Around the House, Recipes

Freezer Jam Follies

fol·ly (fl)
n. pl. fol·lies

  1. A lack of good sense, understanding, or foresight.
  2. An act or instance of foolishness
  3. A costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome. (…like 4 cups of strawberries down the drain, costly.)

Yeah, that definition just about sums up my first attempt at freezer jam. Thankfully, my second attempt was much more successful.

The kids and I went strawberry picking with friends last week and as we gathered and checked out with our yummy haul of bright red beauties, my friend mentioned she was going to be making freezer jam with some of her strawberries. A light bulb went off…I have wanted to try freezer jam for a while now, and in addition, I have always read that freezer jam is a great baby step to canning (a practice I am greatly intimidated by, and want to master) so I figured I would give it a go.

I remembered seeing a strawberry freezer jam recipe years ago on a blog I used to frequent, so once we were home and the berries were washed and prepped, I hopped over to the blog and a quick search brought the recipe right up. Given the photo evidence of her family happily gobbling up this jam, her recipe works for her, but it did not work for me. Something got horribly lost in the pectin/berry/sugar translation and my jam did not set up properly. At all. What went wrong?

So I turned to the place I should have turned to from the get-go: my pectin label. I had purchased the type of pectin recommended in the recipe, which was Low or No Sugar Needed Pectin, but the ratios and instructions listed on the label were very different from the recipe I used. Come to find out later, pectin varies quite a bit from brand to brand, even if it’s the same low sugar/no sugar variety. One brand’s recipe and instructions will be quite different than another brand’s. Sure enough, a revisit to the website revealed that she had recommended Sure-Jell pectin. I had used Ball’s RealFruit Pectin.

Doh.

I called up Ball’s customer service line to see if there was anything I could do to salvage my jars of watery jam. Alas, there could have been, but since the recipe recommended letting the jars sit at room temperature for 24 hours (which is standard practice for some freezer jam recipes, but not for Ball’s) the representative said she could not guarantee the jam was safe to eat. Lovely.

(as a side note – I was very impressed with Ball’s customer service line. Even though the error was quite obviously mine, the rep was very patient and helpful. That took some of the sting out of my mess-up. For that I was grateful.)

So I gritted my teeth and discarded the jars of jam down the drain. A heartbreaking sight, but the whole time I muttered to myself, “this is only about $7 worth of the berries…you still have more. You spent $7 dollars and had fun making this with your daughter…that’s worth way more than $7…”  But I won’t lie, it still hurt seeing all that potential yumminess go down the drain.

So, explaining the situation to my now very befuddled daughter, we regrouped and made another, albeit smaller batch – this time using the recipe on the label. Sheesh. You would think I would have thought of that earlier.

This time, the results were fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, I went back to the farm last weekend to pick up more strawberries (and cherries!) and made even more. It was pure freezer jam redemption!

So the moral of this story:  Don’t be all “willy nilly” with your freezer jam recipe like I was. Make note if a certain brand of pectin is mentioned in the recipe, because it is of greater consequence than brand names usually are to a recipe. I certainly learned that the hard way!

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6 thoughts on “Freezer Jam Follies”

  1. Excellent post and sounds like a great learning experience for you and your daughter – as you say, worth way more than $7.
    Thanks for the mention of the customer service line too – the number of resources available these days is amazing, we just need to remember to look for them.

    1. I was very impressed with their customer service. It’s refreshing to come across a company that is willing to take time to go the extra mile for a customer in need! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by, Bill!

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