Freezing jam versus canning jam
I recently purchased a Ball Jam & Jelly Maker out of curiosity (total disclosure there was also a gift card burning a hole in my pocket). The device was easy to use and the instructions were clear. I made enough jam and jelly to last all year.
But that device is not what this post is about. This post concerns preservation methods, more specifically, should you freeze or can your sugary concoction? For those of you who aren't sure of the difference, after you cook the fruit, sugar and pectin you place it into containers. At that point, you have two choices.
You can let them cool to room temperature and then freeze them.
Or, you can take another step and boil the full jars to ensure a tight seal and sterilize the contents (no pressure cooker needed here since the fruit is acidic) so they can be stored at room temperature.
The internet shared extensive information on how to do either, but IMHO lacked on why you would choose one over the other. Here is the quick and dirty from my experience.
Consider your amount of freezer space.
I have an extra freezer in the basement because, well, I freeze a lot of food. But your amount of freezer space is a significant consideration. I mean, you are going to have to find a place to put all those jars. If your chill chest space is limited, canning may be your best option.
Consider the consistency and taste you desire.
I freeze jams because they are more spreadable. When I can them, the pectin sets up much firmer. In other words, I hate it when my soft bread rips or gets smooshed after trying to spread an even layer of jam. But that means my jam is a bit more oozy and maybe you don't want that in a lunchbox situation.
Also, I've noticed that frozen jams, especially strawberry, are much more likely to maintain that bright red color I admire. Whereas canned jams, especially store-bought, are darker.
Consider the size of your jars.
This point may seem odd.
I use 2 oz., not 8 oz., jars to make jam/jelly. In a two person household, we found that the smaller jars cause us to waste less as we can easily polish off a mini jar in a meal or two. Plus, I love the option of not having to eat the same flavor until a large jar is empty.
And call me lazy but water canning 12 tiny jars in multiple batches is time consuming. I'd rather save the time by skipping that step entirely and stack them in the freezer.
Consider how quickly you need to use it.
Canning means pulling out a jar that is ready at room temperature. Freezer jam doesn't freeze solid like you may expect. You can use it immediately, but it will be very cold and spread a little tougher. I set my small jar on the counter for about 15 minutes and that is plenty of time to knock off the chill.
On the flip side, if you love jam like I do, having to face the temptation of an entire pantry full of it and ready to go every time you are hungry may be problematic. So maybe stashing it in the freezer might be just enough of a hassle to make you put the spoon back in the drawer. Silver linings, right?
Consider whether you'll keep or give it.
A basket of homemade jams is thoughtful, fun and pretty. But if you are giving a gift of jams and jellies, water bath canning is probably your best bet. I mean, you don't want people to put freezer jam in their pantry only to open up a furry jar in six months.
Consider zombie apocalypse.
If you are planning for zombie apocalypse or any other kind of disaster recovery, you are going to want food that does not require a chill chest.
Consider a trial.
The only real way to figure out which way to go is to give it a try yourself. Maybe half your next batch goes straight in the freezer and the other half takes a Jacuzzi ride on their way to the pantry. Who doesn't love a nice side by side showdown?
I hope this was helpful.