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Freezer Jams and Preserves continued...

You'll also need some freezer jars. Many companies that make glass jars for canning also make plastic jars for freezing. Ball, for example, sells a five-pack of 8-ounce plastic freezer jars. Ideally, you want containers that have a screw top so the top won't pop off when the mixture freezes and expands. Rubbermaid sells a "twist & seal" plastic container three-pack, with each container holding about 1 1/2 cups of jam or sauce.

Fruits other than berries may require a bit of cooking for turning them into jam. You can either buy the "less sugar" or "no sugar" pectin described above, or, if you've got time, you can boil the fruit pulp for a longer period of time and eventually it will thicken into a fruit butter or preserve. Apple butter is often made this way. (Check out the recipe for 1-Hour Apple Pie Apple Butter below.)

And how do you cook yourself a batch of fruit jam in the winter months? Simple -- use the fruit you froze last summer. Just partially thaw the fruit in the refrigerator, until a few ice crystals still remain. But, because fruit tends to collapse during thawing, use the measurement of the fruit before it was frozen (you could label your bag with this measurement before freezing.) Three cups of unfrozen fruit might measure as 2 cups after partial thawing.

Freezing Basil

Basil is one of the most popular herbs with home gardeners, in part because it grows so quickly. There's nothing better than fresh basil, if you ask me, but dried and frozen basil will get you through the winter months. One of the best ways to preserve your fresh basil is to chop it up and make green ice cubes. Here's how you make them:

  • Chop up fresh basil leaves using a knife or pulse briefly in a food processor.
  • Pack the chopped basil into ice cube tray compartments and top with a mixture of lemon juice and water (1 tablespoon lemon juice to 1/2 cup of water). The antioxidants in the lemon juice help keep the leaves from turning brown.
  • Once the basil cubes are frozen, remove from the trays and store in plastic freezer bags.

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