In this crazy, fast-paced, fast food world, it’s sometimes nice to take the long way ’round. It’s so easy to not think about where our food comes from, and I think that having the vague feeling that food comes wrapped up in plastic on a grocery store shelf somehow takes away some of the nourishing aspects of eating. Every now and then, I like to take it way back…growing vegetables in our garden is a great way to see what really goes into creating dinner. But you can’t always grow all the kinds of fruit and vegetables you’d like, which is why one of my favorite family traditions is picking fresh raspberries with the kids from a pick-your-own farm. We drive out to the farm, spend a morning picking away with the warm sun on our shoulders, and then come home to can fresh raspberry jam. If you’ve never tried raspberry jam made without much sugar, you’re in for a real treat. The full flavor of the berries makes this jam so much better than the store-bought variety! Traditional jam recipes call for more sugar than berries, and you lose so much of the real flavor of the fruit that way.
A low sugar jam recipe makes the fruit shine!
The farm that we visit has a blog, and we have had a wonderful time following the adventures of the family that owns it. We’ve gotten to read about how much work goes into taking care of the raspberries, and watch as the family experiences the ups and downs of farm life (one year, their house burned down and had to be rebuilt). They also post hints on picking, storing, and preparing raspberries as well as some great recipes! There’s no better place to get this kind of information than right from the farm. We often bring friends to pick and can with us…the more the merrier!
After picking, we weigh the berries and pay for them. One of the great things about a pick your own farm is that you’ll be getting your produce for so much less than at a store! We drove home with 18 pounds of fresh, delicious berries ripened under the sun, not in a factory truck.
In the past, it’s been tough to avoid eating so many fresh berries that our jam supply dwindles. I’ve learned to plan ahead for that, and save a few pounds for snacking! Once we get home, we carefully wash the berries. A few bugs, sticks and leaves hitch a ride home on the berries, so it’s good to sort through them and make sure they’re clean. There’s nothing more delicious than fresh, ripe raspberries!
Once your berries are ready, it’s time to make jam.
There are many different ways to make jam, and you can choose to freeze or can the end result. Jam requires three basic things…fruit, sweetener (or not, up to you) and pectin. If you are not using much sweetener, you’ll need to be sure to use a pectin that will work with your recipe. One issue that I’ve run into when making jam is that you can’t find a store-bought pectin that’s organic! This is really frustrating (anyone know of one? Anyone want to start producing one?) and it leaves you with a dilemma…do you use a pectin that’s not organic but is all natural and GMO free (like this) or do you bypass the store-bought pectin and make your own? You can make pectin from green apples (unripe green apples work the best) by following the instructions found here. You’ll have to experiment, however, with the amount of homemade pectin you need for each batch of jam…I haven’t found a way around this. The recipe in the link above explains how to test the jam to see if you’ve got enough pectin. Or, you can skip the pectin altogether and use more sugar, which is kind of a bummer but you’ll have to decide which is the lesser of two evils (and, even though it’s more sugar than the pectin recipes use, it’s still far less than a traditional recipe). I’ll share 3 ways you can make low sugar raspberry jam in the recipe below, and you can choose the one that you’re most comfortable with. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be amazed by how wonderful fresh raspberry jam tastes when it’s not full of sugar! But once you try it, beware…my kids won’t eat store-bought jam any more, because it just doesn’t taste right after you’ve had the “real thing.”
For homemade pectin...use [url href="http://www.pickyourown.org/makeyourownpectin.htm" target="_blank"]this recipe[/url] and adjust as described.
For jam made without pectin...from [url href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mirabai-holland/easy-homemade-jam-no-gunk_b_3535820.html" target="_blank"]this recipe[/url]
For recipes using pectin or homemade pectin:
If you're using the no-pectin method:
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Have you tried homemade jam? What method works for you?
Photography by Jennifer Leung Johnson