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.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)
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.