I spent Mother’s Day weekend up to my elbows in strawberries.  On Saturday, our family went out to a local you-pick berry farm and spent a couple of hours harvesting the sweetest, freshest, most delicious strawberries that I’ve tasted in a long time. I wanted to get enough berries to make strawberry jam and strawberry fruit leather, and still have enough left over to freeze for smoothies.

When it was all said and done, we paid for 17 pounds of berries and came home happy.

I spent most of the day on Sunday processing the berries; removing the caps took quite awhile, especially since the berries were very small.  I was very excited about making the jam; we love strawberry jam and we had already attempted blackberry jam a few weeks earlier, which turned out pretty well for a first try.

How-to: Homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam

Freezer jam isn’t made the same way as jam you could keep in the pantry; this jam must stay frozen in order to avoid spoilage.  It’s canning for beginners.  You don’t need to worry about doing everything “to a T” – there’s a little more room for trial and error.

Besides the berries, you will need no-sugar pectin, white grape juice, and honey.  You will want about one packet of pectin for every four cups of mashed berries, which will make around six half-pints of jam.  (Don’t you love how precise I’m being?)  I made twice that amount.  After the berries are washed and the caps are removed, mash up the berries with a large fork, a beater, a potato masher, or all of the above.  Little hands can easily help.

Then heat the white grape juice and the pectin together on the stove in a large pot.  Stir frequently until it comes to a rolling boil, and then stir constantly for one minute.

Remove from heat and stir in fruit.  Stir well for one minute and then stir in honey.

Then ladle it into your clean jars and put the lids on.  The instructions below say to ladle it through a funnel, which would have been handy for avoiding mess except that I forgot to clean my funnel; oh, well!

Doesn’t that sound easy?

This was a project where the whole family could participate.  The jam has no crazy artificial colors or flavors, and no refined sugars. It’s a healthier alternative to store-bought jam, and believe it or not, it’s cheaper than buying similar jam at the grocery! I love that I was able to source local strawberries and support that farmer, and let’s not forget the taste – yum…this jam is so much more delicious than anything I’ve purchased.  It has fresh and vibrant flavor, just like the berries.

So don’t fear making jam! This is a perfect way to begin exploring the world of canning and preserving foods.  You can use the same recipe for blackberry jam, too.  I haven’t tried any other fruits yet, but I’m sure raspberries would also be delicious.

Recipe: Homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam

• 6 half-pint freezer safe canning jars with lids and bands
• tongs
• ladle
• potato masher
• funnel
• large pot
Sterilize all equipment prior to use; you can do this in a dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes.

4 cups of mashed berries (do not use a food processor; the jam will not be the right consistency)
1 3/4 cup of white grape juice
3/4 cup honey
1 packet of no-sugar pectin

Mash berries by hand.  Then set up all the jars next to your stove; you will want everything arranged before you begin.  Keep the lids in a pan of simmering water on the stove (not boiling).

Pour white grape juice and pectin into pot, and bring to a boil on the stove top, stirring frequently.  Once the mixture is boiling, stir constantly for one minute.  Then remove from heat and gently pour in the mashed berries.  Stir for one minute, then pour in the honey.

With your clean ladle, ladle the jam into the jars through the funnel, leaving at least 1/2 inch head room at the top of the jar.  Then one at a time, use the tongs to remove the lids from the pan of simmering water and place on top of the jars.  Screw the bands down until they are just “finger-tight.”  Don’t make them overly tight.

Let the jars cool to room temperature, then put the jam in the fridge overnight.  The next morning, you can move it to the freezer.

Have you ever made freezer jam?  If you make this, please let me know how it goes; I’d love to hear!