Strawberry and blueberry freezer jam

Strawberry and blueberry freezer jam (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / June 6, 2012)

Get in a jam: save (and savor) the freshest berries with an easiest-ever preserve

Freezer jam is so easy to make it's like preserving "with training wheels," says Virginia Willis, the Atlanta-based cookbook author, Southern food authority and collaborator with Southern Living on the new book, "Little Jars, Big Flavors"

"People are intimidated," says Willis. "Freezer jam is as simple as making a tray of ice cubes." She's right. All you need is fresh fruit, sugar, instant pectin, jars and a freezer. Even cooking isn't a pre-requisite and that can be to your advantage. "Something like a strawberry suffers from cooking, it tastes best fresh,'' Willis says. "No-cook pectin means the jam tastes super-super fresh, just like a fresh-picked berry."

Blueberry-raspberry freezer jam

5 (1/2 pint) jars for the freezer

  1. Pulse 3 cups fresh blueberries in a food processor until crushed to measure 2 cups.
  2. Place 2 1/4 cups fresh raspberries in a large glass bowl; mash with a potato masher until crushed. Add blueberries, 1 3/4 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, stirring well. Let stand 15 minutes.
  3. Gradually stir in 1 (1.59-ounce) package freezer jam pectin, stir 3 minutes. Let stand 30 minutes.
  4. Spoon mixture into clean 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal, label, and freeze upright. Store in freezer up to 1 year. Thaw completely in refrigerator before using. Refrigerate after thawing, and use within 3 weeks.

Bill Daley

Entertain, sweat-free

"I love a good party that's why I like to entertain," says food stylist and author Susan Spungen, who's worked on foodie films like "Julie & Julia" and was founding food editor for Martha Stewart Living. "Even though there is some stress involved in getting ready, the rewards outweigh the stress. ...My whole philosophy is to try to give people ways to reduce that stress." Thus, Spungen's new book, "What's a Hostess to Do? 313 Ideas and Inspirations for Effortless Entertaining."

We can't jam 313 tips into this space, but here are a few:

  • One pound ice cubes per person (based on 4 drinks per person)
  • Two is the average number of drinks per hour per guest
  • 32 mixed drinks in 1-liter bottle of liquor (using 1-ounce shots)
  • 3 to 4 ounces of cheese per person for a grazing buffet with other snacks
  • Six cocktail bites per person for cocktail hour before dinner
  • 10 minutes to let meat rest before cutting to let juices thicken, temperature even out

—Judy Hevrdejs

Streamline your centerpiece

Arranging your own flowers doesn’t have to be daunting: In Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo’s new book, ‘‘The Flower Recipe Book’’ (Artisan, 24.95), beautiful, modern bouquets are assembled following simple steps that take you from single-¿ower posies to cleverly assembled centerpieces. Here’s how they solve some common flower dilemmas.

We need to arrange a fab floral arrangement, fast — before friends come for dinner. Your solution?

Buy a mixed grouping at the supermarket and pull it apart. Separate the varied blooms and create a collection of single-stem arrangements. If you use different containers, be sure they have one common thread — maybe they’re clay, glass or metal. If you prefer one flower variety, use an assortment of vessels.

What's the most versatile, interesting, un-fussy flower?

We love rununculus. If the stems are weak, cut them short, and make more of a round, tight cluster, although the stems can look cool if they bend — then, put them in a taller bottle. What’s wonderful about them is that they resemble roses, but have more of a farm appearance.