There’s nothing quite like ripe, juicy summer blueberries—we wish we could keep the growing season going all year! While the fresh fruit may be gone before we’re ready, there’s an easy way to capture the magic of summer blueberries in a jar: freezer jam! This easy method of preservation keeps those cold winter months filled with the sweet sunshine of a summer afternoon.
Traditional methods of making jams and jellies stretch back centuries into antiquity—the first recorded recipe hails from 1st century Rome! Unfortunately, as busy, modern grown-ups, we often find the process of canning intimidating— why invest the time, money, or effort when we can grab a jar from the store? From specialized equipment to fears of food-borne illnesses, there are plenty of excuses for avoiding DIY preserves.
Don’t let unfounded fears and busy lifestyles keep you from exploring the glory of homemade fruit preserves! Freezer jam is an effortless way to dip your toes into the water of canning—it’s quick, easy, inexpensive and totally worth it.
For those who follow special diets, this method is super easy to adapt. Keeping it low sugar? Swap the white stuff for your favorite sweetener, or eliminate it entirely for a bright, natural flavor. Very vegan? No animal products here! Moreover, if you’re not inclined towards cooking, we’ve included full instructions for both cooked and raw methods. Let’s dive in!
Kick it Cooked
Cooked freezer jam is made much like a traditional jam. You start with a base of fresh fruit, then boil it with sugar and pectin until you get a glossy paste. But freezer jam is has a few distinct advantages over old-fashioned recipes:
- It’s fast. The entire cooking process takes about 15 minutes.
- You can skip the racks, tongs, wands, pressure cookers and water baths—freezer jam requires zero specialized equipment. You can make jam in any pot you have and store it in any freezer-safe container!
- If you’re afraid of getting food poisoning from home-canned foods, rest easy. Freezer jam comes in as your low-risk option—those little botulism bugs don’t like boiling, acid, sugar, or freezing, so they’re prone to avoid these products. Still, no food is no-risk when it comes to food-borne illnesses; make sure you follow the rules of hygiene as you cook. Wash hands frequently, keep your work surfaces clean and clutter-free, and keep cleaning, wiping, and washing as you go.
- 4 cups fresh blueberries
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1.75 oz or one packet Ball “RealFruit Low or No-Sugar Needed” pectin
In a medium saucepan, mash blueberries with lemon juice and cinnamon. You can leave the berries in reasonably large chunks, as the cooking process will break them down significantly. Bring the mixture to a boil, add sugar, and boil until sugar is completely dissolved and incorporated, about two minutes. Add pectin, boil for one minute, then remove from heat immediately. Allow to cool in the pan, then transfer the jam to freezer-safe containers, leaving room at the top, about 1/2 inch. Seal and cool to room temperature before putting jars into the freezer. Want to experiment with different flavors? Simply swap the blueberries for any fresh fruit you have on hand!
Can’t Take the Heat?
Our no-cook version is perfect if you like it raw! This technique requires zero equipment beyond a bowl and a jar and you’re done in a snap. The method: mash blueberries together with your sweetener of choice, stir in pectin, pour into a jar, and pop it in the freezer. DONE.
You can do no-cook jam with a just a tiny bit of fruit—perfect for when you have a pint of berries that you need to use quickly. Or if you’re a city slicker (like most of us at FTF), doing a small batch is an awesome option if you have an apartment kitchen with limited space and storage. These (literally) pint-sized pretties have a tiny footprint that won’t bogart your entire freezer, leaving plenty of room for summer essentials like champagne popsicles.
- 8 cups whole blueberries (about two pounds)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 packet Ball Instant Pectin
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
In a bowl, crush blueberries with a potato masher or the clean bottom of a glass jar; add lemon juice. For a smoother, less rustic texture, puree with an immersion blender. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar and pectin together; add to crushed blueberries. Stir for three minutes, then transfer jam into jars or whatever freezer-safe containers you have on hand. Put the jars into the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow pectin to set up fully. Finally, pop those bad boys in the freezer (where it will keep for up to one year) and BOOM—we’re jammin’! Wasn’t that easy?
Two Tips on Pectin
Stir that pectin! Make sure that the pectin is fully incorporated into the mixture to avoid lumps and uneven texture.
Check the label for the brand of pectin you pick up. We used Ball for our recipes, but some brands may require different quantities of sugar to set up correctly. So, read that label and adjust the amount of sugar accordingly!
One thing to bear in mind is that, unlike traditional canned and commercial jams and jellies, freezer jams are NOT shelf stable. Be sure to keep these suckers on ice until you’re ready to use them—they will keep for a full year in the freezer, just in time to make another batch next summer! Once defrosted, they’ll stay tasty for two to four weeks in the fridge.