Hooray for summer and all the tasty fresh fruits that come along with it! The season for Olallieberries here in California is June and it usually only lasts a few weeks. If you are not familiar with Olallieberries they are a cross between two blackberry hybrids.
We like to go to a local farm and pick our own berries. It’s a fun day out with the kids and I can get beautiful fresh berries for around $2 a pound.
Picking olallieberries has become a traditional summer kick-off activity.
So what am I making with the 10 pounds of tart-sweet berries we picked? This year I’m making freezer jam.
If you are a little intimidated by making jam, freezer jam is a great way to start. It is much faster and easier than canning. No special equipment is required. You just need instant pectin, plastic or glass jars and freezer space to store your finished jam. And the best part is freezer jam tastes more like fresh fruit than cooked jam!
For 6 half pint jars (=3 pints)
2 cups white sugar
6 TBSP instant pectin
5 cups mashed olallieberries or blackberries (8-10 cups whole berries)
- In a large bowl mix together the sugar and pectin. Set aside.
- Place berries in a colander and rinse with cold water. Allow to drain then gently spread out on paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to allow any remaining water to drain.
- Place 1/3 of the berries in a bowl and begin smashing with a potato masher or similar tool. When they are mostly broken down add more berries and continue mashing until you have 5 cups of mashed fruit.
- Pour mashed berries into the bowl with sugar and pectin. Stir for 3 minutes.
- Ladle jam into freezer-safe containers, leaving 1/4″ space at the top. Let stand 30 minutes.
- Place in freezer. Take jam out as needed and place in refrigerator to defrost. Jam can be stored frozen up to a year.
- I made strawberry freezer jam last summer and it was great. The same process can be used with fresh blueberries, raspberries or cherries.
- Peaches require the addition of lemon juice and slightly different method, see the pectin jar label for details.
- Do not double this recipe. Six half pints (3 pints) is the maximum recommended batch size when using instant pectin. Any more and your jam may not thicken properly.
- You can freeze in glass canning jars or in plastic containers. Most new glass canning jars are freezer-safe, but check the label on the box to be sure. (The glass jars are not sealed.) When I made the second batch I used pint size plastic Ziploc Twist N Loc containers with a screw on lid.
- Ball sells special plastic freezer jam jars, but any small clean freezer-safe container with straight sides will work.
If making jam intimidates you try this easy slow-cooker method for apple butter. It would be very difficult to mess this up! It only takes a few ingredients and some time. This recipe is based on one I found on Money Saving Mom. The original blog post has super cute printable labels too!
6-8 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2-3 TBSP pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups raw sugar or brown sugar (I used a combination of 1 cup raw and 1/2 cup brown)
4 TBSP ground cinnamon
1- 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1. Peel, core and slice your apples. This is the hard part, unless you have one of these nifty machines. Mine is from Pampered Chef, but other companies make similar Apple Peelers.
This is a specialized kitchen tool, but so great if you like making apple pies or jam!
2. Place the apples and vanilla in the slow cooker on low.
Filling up the crock pot. See how nice and evenly sliced the apples are! Using the slicer made it go fast, even with my 4-year-old helping.
3. Cook for 5-6 hours or until the apples are soft.
4. Blend apples with a stick blender
5. Add sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Stir well and cook for an additional 5-6 hours on low.
This is the first batch finished and ready for canning. The house smelled AMAZING!
- I have a seven-quart Crock Pot (an extra big one) and used about six pounds of apples for my first batch of jam. I realized that I could safely use more the second time since they cook down so much.
- When using the larger amount of apples I used the higher amounts of spices listed above (3 TBSP vanilla, 4 TBSP cinnamon and 1 1/2 tsp of cloves).
- I also switched from the thick to the thin slice handle on my apple machine. I was able to really pack them in on the second batch!
- I cooked my second batch on high, so I added 1/2 cup of water to the apples when starting them cooking to prevent any sticking or burning in the bottom of the cooker. I cooked to apples for 4 hours, added sugar & spices and cooked 2-3 hours.
- I canned mine. I got 6 half-pints out of the first batch, and 8 half-pints out of the second batch. If you don’t want to can it, just place in air-tight containers and keep refrigerated.
Finished jam canned and ready to give away for Christmas. I think I need to make a few more batches — we’ve already eaten a couple pints ourselves!
My mom was up for a visit and I had almost a full flat of strawberries threatening to go bad. So of course, I asked her to help me make strawberry freezer jam! I remember eating it as a kid. It was always such a treat because of the fresh strawberry flavor–it’s a lot different from cooked jam.
The last time I helped make a batch of freezer jam I was a still a kid so I couldn’t remember what to do. It’s really quite simple. We washed and mashed the berries, added the sugar and instant pectin, mixed for three minutes, let it sit in containers for 30 minutes and put it in the freezer. That is all there is to it!
If you find yourself with an abundance of strawberries, blackberries apricots or peaches try making some freezer
jam. It doesn’t take as much work as cooked preserves but tastes as good or better. You just have to have room in your freezer to store the jars!
Here are the instructions from the Ball Realfruit Pectin:
For each pint (or two half-pint containers) you will need:
- 1 2/3 cups mashed strawberries
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar (or Splenda)
- 2 TBSP Ball Realfruit Pectin
We worked in small batches, making two pints at a time.
We like our jam to be a little chunky, not completely pureed, so we use a potato masher (in this case a Pampered Chef Mix ‘N Chop) instead of a food processor.
Audrey had a great time helping Grandma and Mommy!
My mom and my paternal grandmother made pear honey when I was a child. It was among my favorite home-made jams. Plum jam being the other. Browsing the grocery store ads last week I saw that our local SaveMart had Bartlett pears on sale for $0.29 per pound. I could not pass up such a great deal on one of my family’s favorite fruits. I bought 8 pounds (about 24 pears) with the idea of making pear honey.
I browsed several websites looking for a good slow cooker pear honey recipe. Many of them had orange juice or peel, others had cinnamon, and another included star anise (it was a pear butter recipe). I finally came across one that seemed close. It was on Mommy’s Kitchen and was from a Paula Dean cookbook. It consisted of four ingredients: pears, sugar, crushed pineapple and lemon juice.
Now I was on the right track. I didn’t follow her recipes exactly, I tweaked it to meet my own tastes. For example, the original recipe called for 10 cups of sugar! Yikes, that’s too much, even for me. Here’s what you need:
- Fresh pears, 8 lbs or 20 medium size. They should be ripe.
- Sugar, 5 cups
- Crushed Pineapple in juice, one can
- Lemon juice, 1 TBSP
- Wash, peel, core and dice up pears
Beautiful Bartlett Pears!
- Add the diced pears to the crock pot.
- Pour the crushed pineapple into the crock pot
- Add the lemon juice; stir it well.
Everything into the pot!
- Set on LOW for 8-10 hours.
It will turn a golden brown color as it cooks--the color of honey.
- Puree using an immersion blender. If you don’t have one, puree pears in a blender before adding to the crock pot.
My very handy immersion blender!
- When finished ladle into canning jars to process.*
The result was delicious. It tastes very much like the jam I remember. The 5 cups of sugar were plenty. In fact, I might be able to cut it down to 3-4 the next time I make it.
Sweeter than honey!
*My yield was 5 pints. I don’t have any canning jars so I put my jam into Ziploc pints with the screw-top lid. I put one in the freezer, and the rest in the fridge. I plan to give a pint to my parents, my in-laws and the other two we will use up in no time, I’m sure. If I had the right supplies for canning it would have been easy to do.
Yield was 5 pints. (16 oz Zip-Lock containers)
Using the crock pot made it so simple. I was able to set it up and go on with my day. This evening I ladled the sweet golden jam into containers. I made baking powder biscuits in the morning so we could try out the new jam!