A glut of fresh fruit is one of the best things about summer, wouldn’t you agree? Last week I found myself in a situation where I came back from the farmers’ market with strawberries so ripe that you could smell them from five yards away (how can anyone resist such a siren’s song?) only to discover that I still had some left-over from the previous week’s excursion. So I had a lot of strawberries — certainly great for just eating out of hand — but I decided that I wanted to try something I had never done before and make some jam.
Not having, well, any canning equipment except some stray mis-matched Mason jars, I decided to go the easy route for my first foray and settled on freezer jam. I took some inspiration from a jar of freezer jam a friend gave me when I lived in Alaska, from the Freezerves at Snow City Cafe that were so sublime, I’d always order extra toast (and then would get all sneaky stealing jars of the stuff from other tables if they had the flavor I was coveting), and from opening the pantry and seeing the container of bourbon-barrel smoked sugar sitting just so atop the regular sugar canister when gathering supplies for jam-making.
And let me tell you, having enjoyed the fruits of this labor so much, that I’m hoping that the whole “really good fruit + booze = om nom sauce” equation holds true for other tasties and spirits too. I couldn’t help myself and already proved that cherry-brandy is a delicious combination, but how about others? Nectarines + white wine? Blackberries + rum? Raspberries + kahlua? The possibilities are endless and it’s so easy to whip up a batch of this stuff that I really have no excuse not to!
Note: there are two separate recipes here. The first uses regular pectin and the second uses instant pectin. If you’re looking for a really quick recipe, the former takes a lot less time because the fruit is easier to prep; if you’re looking for a lower-sugar jam, the latter is the method for you.
Strawberry Bourbon-Barrel Freezer Jam
An original recipe
Makes about five cups/2.5 pints
- The better your fruit, the better your jam. You-pick farms and farmers’ markets will get you the best fruit. You can even use high-quality frozen fruit if you like, but save the juices as the fruit thaws!
- This makes a fairly firm jam. If you prefer a runnier jam, use less pectin. Many pectins come with doom-and-gloom warnings about not deviating from the recipe AT ALL, but really, what’s the fun in that? The nice thing about freezer jams is that they’re so easy and take so little time, if your experiment doesn’t turn out the way you want, you can just try again.
- If you can’t find bourbon-sugar, you can use white or raw in its place. You may want to use the larger measure of bourbon to impart more flavor.
- Do not double this recipe. You’re likely to have pectin-dissolution problems if you do and the jam won’t set.
You will need:
- About 4 cups fresh very ripe strawberries
- 1 1/2 cup (about 10oz) bourbon-smoked sugar
- 1 1/2 cup (about 10 oz) granulated white or raw sugar
- 2-4 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 1.75-oz box of pectin suitable for no-cook jams
- Water (amount will be determined by the pectin’s instructions)
- Wash and hull the strawberries. Using a potato-masher (or some other implement of smashing), crush the berries. If you like chunky jam, crush lightly; crush more for smoother jam. Add more fruit if needed to bring your amount of crushed berries to about two cups.
- Pour the sugar over the berries and stir well, leaving no sugar un-coated or without access to juice to help it dissolve. Add the bourbon, mix, and let sit for ten minutes.
- While the fruit is macerating, prepare the pectin as directed. (My pectin — the grocery store generic type — called for mixing the pectin into boiling water, and stirring constantly for a minute on the heat while still boiling.) Mix the pectin into the fruit as directed. (My pectin called for pouring the dissolved pectin into the fruit and stirring constantly for three minutes.)
- Transfer the jam to waiting containers (clean, but sterilizing is not necessary) and put on the lids. Let sit at room temperature undisturbed for 24 hours to allow the jam to set. After this time has elapsed, put the jam in the freezer for up to a year or the fridge for up to two weeks.
Cherry-Brandy Freezer Jam
An original recipe
Makes about three cups/1.5 pints
- Wait until the cherries are midnight-black before buying fruit to make this. The darker they are, the juicier and more flavorful! You can even use high-quality frozen fruit if you like, but save the juices as the fruit thaws!
- This makes a somewhat loose jam when made with the smaller amount of pectin. If you like your jam firmer, use the full measure; if you like it even runnier, use even less than called for.
- Three tablespoons of brandy lends a very pronounced flavor; scale it back if you would prefer a more subtle taste. Also, the brandy is not cooked at all, so this is more of a grown-up recipe (but far be it from me to tell you what to feed your kids).
You will need:
- At least two pounds (probably about 8 cups? Sorry: I did a terrible job measuring the fruit) very ripe bing cherries, washed, stemmed, and pitted
- 2/3 cup (about 4.65oz) white sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons brandy
- 1.5-2 tablespoons instant pectin suitable for no-cook jams
- Chop the cherries into fairly small pieces, suitable to your preferences on jam-chunkiness. Using a potato-masher (or some other implement of smashing), crush the cherries further to increase juice yield. If you like chunky jam, crush lightly; crush more for smoother jam. Add more fruit if needed to bring your amount of crushed berries to about 1 3/4 cups. Pour in the brandy.
- In another bowl, combine the sugar and pectin. Pour the sugar mixture over the fruit and stir constantly for three minutes.
- Transfer the jam to waiting containers (clean, but sterilizing is not necessary) and put on the lids. Let sit at room temperature undisturbed for 12 hours to allow the jam to set. After this time has elapsed, put the jam in the freezer for up to a year or the fridge for up to two weeks.