The first year I made jam by myself, I was absolutely horrified at the thought of putting SO much more sugar in than the precious little berries themselves. But I did it anyway, since that was what the instructions told me to do. And we ate it. And we enjoyed it.
Ever since that first year, I have been on a half-hearted quest to find a better solution. I have used just about every low-sugar or no-sugar pectin available on the market, with varying result.
Varying, mostly because I never actually wrote down which brand I used, or to what degree I followed their loose "add your desired amount of sugar/sweetener here". Some batches turned out great, while others were bricks in the freezer and syrup in the refrigerator.
This year! I proclaimed! This year, I am researching and writing my methods with a purpose! I will determine the very best way to make Raspberry Freezer Jam (my most favorite jam in the whole wide world, I might add).
And its a good thing I chose the easiest berry in the world to make jam out of. For as it turns out, Raspberries fall into that category of fruits that produce a rather high amount of natural pectin. Who knew?
Armed with this knowledge and an offhand comment read in a 4-year-old jam forum by a man that his no-pectin Raspberry jam was bomb-proof (but with no further explanation), I set to work.
Batch One: 4 c. crushed Raspberries, 3 c. sugar, brought to a rolling boil for 1 min.
Result: Perfect flavor, but syrupy in the fridge and although slightly soft in the freezer, not spreadable.
Batch Two: Ball No-Sugar Pectin stirred into 1 3/4 cups Tree Top 3 Apple Blend Pressed Juice and brought to a rolling boil for 1 minute, then stirred into 4 1/2 cups crushed berries sweetened with 2 cups sugar.
Result: Good flavor, but not as pure as I like, with a perfect consistency in the fridge, but hard as a brick in the freezer.
Hm. Added pectin and harder in the freezer than my no-pectin version?
Batch Three: 6 c. crushed Raspberries, 6 c. sugar, brought to a rolling boil for 1 min.
Result: Slightly sweeter flavor, but no off-taste from boxed pectin, and PERFECT spreadable consistency straight from the freezer, which was my goal. In the fridge it has a rather soft set, but is certainly more spreadable than pourable.
So there you have it. I have made two more batches since the third, following the same method, but with different quantities (11 & 8 cups respectively), and both have turned out perfectly.
There are a few key steps that I truly believe helped me along in this process, both based on knowledge I gleaned online that almost-ripe Raspberries have more pectin in them, and that running them through a food processor would destroy much of the natural pectin.
So, this is how to go about making the most perfect and easy Raspberry Freezer Jam ever...
1. Pick some Raspberries. Don't worry about only getting just perfectly ripe berries, but rather, get a mix of ripe and almost-ripe (but not hard) berries, even throwing in some of the slightly over-ripe ones for good measure.
2. Gently pick them over, only rinsing when absolutely necessary (this is when having my very own row of organic berries is nice, since I have no questions about what may be in the air to contaminate them).
3. Crush the berries with a potato masher or the bottom of a soup ladle. Don't worry too much if there are some un-crushed in the batch, as you will have a chance to smash them while they are heating, and more will break down during the boil.
4. Take note of the final volume of your crushed berries before pouring them into a large pot. Add an equal amount of sugar. This is the most beautiful part of this method... no more having too many or not enough berries. If you have 2 1/4 cups of crushed berries, add 2 1/4 cups of sugar. If you have 11 5/8 cups of crushed berries, add 11 5/8 cups of sugar.
5. Heat, stirring and crushing any stray berries until the mixture comes to a full rolling boil that can't be knocked down by stirring. Continue to stir for one minute.
6. Remove from heat. See the foam on top in the next photo? That is an indicator of pectin. Nice, eh?
7. Ladle into prepared containers.
8. Allow to cool completely before placing your finished product into the freezer.
Is your mouth watering?
Just a note of warning... don't try this method with Strawberries, because it won't work. They fall into the category of fruits with the least amount of pectin. Scroll down a little on this page to see a basic list of fruits and their level of natural pectin.