I have a new obsession. It’s getting a little out of hand. It belongs in the same category as zombies, nutella, mexican food, and Ryan Reynolds. It’s homemade jam, without canning, and without white sugar. Unless of course you want to use white sugar, and then it has white sugar in it. Just wanted to be clear on that. It started out with a couple pints of strawberries and my need to experiment. Then I went to the farmer’s market and bought a lot more strawberries…..
and the obsesssion grew. Mr. Sweeter Thing is a little concerned that I’m going crazy…..he’s a little late coming to that conclusion. Now he’s stuck with me. That’s strategy ladies. And of course, an experiment wouldn’t be an experiment if at least one batch didn’t end in failure. At least in my kitchen. No worries….you can fix your jam if you accidentally “break” it, like I did. But more on that later. Let’s talk about sugar. I’ve always loved the Smucker’s Simply Fruit jam, its sweetened with fruit juice instead of white sugar or high fructose corn syrup and its all natural. I love sugar but somehow I felt like a better mom by serving the short person stuff that said “no sugar” and “all natural” on the label. Sneaky how those marketers know to make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Since it’s like $3 a jar for that stuff, I wanted to make my own. I found a recipe for homemade jam that can either be frozen or canned and used honey instead of sugar, so I figured it was a start. The first batch turned out perfect, I was so proud of myself! The second batch I decided to try a combination of honey and white grape juice. Flop. Failure. Mistake. It never set up. Boo. I loved the original batch so I’ve decided not to mess with it in the future.
Let’s talk about sweeteners for a minute. I’ve been sweetening a lot of stuff with honey in place of white sugar lately. My bread. My homemade fruit roll-ups. And now my jam. I got curious about whether or not I was doing anyone any favors, honey is pretty expensive after all. So here’s what I found in a nutshell: Sugar is sugar. Your body will treat it the same whether its sugar, honey, agave nectar, or pure maple syrup so just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be consumed in moderation. HOWEVER, white sugar is a disaccharide, its two sugars (fructose and glucose) are bound together. Honey is a monosaccharide, the glucose and fructose are separate from each other. In other words, it’s easier for your body to use. Basically, table sugar converts to fat stores more easily than honey. Honey is also sweeter than white sugar so you can tend to use less of it. Calorie content of honey and white sugar is fairly similar. There are people out there who swear that honey has cured all things wrong in their bodies and is the answer for all the unholy happenings in the world (or at least in their diets). I’m not so sure about that but I do prefer it to white sugar. If I suddenly find myself looking like the 18 year old version of myself, I’ll let you know and you can run out and store up on honey.
On to the recipe. Step one: buy strawberries. Fresh or frozen is fine but fresh strawberries will get you the yummiest product. If you do use frozen, let them thaw completely before making your jam. If you buy fresh, wash and hull them before continuing.
Then dump them in your food processor and puree them.
Pour your strawberry puree into a large stock pot (or easily half the recipe and use a smaller pot). This recipe uses the natural pectin found in apples as opposed to commercial pectin that requires added sugar. Grate your apples with the peel ON and add to the puree. Also add lemon juice and honey. Turn on the heat and stir well to combine.
The rest is pretty much about being patient. Guess how good at that I am? This is a good time to turn on a re-run of your favorite trashy show. I’m partial to Nashville, Gray’s, and any crime drama. Let your jam come to a boil, then reduce the temperature and let it simmer for an hour to an hour 15 minutes. It will get foamy….like this…
Don’t worry…it will stir right in and disappear. Leaving you beautiful, foam free, jam. Don’t get too distracted by your trashy TV show, it will boil over if you’re not careful and then your spouse will give you grief over the mess. No fun. So stir often. You’ll notice your jam will boil down and thicken, though it will still be pourable. It sets after it cools, so don’t fret. If it doesn’t, we’ll fix it later. Relax. It’s just jam.
When your jam is done cooking, ladle it into freezer safe containers. I mass produced my last batch so I had several containers go in the freezer and kept one at a time in the fridge. Or use adorable mason jars and give them as gifts. Or can them, if you’re a canner, you over achiever you.
Let them set to room temperature before freezing. Now let’s talk about your broken jam, because you will break a batch or two at some point. It’s ok, take a deep breath, have a diet coke, it can be fixed. If, say, you tried to substitute some other kind of sweetener in place of the honey, or you didn’t let it cook long enough, this can be remedied. My batch that was broken was of course the huge batch, so I’ve been fixing it one container at a time as I take it out of the freezer. Just dump your jar of jam (I store mine in 1 1/2- 2 cup containers) back into a small saucepan after its thawed. Add an additional tsp. of lemon juice and 2-3 tablespoons of either white sugar or honey. Bring to a boil and let simmer about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, put back into your original container and let cool. Stick it in the fridge and in a couple hours, you’ll have “fixed” jam. See, no worries. Since making my own jam, I’ve starting using it to flavor my oatmeal in the morning, to make homemade poptarts, slathered on toast, and in sandwhiches. Everyone’s a fan.
This recipe is easily halved and works well in small batches. One half of this recipe yielded approximately 48 oz. of jam
- 6 pounds strawberries and/or blueberries
- 3 ¾ cup honey
- 2 unpeeled apples, grated
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Wash and hull the berries. If using frozen berries, let them thaw completely before using. Toss in a food processor or blender to puree the berries.
- Add the pureed berries, honey, lemon juice, and grated apple to a large stock pot and bring to a boil
- Let the mixture simmer over low to medium heat for an hour to an hour 15 minutes, until thickened but still pourable. the jam will be deep red in color and will make a “plop” sound when boiling.
- Ladle hot jam into freezer safe containers (no glass here folks unless you’re using right away and storing in the fridge)
- Let the jam cool to room temperature, then freeze. Jam should be good for upwards of 6 months in the freezer and should be used within 2-3 weeks once stored in the refrigerator.