Monday, March 12, 2012

Trying Something New // Homemade (no-sugar) Strawberry Honey Jam

I have been looking forward to strawberry season for several weeks now. I love strawberries! I eat them plain, blend them into smoothies, turn them into a dessert. And I love strawberry jam!

My friends (Kristina & Jenny) and I decided we should find a u-pick strawberry farm then try our hand at making some homemade jam. I located a farm nearby and waited eagerly for their announcement that u-pick season had begun. Unfortunately, Jenny couldn’t make it but Kristina and I we were there on the first day at 9:30 in the morning, ready to pick enough berries for the three of us.

It was a perfect day for picking berries! The air was cool with a bit of sunshine. The farm was very sweet, with good amount of land dedicated to strawberry plants. They had built up the strawberry beds and covered them with tarp which made for easy picking. Armed with our plastic buckets, Kristina and I set out to gather enough berries for jam, freezing, and to enjoy right away.

We came away with nearly 40 lbs of organic strawberries! At $1.25 per lb, we had no qualms about stocking up while we could.

Then came the task of washing, capping and smashing berries for the jam. Kristina found a recipe for freezer jam that used honey and white grape juice instead of sugar. Sounded like a winner to me! 

The freezer jam was a great option to start with, since we have not done water-bath canning before. Water-bath canning sterilizes the jar so you can store the jam on a shelf. Freezer canning will also preserve the jam for about one year, but it must always be frozen or refrigerated during use. Freezer canning is a faster process and worked just find for me. I think I will try some water-bath canning in the future though, so I don’t have to use valuable freezer space.

After a few hours of smashing and jamming, I ended up with eight jars of jam (seven honey jam, one sugar jam), a couple bags of smashed berries to freeze (for more jam later in the year), a couple freezer bags of chopped berries and a couple quarts worth of whole berries to enjoy now. YUM!

I left the jam on the counter until evening, making sure each lid had “popped”. Then I moved the jars to the refrigerator and finally the freezer the next day. The jam seemed to set up really well for the both the honey and the sugar jars. And I had some of the honey jam on a slice of toast yesterday – delish!

The honey jam is a lighter consistency than sugar jam generally is. It is thick, spreadable and doesn’t slide off the bread, but it tastes juicier. It is also sweet, although probably not as sweet as sugar jam. I am glad I made almost all my jars honey jam – tasty and healthier!

Recipe: Sugar-free Strawberry Jam (with Honey)
Recipe Credit (I altered the recipe slightly…the way I did it is below)

6-9 half-pint freezer safe canning jars with lids and bands
potato masher
large pot
Sterilize all equipment prior to use; you can do this in a dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes.

4 cups of mashed berries (do not use a food processor; the jam will not be the right consistency)
1 3/4 cup of organic white grape juice
3/4 cup local raw honey
1 packet of no-sugar pectin

Mash berries by hand. Then set up all the jars next to your stove; you will want everything arranged before you begin. Keep the lids in a pan of simmering water on the stove (not boiling).

Pour white grape juice and pectin into pot, and bring to a boil on the stove top, stirring frequently. Once the mixture is boiling, stir constantly for one minute. Then gently stir in the mashed berries and honey. Bring to a boil. Stir for one minute while boiling, then remove from heat.*

Ladle jam into the jars through the funnel, leaving at least 1/2 inch head room at the top of the jar. Then one at a time, use the tongs to remove the lids from the pan of simmering water and place on top of the jars. Screw the bands down until they are just “finger-tight.” Don’t make them overly tight.

Let the jars cool to room temperature, (listen for the “pop”) then put the jam in the fridge overnight. The next morning, you can move it to the freezer.

*This is where I changed the recipe, allowing all the contents to boil for one minute. I decided to do this since reviews of this recipe mentioned the jam was more like syrup, and other sites were saying boiling for a minute results in a thicker jam. I think it worked well! BUT the recipe is intended for six half-pint jars and I ended up with eight or nine…curious.


Lisa Adele said... Reply to Comment

I've had some jams that turn out syrupy and we just use them on waffles and pancakes- waste not, want not...

Also last year i froze about a quart each of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries as they each came into season and then defrosted them and made them into jam with the no-sugar pectin and I think about 1/2 cup of sugar total- my favorite jam ever and probably the only one I will make this year :)

Valerie said... Reply to Comment

@Lisa Adele That jam sounds great Lisa! Easy too. :) Yeah I kept telling myself if I did end up with syrup jam, it would still make a yummy topper for all kinds of things. Definitely no need to waste it. Thanks for the ideas! :)