Freezer Jam, thebittenword.com [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flick’r
“If you have the kitchen skill to make cookies from scratch…, then you have everything you need to make a batch of jam, pickles, or relish.”
– Kevin West
Many minimalists enjoy the creativity that goes into preparing jams, pickles and other foods we normally buy pre-made at the store. We also appreciate that homemade foods almost always taste better (at least with a little practice!) and are often cheaper, as well.
If you live in the northern hemisphere, now’s a great time to make a trip to the farmers’ market to collect the last of the summer bounty and try your hand at some easy homemade jams and pickles.
“Uncooked fruit stays much fresher than cooked preserves, so when you crack open your treasure in mid-January, it will taste more like the fresh summer fruit you picked up from the farmers market.”
– Stephanie Stiavetti
You don’t have to invest in canning equipment to make your own jam. In fact, my family prefers the flavor of freezer jam, because the fruit doesn’t need to be cooked.
There are plenty of recipes for freezer jam online, but I’ve used the recipes that come on or in the pectin container with good results. You can also use the Ball Pectin Calculator, which gives recipes for a variety of fruits. You’ll want instant pectin for freezer jam.
My favorite freezer jam is strawberry, made with the small locally grown berries that have an intense flavor, but the pear preserves are a close second. Since you can easily make small batches, try several different fruits.
“Fortunately, canning is not a prerequisite for pickling. In fact, as long as you can commit to eating them within a week or two, there are countless pickles that you can make quickly and store in your fridge.”
– Mark Bittman
Refrigerator pickles don’t require canning for safety. Unfortunately, you can’t stash them in the freezer, so you’ll need to eat them up quickly, but they’re so easy, you’re likely to enjoy making a new batch every few weeks.
Don’t forget you can pickle all kinds of vegetables, not just cucumbers. Back when we had a big garden and I made the mistake of planting more than one zucchini vine, I learned that zucchini makes tasty pickles.
Mother Earth News has a helpful universal pickle recipe. Being from Louisiana, I think chiles (I use red pepper flakes) are mandatory instead of optional, but one of the fun things about refrigerator pickles is that you can safely tweak the spices (you have to be much more careful making changes when canning), and you can make lots of small batches, trying out different spice combinations.