Have you ever had summer fruit so sweet, so juicy, and so fragrant that the mere thought of boiling it away with sugar until jammy made you just plain sad? This summer, on a quest to preserve strawberries from a sunny afternoon of U-pick fun, I discovered no-cook freezer jam. The resulting jam is so vibrant and fresh-tasting, it's as if the ripe fruit never met heat and its succulent qualities were frozen in time by the freezer.
Regular jam-making and canning are old favorites of mine, but freezer jam is freedom from those times when the hours of boiling fruit and water baths are not only arduous, but also impractical. No-cook freezer jam is the answer for anyone who wants to make jam, but doesn't have the time, space, or patience required for traditional jam-making. The fact that it turns stunning fruit into an impeccable jam will make you fall in love with it.
What Is No-Cook Freezer Jam?
Freezer jam is a quick jam made from fruit, sugar, pectin, and lemon juice that doesn't require canning. After being made, the jam is moved to canning jars or freezer containers and stashed in the freezer for long-term storage. Freezer jam is not only easy because it doesn't require hot water bath canning, but also because it is set with pectin rather than a long cooking process.
In this recipe, we're using instant or no-cook fruit pectin, which allows us to gel fresh fruit without cooking it. The resulting jam is similar to preserves with a thick jelly surrounding soft pieces of fruit.
- This recipe calls for 3 cups of prepared fruit, about 1 1/2 pounds of whole fruit, sugar, and lemon. You'll also need instant or no-cook powdered pectin, which you can find in the canning section at most grocery stores.
- The fruit and sugar need to sit for 30 minutes before adding the pectin. Add the pectin, jar, and set at room temperature for 12 hours before freezing.
- Freezer jam should set at room temperature. The jam is slightly looser than traditional jam — similar to the consistency of mustard.
- You'll need 4 (8-ounce) jars. Glass jars freeze just fine or you can buy freezer jars here.
How Does No-Cook Jam Set? With Instant Pectin!
No-cook freezer jam is simply chopped or mashed fruit set with pectin. If it sounds ridiculously easy, that's because it is. Pectin is a naturally occurring gel that many fruits and some vegetables contain. Instant pectin is natural fruit pectin in powdered form combined with dextrose or calcium, which allows the pectin to go to work jelling the fruit without a ton of extra sugar. In theory, you could use instant pectin to jell fruit alone, without sugar and lemon juice, but the flavor can be flat and dull and the jam will be much looser, even with the best fruit.
Canning this summer? Here's What You Need to Know About Pectin
4 Key Steps for Making No-Cook Jam
- Mash the fruit and let it get juicy first. Take those summer berries and slice or smash them to their desired consistency before adding the sugar. You can get the fruit as fine as you like, but I tend to prefer large fruit bits in these no-cook jams. Once mashed, add the sugar and lemon juice and set aside for a bit so that the sugar can draw some moisture from the fruit.
- Stir, stir, stir! This is the most important step for making smooth no-cook jam. Stir the fruit and pectin mixture continuously for 3 minutes after adding the pectin. The goal is to evenly distribute the pectin and avoid lumps as it begins to set. It should begin to set immediately, but it won't be as thick as jam right away. Expect an egg white-like consistency just after mixing.
- Set it, but don't forget it. Once the jam is moved to jars, it needs to set at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Make sure it's cool, around room temperature, as heat or direct sunlight damages the pectin.
- Freeze to preserve. Once the jam is set to its jammy consistency, move the sealed jars to the refrigerator or freezer for long-term storage. Frozen, the jam will be preserved for up to 3 months. Refrigerated jam is best used within 1 week.
Thawing and Serving No-Cook Freezer Jam
Once you've got a freezer full of jam and are feeling like a real summer hero, remember that your frozen jam should thaw in the fridge overnight and will need to be used within a week of thawing, So it's best to thaw one jar at a time.
You probably don't need me to tell you how to serve jam, but let me offer a few suggestions outside of your morning toast. No-cook jam is especially well-suited to baking applications, as it hasn't yet been cooked. We turned a jar into both fresh strawberry rolls and strawberry pocket pies and each tasted like we were enjoying our fresh-picked strawberries still warm from the sun, just like the day we picked them.
How To Make Easy No-Cook Freezer Jam
What You Need
3 cups hulled and thinly sliced strawberries
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons instant pectin
Measuring cups and spoons
6 (8-ounce) jars
- Mash the strawberries. Place the strawberries in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until desired consistency.
- Add lemon juice and sugar to the strawberries. Add the sugar and lemon juice to the mashed strawberries and stir to combine. Let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is quite liquid.
Whisk the instant pectin into the strawberry mixture. Slowly pour the powdered instant pectin over the strawberry mixture and whisk to combine. Continue to stir for 3 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken. At first it will only thicken to about the consistency of egg whites, but remember that the jam will continue to gel as it sits.
Divide the jam between the jars and let set at room temperature for 12 hours. Divide the mixture between 6 (8-ounce) jars, leaving at least 1/4 inch of room at the top of each. Tightly seal the jars and leave at cool room temperature out of direct sunlight for 12 hours. Once the jam is set to its jammy consistency, move the sealed jars to the refrigerator or freezer for long-term storage.
- Thawing and using the strawberry freezer jam. Remember that your frozen jam should thaw in the refrigerator overnight and will need to be used within 1 week of thawing, so it's best to thaw one jar at a time.
- Storage: Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 year. Defrost frozen jam in the refrigerator overnight.