I have this tiny problem: Every summer, without exception, I buy a case of peaches at the farmers market. I'll can peaches to last the winter, and then bake a pie, I promise myself. And every summer, without fail, I run out of time for canning or processing jam. Freezing sliced peaches is one option, but this year I'm turning to freezer jam to get my peach preserve fix.
We'll show you the basics of freezer jam and give you a master class on pectin so you too can buy too many peaches and have a freezer full of fresh jam long into the winter.
What Is Freezer Jam, and Why Is It Easy?
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 longer-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 no-sugar-needed fruit pectin since it performs best from freezer to refrigerator. When you head to the store, you'll find there are plenty of pectic options, so here's a quick rundown of what you'll encounter.
Everything You Need to Know About Pectin
Pectin is a naturally occurring gel that many fruits and some vegetables contain. Fruits high in pectin (like cranberries) can be turned into jam or jelly without much more than sugar and a strong simmer. Other fruits require either more cooking time or added pectin to thicken into jams or jellies.
These days you can find powdered or gel pectin in the grocery store near the canning jars. Pectin can be used to gel nearly any fruit or vegetable.
The 4 Most Common Types of Pectin
- Liquid pectin: Liquid pectin comes hydrated and ready to use. The clear gel can be squeezed from the packets directly into fruit or jam for thickening. It's typically added at the end of cooking jams or jellies, as it doesn't need time to cook and hydrate like powder pectin.
- Traditional powdered pectin: This white powdered pectin must be boiled with a bit of water before adding to fruit or jam to release its thickening power. It can also be cooked alongside the fruit and lemon juice, but without the sugar for the recipe (which can weaken the gelling). You often need less powdered pectin than liquid pectin to gel the same amount of fruit.
- No- or low-sugar pectin: Another powdered pectin, low- or no-sugar pectins are formulated to use with less sugar in the recipe. Fair warning here: Some no- or low-sugar pectins have sugar added via dextrose in the pectin itself. Low-sugar pectin works well for freezer jam because we aren't depending on the sugar as a preservative as we would for water-bath jams. It also holds a better gel from freezer to fridge.
- Instant or no-cook pectin: This powdered pectin allows you to gel fresh fruit and purées with zero cooking. Instant pectin is best for freezer jams, as there's no cooking to eliminate bacteria that might otherwise spoil the jam outside the freezer.
Read more: Jam Basics: What's the Deal with Pectin?
All About Peaches
As with any jam or jelly, use ripe fruit free from spoilage. For freezer jam, choose peaches that are more tender and slightly overripe (not firm, underripe peaches).
Can You Really Freeze Glass Jars?
The short answer is yes. Be sure to leave plenty of head space (1/4 to 1/2 inch) and use care when moving the jars from the fridge to freezer. Some canning companies also sell freezer-specific plastic jars, if you prefer.
Snag some: Ball Plastic Freezer Jars
How To Make Freezer Peach Jam
What You Need
2 1/2 pounds ripe peaches
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup water
Measuring cups and spoons
6 (8-ounce) glass jars with lids
- Prepare the peaches. Peel the peaches with a serrated peeler and dice into bite-sized pieces. Place in a medium bowl and mash with a potato masher until desired consistency.
- Add lemon juice and sugar to the peaches. Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir to combine. Let stand while you prepare the pectin.
- Prepare the pectin. Place the pectin and water in a small saucepan; whisk to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then boil for 1 minute more.
- Add the boiled pectin to the peaches. Pour the pectin mixture into the peach mixture and stir to combine. Continue to stir until the mixture begins to thicken, about 3 minutes.
Divide the jam between the jars and let set at room temperature for 24 hours. Divide the mixture between 6 (8-ounce) jars, leaving at least 1/4 inch room at the top. Tightly seal the jars and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours before freezing or refrigerating.
- Storage: Jam can be frozen for up to one year. Defrost frozen jam in the refrigerator. Once thawed, freezer jam can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.