Summer is in full swing and I am loving it. Pool days, daylight until 9pm, suntans, garden veggies, way too much ice cream… I will take it all! A few weeks ago I made time for freezer jam, yet another one of my favorite summer chores. I found a good deal on strawberries, cleared time in my schedule and started searching the vast internet for the perfect recipe. I couldn’t find a recipe that encompassed all that I wanted so I made my own and the end product turned out pretty fabulous! I am excited to share with you my “Farmhouse Jam.”
I have made freezer jam plenty of times and I have tried all sorts of recipes. I have made it with white sugar (lots of it). I have made it with just honey. I have made it with and without pectin, etc. All the results have turned out fine, good enough to eat but not great enough to repeat the recipe a following season. The recipe I followed for a “no white sugar added” jam was made from just strawberries, chia seeds and honey. THREE INGREDIENTS!!! how cool is that!? I am all about simple when it comes to cooking and eating. I aim for the least amount of ingredeints in a food item I buy/eat and I want them all the to be ingredients that I can read, pronounce and be able to walk into a grocery store and buy myself. (check out 100 Days of Real Food or In Defense of Food for more information on Real Food Eating) I want to keep my cooking and grocery store shopping as closely aligned with real food eating as possible. I believe our bodies perform at their best levels when fueled this way. The problem with the 3 ingredients, no white sugar added jam that I have made in the past is… my sweet children. They will eat it… but they aren’t crazy about it. Imagine kids eating jam… but none of them are smiling.
I have made traditional freezer jam, the kind most of you have likely made. The recipe comes on the back of most pectin boxes and can be easily found with a quick internet search. Lets be honest though, its usually a bit disgusting when you see just how much sugar is needed. I know this means store bought jam/jelly has more sugar in it than I most likely realize, which is fine. I am aiming for something better than store bought jam, something both my kids and I like and something easy. My recipe has encompassed all of those things. It uses strawberries, blueberries (this blend is my kid’s favorite), a small amount of pectin, chia seeds to help bind the rest of the jam together, a reduced amount of white sugar (compared to a traditional recipe), and a tiny bit of lemon juice – that’s it!
I am so glad to have come up with a jam that works for our family. The jam is sweet enough for everyone’s taste buds without being too sweet. The consistency is comparable to store bought jam and the chia seeds add several health benefits. The chia seeds are rich in fiber, full of antioxidants, full of vitamins and minerals and also add some protein to the jam which helps with belly’s feeling full – win, win! I feel good about my kids eating it daily on sandwiches or in plain yogurt and I enjoy it on top of pancakes – it is amazing! So, here we go!
- 15 Cups of crushed Strawberries (I got an awesome deal on strawberries from Costco right when they came into season)
- 5 Cups of crushed fresh or frozen Blueberries (I used frozen blueberries from Costco because we keep them on hand for cereal/snaking)
- 15 cups of your choice of granulated sugar (A traditional freezer jam recipe with 20 cups of crushed fruit would call for 45 CUPS OF SUGAR!!! Let that sink in for a minute…)
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1 container of Ball Real Fruit Classic Pectin (5.4 ounces)
- Clean jars with matching lids (amount of jars will vary by size)
1) Start with crushing your fruit – I used a blender to crush/pulse my fresh strawberries after washing and removing the stems/leaves. I stopped pulsing my blender when the strawberries looked pourable. I used a food processor to crush my frozen blueberries. Since my blueberries were frozen, using a food processor leaves them chunky instead of them becoming liquid mush. The chunks of blueberry go really nice with the thinner texture of the strawberries.
2) Combine all fruit in a large bowl/pot/container, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and stir well.
3) Combine 1 cup water with 5.4 container of pectin in a separate LARGE pot (not the one the fruit is in) and bring to a boil for 1 minute, stirring well enough to dissolve the pectin.
4) Reduce Heat and slowly add 15 cups of sugar, one cup at a time stirring well in-between cups. The sugar will start to dissolve but not all of it may completely dissolve – this is fine. Turn heat off and let sugar/pectin mixture cool a minute. Then add sugar/pectin mixture to fruit and stir well.
5) Add chia seeds and stir well once again until everything seems evenly mixed.
6) Ladle jam into clean jars leaving about a 1/2″ space at the top. You may use a funnel if you want but I chose not to. Occasionally a chunk of fruit will clog my funnel which just slows the process down, I just carefully ladle my jam into each jar. I have an assortment of jars – jelly size canning jars, store bought jelly jars I have saved, etc. You can use any clean jar with a matching lid for freezer jam. Since we aren’t canning (sealing) jars, you do not have to worry about using clean new lids. I know lots of people freeze jam/jelly in plastic containers to avoid the risk of jars breaking in the freezer but I prefer glass. Glass seems cleaner (nothing leaking into my jam), it is thicker so my jam seems better preserved and I have never had a glass break. Make sure you leave proper headspace to ensure no jars will break. Give your jars a nice wipe on the top edges to remove any spilled jam before screwing on the lids and then you are done!
I let my jam cool on the countertop for the rest of the day (several hours) to ensure that they are all room temperature before transferring to the fridge or freezer. The jam will take a little time to reach it’s full thickness. It was about 6-7 days before my jam was the consistency of store bought jam. Chia seeds can hold 12 times their weight in liquid but the process takes a few days. The jam is still delicious and useable during the first week. The jam can remain in the fridge for up to 3 weeks and in the freezer for up to a year… but at the rate we are eating ours, we will finish it in the next couple months!
So, here are all the tiny details behind my Farmhouse Jam – just in case the recipe didn’t seem amazing enough already!
I added up the price of the fruit I used, the pectin, lemon juice, chai seeds and organic sugar and my total was $26 for my Farmhouse Jam recipe. You could reduce the price of your jam if you don’t use organic sugar. We don’t use sugar in our cooking often (so we spend a few extra dollars on organic sugar). We also feed our bees a sugar water mixture and organic sugar is what is recommended for that, so organic sugar is what we keep in our pantry.
I used 26 jars that all varied in size. Some were 16 ounces (a jelly canning jar is 8 ounces). I estimated that if I had used all jelly size canning jars, I would have filled about 36 jelly jars. That means that a jar of my Farmhouse Jam cost about 72 cents to make and that is with organic sugar! You could reduce the price further or even buy organic fruit and keep your price at about $1 a jar for homemade, organic, reduced sugar, chia seed, jam!!! That is crazy! Not only is the cost amazing BUT each 8 ounces of jam has LESS than a 1/2 cup of added sugar in it!
Hope you are inspired to try this new jam recipe or perhaps, try jam making for the first time!