Strawberry No-Cook Freezer Jam

The first type of jam I learned how to make is no-cook, freezer jam. The recipe is included in the boxes of Sure Jell pectin that you get at the grocery store. It's pretty easy and you don't have to worry about cooking it long enough, getting air bubbles out of jars, or creating the right seal in the water bath. But you need to have enough room in your freezer to store the batches of jam.

When I visit my family in Seattle during the summer, I try to time my trip for strawberry season. Although it no longer holds much charm or whimsy for some of my family, I still love going out into the fields and picking the sweet, juicy berries. Grocery store strawberries will never compare to the just-picked gems we can get at our local berry farm. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day as we headed up to Harvold Berry Farm in Carnation, Washington.

We picked just under 12 pounds of strawberries - enough for four batches of jam, a fresh strawberry pie, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Admittedly a few went straight to our bellies, they were too hard to resist.

Back at the house we turned into a production line - someone washing the berries, a couple of us hulling, someone else crushing the berries and measuring ingredients. For years my aunt shouldered the work more or less on her own. Now my cousin joins her but it's still a labor of love. But I enjoy making jam when I'm there (I've really only been able to do this two or three times). There's something really wonderful in the communal camaraderie when making jam with my family.

Berries are crushed with the bottom of a jar, measured, and then mixed with Sure-Jell.

Batches of jam, timed during the pectin phase
After the berries sit with the pectin for 20 minutes comes, what feels like, the most time consuming part. Because it's a no-cook jam, in order to get the sugar fully incorporated you need to stir and stir and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. It had to pass my cousin's expert examination and if it didn't pass then you go back to stirring. Thankfully we were only making four batches that day so we could take turns. It's a good way to build your arm muscles.

When the sugar is completely dissolved we filled the containers and let them sit on the counter to firm up overnight. In the morning we placed them in the chest freezer. The individual containers will be removed throughout the year, replenishing the daily supply in the refrigerator.

I have yet to try making a cooked strawberry jam and process the jars in a water bath. I just love this version so much I don't know if anything will compare. What really makes it are the local strawberries. I think every region has a distinctive taste and these will always remind me of my family and early summers in Seattle.

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