Monday, May 28, 2012

My Quest for truly Sugar Free Jam

I have been on the search for a truly sugar free homemade recipe for jam or jelly, I would say, for many years now. I know that grocers sell sugar free jam sweetened with fruit juice in the store without any artificial sweeteners, but the price is really not economical for my family, especially considering the amount of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we eat in our household. Many times (because we are out of jelly and I just can't see myself spending $3 on a teeny tiny jar of jam) we eat only peanut butter sandwiches, natural peanut butter without the sugar.

I thought I hit the jackpot one day when I found a canning recipe on Pinterest that only required three ingredients; strawberries, water, and 1 box of SURE-JELL (For Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes) Premium Fruit Pectin. I have never used fruit pectin before (I am only a beginner canner) and upon further research (after I already paid for the pectin and brought it home) discovered that one of the very first ingredients is dextrose, an artificial sweetener! Well, there goes that idea. So in my quest for a truly sugar free jam, I found a second recipe that looked promising, but again the ingredient list included honey, which is a natural sugar, but something I was looking to avoid. My mother recently discovered a list of food items that she is truly sensitive to and honey and any sugars (artificial or natural) are on that list. I wanted to create something that she could enjoy on her gluten free sugar free yeast free piece of bread. So I eventually stumbled across a freezer jam recipe from Thrifty Veggie Mama. BINGO! Exactly what I was looking for!

You know me...I am not one to follow a recipe exactly, so this is the recipe I created using Thrifty Veggies Mama's recipe as inspiration. This first recipe was incredibly sweet using the juice concentrate alone, so my second batch, I modified and used fruit juice instead. Something else I realized after my first batch, make sure to chop the strawberries into tiny pieces to make the jam more spreadable. If the strawberry pieces are too large, it will not spread easily onto your bread. Also, very important, when a recipe says stir constantly, do it! I, of course, walked away from the stove and almost ended with a burnt gloppy mess of fruit syrup.

First Attempt at this recipe...
1 can frozen berry blend 100% juice concentrate
5 TBSP cornstarch
2 TBSP lemon juice
3 cups fresh chopped strawberries

Dear daughter helping with the chopping.

In a blender, I combined the first 3 ingredients. Then, poured into a saucepan and brought to a boil. Make sure to stir constantly until thick and clear. Next, I folded in 3 cups fresh chopped strawberries. Finally, I added the jam to 5 1/2 pint jars or several plastic containers and placed in the freezer. I did save one jar and placed it in the refrigerator to enjoy with our next meal. The jam can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Second Attempt at this recipe, I doubled the ingredients and used fruit juice rather than concentrate...

3 cups 100% fruit juice from concentrate (this time I used Apple Kiwi Strawberry, I ran out of the berry blend)
10 TBSP cornstarch
4 TBSP lemon juice
6 cups fresh chopped strawberries

In a blender, I combined the first 3 ingredients. Then, poured into a saucepan and brought to a boil. Stir constantly until thick and clear. Fold in 3 cups fresh chopped strawberries. Add to jars or plastic containers and place in the freezer or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Notice the jam made with fruit juice is lighter in color. The doubled batch yielded 8 1/2 pints and 2 small plastic containers.

The jam was great on our roast beef sandwich.