I started this blog to help people do kitchen things that are different, unusual, or downright difficult, things that are neglected topics in the world of food instruction. With the plethora of book, blogs, YouTube videos, etc out there, it’s usually pretty easy to find information and/or instructions on many, many things, even if actually doing them isn’t exactly easy.
Making traditional strawberry jam (or even novel recipes with sugar as sweetener) is one of those topics that’s extraordinarily well covered. While I hesitate to say there is nothing new to add to the subject, it’s safe to say that *I* personally have nothing new to add to the subject.
But making strawberry (or other fruit) jams without sugar, and without artificial sweeteners, well, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. While I have no health reasons for wanting sugar-free jam, I personally just don’t like how sweet traditional jams are. For a few years, I tried reducing the amount of sugar in traditional recipes, and wound up with tasty syrup. My jam just wouldn’t set. I tried recooking it with more pectin, to no avail. For two years, I poured my strawberry jam onto toast and sandwiches instead of spreading it with a knife. So in 2010, I made my last batch of strawberry jam. Until today.
What happened between then and now was a simple but life-altering discovery: Pomona Pectin. It is different than the pectin you can buy most places – that pectin only works if the correct amount of sugar is added, so that after cooking there is not enough water present to keep added pectin dissolved, and thus upon cooling, the pectin will gel. Pomona is a calcium-activated pectin, so when calcium (included with the pectin) is added, it will gel regardless of the amount of sugar present. Now that you know the secret, you can Google it and read up on the topic yourself. What I will tell you is that while Pomona pectin works like magic, it IS different to work with and requires some experience and experimentation if you want to wander off the reservation and make your own recipes.
Let me show you how I made some strawberry jam with honey today. Note that it is NOT my intention to teach you to make jam, or to do basic canning; I assume you are competent in this regard already. I’m also not trying to teach specific recipes, though I hope you will like mine and the variations of it described here. The point of this post is to teach you how to do what you know how to do already, except WITHOUT SUGAR.
I do try to include costing info with each post to refute the notion that cooking with fresh, high quality ingredients is expensive. I bought the strawberries at the farmers’ market for $12. I buy my honey by the half gallon, and estimate I may have use about $3 worth. My mint was free from my garden, but if you bought it I would have paid about $1. The lemon juice and pectin may have been $1. So for about $17, I got (12) 4-oz jars and one large (32-oz) jar (ran out of small jars!). So 80 ounces of jam for $17 is $0.21 per ounce. That’s about $1.70 for 8 ounces, which is a typical supermarket size that will run you from $3-5. And the store jam won’t taste as good, or be as good for you.
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