24 hours before being placed in the freezer.  So....while you wait for your jam to set (It starts setting immediately) you'll have time to bake some yummy homemade bread to eat that jam on!  (Recipe and tutorial coming soon!)

 Homemade bread is always good, but add freezer strawberry jam....even better!
YUM :)

***Side note- It tells you not to double the recipe.  Well, when I'm making 10-15 batches of jam, doubling would cut my time down A LOT.  So for your benefit (& mine) I decided to try a double batch and see what happened.  I made the jam and set it off in it's own place so I could see the difference.  My amazing hubby helped me out by cleaning the kitchen and stacked them all together!!! So it was all a waste you say....Nope! Because, I couldn't tell the difference in any of them - I'd say that means it worked!  So, if you're making more than one batch of jam and have a huge bowl (I use my Tupperware "that's a bowl") double away! 

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