picking pectin

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My mom came over on Saturday to help me tackle two flats of strawberries and our annual freezer jam marathon.  I personally cleaned and cut all two flats of strawberries and did my share of mashing (when I couldn’t persuade my daughter or hubbie to take a turn at the masher).  My mom did all the boiling and mixing.  Together we made 9 batches of jam!!  Whew.  Here’s my share:

Aren’t they pretty?  I could show you all the steps to making freezer jam, but it’s really super easy (clean, mash, boil water & pectin + sugar, mix in berries, pour into jars) and you just need to follow the directions in the pectin box.

What I really want to address, is WHICH pectin to use.  My mom is a big fan of Sure Jell, but it is one of the more expensive ones, so this time I tried Ball Pectin.  Both of the brands were for low or no sugar.  I have also tried other cheaper varieties, but they have not set well.  My mom used 4 boxes of Sure Jell for her flat of berries, and I used one 4.7 oz. container of the Ball pectin.  The main differences were in the proportions.  Each Sure Jell box calls for 4 cups of mashed berries to 3 cups of sugar + 1 cup of water.  You mix the sugar, water and pectin together and bring it to a boil.  This way everything dissolves nicely.  Then you add the strawberries and pour into containers.  Each recipe filled four 8oz. jars (or double of 4oz. jars).  You are also not supposed to double the recipe.

With the Ball pectin, it called for 3 cups of mashed berries to 1-3/4 cups juice or water (we tried it with apple juice) + up to 3 cups of sugar.  We decided to use just under 2 cups of sugar to keep a similar ratio to the Sure Jell.  It tasted plenty sweet.  I like that you can adjust to your personal preferences, even using NO SUGAR at all.  I’m not quite that healthy, so we were fairly generous with the sugar.  In this case, the recipe called for boiling the pectin (3 Tbls. per recipe) and juice, and then adding the sugar (not boiling it), and then the berries.  My mom worried that the sugar wouldn’t dissolve well, but we had no problems.  We made 5 batches with my container of pectin, and it looks like I have about 1 Tbls. left over.  Because we used only 3 cups of berries, each recipe only filled 3 jars.  This meant more work in the long run.  However, the instructions said you CAN double this recipe (up to 10 jars, it says, so I guess you could triple the recipe).  We didn’t try it because my mom said she got in a rhthym of proportions and didn’t want to have to rethink it.  Next time I would definitely try it because that would save a lot of time!

When we were all done, my mom’s Sure Jell jams were pretty well set already.  My Ball jams were still runny.  The Sure Jell calls for setting the jars on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours before freezing.  The Ball wants you to refridgerate for several hours (no more than 24, it says) before freezing.  I put my jams in the fridge overnight, and they were perfectly set this morning.  Most importantly, both jams taste great!  My mom got her Sure Jell on sale for about $3.50 a box (it is often more than that), and I bought my container for about $7 (maybe a little less).  That’s about the double the cost for the Sure Jell for the same amount of jam.  So there you have it.  If you are looking to save a little money, I think going with the Ball pectin is a smart choice.

The best thing, though, is seeing my freezer full of lovely jam for the coming year!

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