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Peach Freezer Jam: Bypass the Canning Conundrum

Freezer jam provides an easy way to preserve a bit of summer's bounty.

I’ve been sleeping on the job. Here it is the height of summer, the has been bursting at the seams with peaches for weeks, and I haven’t turned out a single jar of jam.

No more.

A batch of peaches now sits in the perfect fruit ripening corner of my kitchen ready to be transformed into a good dozen jars of golden deliciousness that’ll be as welcome as a summer sun come the rainy season.

Jam making is one of those rare activities in life where you get way more out than you put in. While even heat-processed jam is not difficult or time-consuming to crank out, freezer jam is ridiculously simple, taking you from whole fruit to filled jars in less than 45 minutes. It can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.

Because freezer jam generally involves little or no heat, results are bright and lively — more like fresh fruit than high shelf life jam that’s boiled, placed in jars, and boiled again in a water bath. Aficionados of the texture, depth of flavor and firm set of cooked jam are free to use a recipe that calls for boiling the prepared fruit and sugar. You’ll find one attached, but try an uncooked version first.

 “Jamming” is a balancing act involving fruit, pectin, acid and sugar — though there are pectins nowadays that require little or no sugar and work with alternative sweeteners.

To give freezer jam a go, you’ll need a few things. has a nice canning section you may find helpful.

Get a case of 12 straight-sided, 8-oz mason jars, often marketed as “jelly jars,” which come with lids, rings and labels. Why straight sides? Curved jars are prone to freezer breakage when jam expands. If you want to avoid glass, use BPA-free plastic containers.

You’ll need pectin, a substance derived from fruit that sets, or jells, preserves when combined with acid and sugar. Start with a Flex Batch-size container of Ball Instant Pectin, which doesn’t require copious amounts of sugar and doesn’t need to be boiled with water. If you select another brand, make sure it’s for freezer jam.

For the record, peaches don’t have much natural pectin.

Unless you’re a diamond cutter, spring for a canning jar funnel, and get a serrated peeler so you don’t have to blanch the peaches — which should be neither underripe nor overripe — to peel them.

Peach jam requires lemon juice to behave. Make your first few batches with bottled lemon juice. You can switch to homegrown lemons later, but stick with sour varieties, like Eureka or Lisbon.

Use granulated sugar. If you prefer an alternative, make sure your pectin supports it.

Once you’re ready to roll, prepare one batch of the scalable recipe provided on the Ball Instant Pectin Flex Batch label, which will fill two 8-oz mason jars. To see the recipe online, use the Ball Pectin Calculator, selecting "peach," "jam" and "instant pectin." Finally, select “calculate.”

Always make freezer jam in small batches.

You don’t have to sterilize jars, lids or rings — they just need to be very clean and dry, and don’t neglect to leave the required ½-inch headspace so jars don’t explode in the freezer as jam expands.

Unless your pectin instructions tell you otherwise, the jam will set during its required time at room temperature. At that point make and apply labels, or write on lids with a Sharpie, including the words, “freezer jam.” Place jars in the refrigerator to cool. After a couple of hours, transfer them to the freezer. I often put mine in a Ziploc freezer bag first.

To serve, move a jar to the refrigerator to thaw, and then use it up within a month or so. At no point should freezer jam be stored outside the freezer or refrigerator.

If something goes wrong, don’t fret. Peaches can be fickle when it comes to freezer jam, especially when they release lots of liquid.

If your jam doesn’t set after it's been in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, boil it for 2 minutes and allow it to cool to room temperature. Add a tablespoon and a half or so of pectin, stirring it in for 3 minutes, and then place in clean jars. Rescued peach freezer jam is similar to cooked peach freezer jam — different, but wonderful.

Peach jam that doesn’t set is great over ice cream. Just sayin'.

Should undissolved sugar be an issue, give pre-measured sugar a few pulses in a food processer for the next batch.

Once you have your freezer jam legs, try Pomona’s Universal Pectin, and think about picking up the Ball Blue Book — a good, basic resource.

Happy jamming!

Dorothy Coakley August 08, 2011 at 10:27 PM
NIce article, Renate! I think I'll give it a go. We received some *perfect* freezer plum jam last Christmas from Roger, an El Cerrito neighbor. It was eaten in about three hours! (This year the squirrels hit our plum tree so plum jam isn't going to happen. But maybe apple?)
Renate Valencia August 09, 2011 at 10:09 PM
Thanks, Dorothy! Yes, good jam seems to go fast here, too! I've never made apple jam because I fear it may come out mealy, but I understand it's nice made with brown sugar and tart apples. Tomatoes make a great jam, too, but this year my tomato crop will be slim, at best. If you haven't tried that, it's nice.
Dorothy Coakley August 10, 2011 at 01:01 AM
This seems to be an apple year for us, in part thanks to the three flowering trees I got at Flowerland in Albany this spring. I've made apple butter with cinnamon (and sometimes ginger) before. I suspect this is about as "non-mealy" as you can get with apples. Freezing for preservation should be a good plan. Haven't tried that before. Tomatoes sound great but the critters (including the dogs) have found them too delectable.
Renate Valencia August 10, 2011 at 01:23 AM
You could also make apple pies and freeze them :-)
Dorothy Coakley August 11, 2011 at 11:19 PM
Renate, I directed readers to this article from my recent Yelp review of "Flowerland" in Albany. Thought you'd want to check it out.
Renate Valencia August 12, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Thanks, Dorothy! I will do that.
Irene August 29, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Renate...did your peach jam actually set up? I used the Ball Instant Pectin and it's still liquid. And no...I don't want to use it as syrup. At least not all of it. Ball says there are no remake instructions, that it doesn't work with the Instant Pectin. Have you actually tried the ones you suggested? I don't mean to be rude, but I'd really like to salvage this batch in some way. Thanks much!
Renate Valencia August 29, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Hi, Irene. Sorry you're having trouble. I've been making peach freezer jam with instant pectin for quite some time, and every now and then a batch does not set. Did you try the fix I suggested? "If something goes wrong, don’t fret. Peaches can be fickle when it comes to freezer jam, especially when they release lots of liquid. If your jam doesn’t set after it's been in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, boil it for 2 minutes and allow it to cool to room temperature. Add a tablespoon and a half or so of pectin, stirring it in for 3 minutes, and then place in clean jars. Rescued peach freezer jam is similar to cooked peach freezer jam — different, but wonderful." I add the extra pectin by feel — seeing how thick the jam is once it's boiled and cooled. I assume you made a small batch and used 8-oz jars. Large batches don't work well, and larger jars don't work well with freezer jam. If you made one batch (two 8-oz jars) and boil it, you'll have less jam, but it should set for you. Please let me know what happens.

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