It is mid-winter, which means that the pickings are quite slim for canners in search of fresh fruit to turn into jams and fruit butters. However, if you’ve got a preserving itch that must be scratched, take heart and turn to the freezer.
Whether you’re using fruit you yourself tucked into the deep freeze or you’ve decided to rely on that which you can find in the cases at the grocery store, it’s possible to coax satisfying spreads out of previously as long as you remember a couple of things.
First and most important, don’t defrost your fruit prior to combining it with the sugar. I’ve made jam from a wide array of frozen fruit in my time, and I’ve learned that my results are always better if I liberally dust the fruit with sugar while it’s still frozen.
The sugar draws away some of the water in the fruit, which helps it hold its shape better, while also providing some protection against browning. This is especially helpful in the case of light-colored fruit like apricots and peaches, which will turn grey and squishy if left to defrost on their own.
The second tip for success when using frozen fruit in preserving is to use weight as your measurement tool. Because you’re going to sugar the fruit before it has defrosted, volume measurements for the fruit won’t be accurate. By using weight as your guiding measurement, you’ll be able to keep the proportions of fruit to sugar steady and set yourself up for success.
For those of you who made plenty of jam back in the summer and question why one would want to make jam from frozen fruit, I have four words for you. Apricot Meyer Lemon Jam.
This season bending preserve isn’t possible to make on the east coast without the aid of a freezer, but it is good enough that I try to stash four pounds of apricots in my freezer drawer each summer, so that I’m able to make it when Meyer lemons are in season. Oh, and if you can’t wait another year for this one, try freezing some Meyer lemon juice and zest right now, to save for apricot season.
- 4 pounds apricots, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1 1/3 pounds granulated sugar
- 3 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced
- Prepare a boiling water bath canner and 8 half pint jars.
- Combine chopped apricots with sugar and let sit until sugar dissolves. If you're using frozen apricots, make sure to add the sugar while the apricots are still frozen, and let them sit until mostly defrosted.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, set the pan on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Cook, stirring regularly for 15 to 25 minutes, until the fruit thickens and reduces by at least one-third. Frozen fruit tends to break down fairly readily on its own, but if the chunks are really big, use a potato masher to help break them down.
- Add the Meyer lemon juice and zest.
- When the jam seems quite thick and glossy, remove it from the heat.
- Funnel the jam into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
- When time is up, remove jars from the canner and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool.
- When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals. Sealed jars are shelf stable for at least one year. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.