Freezer jams and refrigerator pickles make canning easy and give those who love to cook the satisfaction of creating homemade peach jam, or bread and butter pickles, in the time it takes to bake a frozen pizza.
Plus, who can resist taking advantage of summer's bounty when the farmers markets are overrun with berries, peaches and pickling cucumbers?
For beginners, these recipes are an easy introduction to making homemade pickles and preserves without all the labor or equipment of traditional canning. That's exactly what inspired Durham, N.C., native Pamela Bennett to write Jams & Jellies in Less Than 30 Minutes.
"I wanted to take the intimidation factor out of canning," Bennett says. "I think a lot of people love the idea of canning but see a grandmother with a water bath canner and paraffin."
Bennett's book focuses on jams and jellies that will last about three weeks in the refrigerator or a year in the freezer.
Most of her recipes couldn't be simpler. They have only four ingredients: fresh fruit, sugar, pectin and an acid, such as lemon or lime juice. The most you have to do with traditional pectin is combine it with water and boil for a minute before adding it to the fresh fruit and sugar. (With instant pectin, you don't even have to turn on the stove. You combine the pectin with sugar, and add fresh fruit and acid.) After three minutes of stirring, pour it into straight-sided plastic containers. After 24 hours in the refrigerator, you have homemade jam or jelly to stash in the freezer or enjoy immediately.
Refrigerator pickles are just as simple. You make a brine with vinegar, often water, and seasonings. You heat the brine to dissolve the salt or sugar, pour that over your sliced cucumbers or other vegetables, and after 30 minutes to 24 hours, you pack it in jars and stash it in the refrigerator. In a few days, you have homemade pickles for your hamburgers and hot dogs or potato salad.
And there's a whole world of recipes for freezer pickles, relishes and salsas that take no more time.
"You get a very quick sense of accomplishment," says Judy Harrold, consumer affairs manager of Jarden Brands, which owns Ball brand canning supplies. "It gives you more confidence to move on to the next step."
It's good to know that homemade pickles and preserves are within reach until you are ready for that next step, whether it happens next growing season or when your child can bake her own frozen pizza.
Strawberry freezer jam
2 cups fresh strawberries
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 package (13/4 ounces) powdered pectin
Mash strawberries very fine; add sugar and let stand 10 minutes. Place water and pectin in small saucepan. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from stove; add to strawberries. Stir 3 minutes. Spoon into clean, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch at top. Seal; let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Store jam in freezer.
Makes about 5 cups.
Blueberry peach freezer jam
1 cup crushed blueberries
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 pouch (1.59 ounces) freezer jam pectin, also called instant pectin
3 cups finely grated pitted peeled peaches
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Place blueberries in glass pie plate. Heat in microwave oven on high, stopping microwave several times to stir and crush berries, until mixture reaches a boil, about 2 minutes.
Combine sugar and pectin in medium bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended. Add blueberries, peaches, lemon zest and juice. Stir 3 minutes.
Ladle jam into plastic or glass freezer jars, leaving ½ inch head space. Apply lids tightly. Let jam stand at room temperature until thickened, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately, if desired. Refrigerate for no more than three weeks or freeze for as long as one year.
Makes 5 pints.
Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today
Mock raspberry jam, aka green tomato jelly
5 cups finely chopped green tomatoes
4 cups sugar
6 ounces (2 small packages) raspberry Jell-O
Place tomatoes in large saucepan. Add sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat; let cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Skim foam from top and discard. Add Jell-O and stir well so mixture doesn't stick to pan. Bring to a low boil and boil for 1 minute.
Pour in sterilized jars and cover tightly. Let cool before refrigerating. Keeps in refrigerator about 3 weeks or one year in the freezer.
Makes 4 to 6 half-pint jars.
From Jams & Jellies in Less Than 30 Minutes
Refrigerated dill slices
8¼ cups sliced trimmed pickling cucumbers
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
6 tablespoons pickling or canning salt
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons pickling spice
7½ teaspoons dill seeds
5 teaspoons mustard seeds
1¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
5 gloves garlic, halved (optional)
Place cucumber slices in large glass or stainless steel bowl. Set aside.
Combine vinegar, water, pickling salt, sugar and pickling spice in medium stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 10 minutes.
Pour pickling liquid over cucumber slices. Cover with waxed paper and set aside until cooled to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Place 1½ teaspoon dill seeds, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, ¼ teaspoon peppercorns and two garlic clove halves in each of one five pint jars. Add cucumber slices to within a generous ½ -inch head space of top of jar. Ladle pickling liquid into jar to cover cucumbers, leaving ½ -inch head space. Apply lids. For best results, allow cucumbers to marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 weeks and use within 3 months.
Makes about 5 pint jars or 2 quart jars.
From Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today
Honeyed peach freezer salsa
3 cups diced peaches, nectarines or apricots
3 cups diced cantaloupe
¼ cup diced red onion
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, drained and chopped
3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
2 tablespoons freezer jam pectin
Combine peaches, cantaloupe, onion, garlic, peppers, honey, lime juice, candied ginger and cinnamon, if using. Add pectin and stir for 3 minutes.
Ladle jam into freezer containers (bags or jars), leaving ½ -inch head space. Close or apply lids tightly. Let salsa stand at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes. It will not thicken as much as a jam. Freeze for as long as 9 months. After opening, refrigerate for no more than 2 weeks.
Makes 6 cups.
From Preserving: The Canning and Freezing Guide for All Seasons