Monday, April 25, 2011

Freezer Jam with Ultra Gel

Mondays I typically try to share some cost-saving tips or advice here on the blog. Today you get an amazing recipe along with my advice. 

Freezer jam is my ultimate favorite. I always make a little cooked jam every year just in case, but my family prefers the fresh flavor of the freezer jam hands-down! Using pectin requires loads of sugar and is quite costly per batch. Years ago, my mom learned about another amazing thickener. It is sold under a few names - Ultra Gel, Ultra Sperse, and Ultra Maxi-gel. They are all the same product. It is an instant thickener made from corn which means any of you needing to avoid gluten will learn to love this stuff. It holds up very well in canning and also in the freezer. I use it in many recipes. For freezer jam, it costs about $.50 a batch where pectin is usually over $2.00 so it is quite a significant savings. 

It is not available everywhere. You may need to search the internet for a source near you or just order some from on on-line retailer. Ultra Gel is sold at We have a local preparedness store called Food 2 Store that carries it in the #10 cans. I always keep a couple on hand. I use it in all my jam and syrup making. I also thicken spaghetti sauce with it and anything else that is just a little too runny. Because it is an instant thickener, you can just add it to whatever you are making a little at a time. Mix it and then wait just a bit to see if it is as thick as you like. I also use it in many freezer meals I make to replace the cornstarch or flour that just don't hold up as well once frozen. 

Anyway, on to making freezer jam - 

My husband was so sweet to wash and prepare all the strawberries while I was at the dentist last week. After we put the kids to bed, he also helped me get 3 batches of jam completed. The food processor really helps to get the strawberries chopped quickly. You can use a potato masher. I have found it is much easier if you cut the strawberries into smaller pieces first. The kids love to help with the mashing!

Here is my can of Ultra Sperse.

My recipe calls for applesauce. We mix this will all the fruit we do. It stretches your fruit or berries and takes on the flavor of whatever else you put it with so no one ever knows it's in there.

Mix the ultra sperse with the sugar to make it easier to mix in. Without mixing it with the sugar, the ultra sperse will clump very quickly so you have to mix it in veeeerrrrrry gradually. By mixing it with the sugar, you can dump more in at once and not have it clump together.

Package the jam in reusable cottage cheese or sour cream containers. Label and freeze. It keeps for 1-2 years in the freezer. There you go, in less than 30 minutes we had 3 batches finished!

4 cups mashed fruit
2+ cups of sugar depending on tartness
1 cup applesauce
of fruit
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ cup Ultra Gel* (add more if you like it
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle the Ultra Gel in gradually to avoid lumps. Pour into freezer safe containers and freeze.
 I love this recipe because it works with every kind of fruit or berry. The applesauce takes on the flavor of the other fruit and allows you to stretch your berries or more expensive fruit. You really just need 5 cups of fruit so if you have 4 ½ cups of berries, add ½ cup of applesauce, etc. This is a recipe my mom got years ago and our family has used it every year since. I make strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, peach and apricot freezer jams every year. The apricots I put in the blender, the strawberries I put in the food processor, all the other fruit I mash with a potato masher. This jam never needs to be cooked so it retains its fresh fruit flavor. You can also use frozen berries if you'd like. I save my sour cream and cottage cheese containers to freeze my jam in. They really work well. One note of caution, because this jam has far less sugar than many recipes it will spoil faster once it is thawed out. Knowing this, choose containers the appropriate size for your family so that it can be eaten in a week or two once it is thawed out. Enjoy!


  1. I just got a bunch of strawberries and I'm excited to try your recipe! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Love the idea of applesauce as a stretcher in berry jams!

  3. Thank you, thank you for this recipe! I've had some UltraGel in my pantry for years and years (and years), knowing there must be some way to use it! :)

  4. I really do love the stuff! I use it in so many recipes. This recipe is easily altered. I've used splenda instead of sugar and white grape juice concentrate in place of the corn syrup. It also works with honey. Just adjust the ultra gel amount to make it as thick as you like.

  5. I just ordered a book on how to use Clear Jel--is it similar to Ultra Gel?

    Also, is the thickness it is when I'm all done stirring in the sugar/gel the thickness it will be? And do I need to let it sit 24 hours like jam with pectin?

    Thank you!!

  6. Clear Jel comes in two different forms - an instant and a non-instant. From what I understand, the instant clear jel is similar to ultra gel and will work in a similar fashion. The non-instant clear jel has to be heated first for it to thicken your recipes.You may have to play with the amounts a little since I'm not sure if it can be traded straight across for ultra gel in recipes. There is a great book titled "The Ultra Gel Answer Book" that shares lots and lots of recipes for using ultra gel.

    Once you mix in the ultra gel, you just need to wait a minute or so to see how thick it will make your recipe. There is no need to wait 24 hours, you can immediately package the jam in freezer containers and move it to the freezer. If you decide it is too runny, add a bit more ultra gel and wait another minute or so. If for some reason it is too thick, add more fruit puree to your jam. That's one reason I love this stuff - you can never ruin a batch of jam.

  7. I'm sold on it! Thanks for the info! :)

  8. Just made jam with some of my peaches. Thanks for the recipe and tips! Now I just need some bread:)

  9. This is my third year making your recipe and I just realized I never commented. We love this recipe and use it every year when strawberries go on sale. And hopefully I'll get to use it later this year when our raspberry bushes start producing! Thanks SO much!

  10. is there other substitutes for corn syrup?

    1. There are lots of substitutes that work great in this recipe. You can use honey or agave nectar. You can also use white grape juice concentrate. You can choose to leave it out all together as well. I have been doing that for quite a few years now and cannot tell the difference in the finished product. Corn syrup is supposed to help keep sugar from crystallizing, but I have not had any problem just leaving it out.

  11. Tammy, can I use lemon juice concentrate instead of fresh?

    1. I always use concentrate. It works great!