Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Easy-Peasy Sugar-Free Homemade Strawberry Jam with Stevia

For a long time I thought of canning and making jam as being an incredibly complex and difficult act that would only end in tears and botulism if I attempted it.  The other day we went strawberry picking and I may have gone a little overboard and ended up taking home nearly 30 lbs of delicious organic field strawberries.  Oops. That's a lot of strawberries.  It's especially a lot of strawberries if you have a tiny, already stuffed freezer. 

We started eating them immediately upon returning home, we brought some to friends, we chopped some up and put them in the freezer, but there were still so many!  I began frantically researching strawberry recipes, the most obvious of which, was strawberry jam.  But could I do it, could I can???  Most importantly, could I can without using ridiculous amounts of sugar.

I decided to give it a go!

My search for sugar free strawberry jam and/or strawberry jam with stevia yielded many results, the best of which was this blog entry by a blog called Less Sugar Naturally.   The post is adorable and I think I'd get along great with the author. However, I didn't want less sugar, I wanted no sugar. Furthermore, I didn't feel the recipe or instructions were written in a linear enough way for me.  I mostly followed her recipe, but I made a few changes to it to make it more suitable for my needs. First off, I didn't add any sugar at all.  I realize this was a risk.  However, in the end it worked out perfectly.  The strawberries we picked were field berries and didn't have so much as a speck of white in them; they tasted like they were dipped in sugar already (seriously, you guys).  I also wanted this to be vegan jam so I replaced the butter with coconut oil. 

Many friends and family have shown an interest in the process and recipe, so here's how I did it, step by step, in detail. Please don't hesitate to ask questions in the comments.

You, too, can have two dozen jars of jam! (Check out my jam splattered walls, too)

How to Make Sugar Free Homemade Strawberry Jam with Stevia*
*This recipe makes about 1.5 litres of jam total

Tools you'll need:

- 1 very large stock pot (it must be able to hold full mason jars)
- 1 small-ish pot
- 1 medium sized pot
- Mason jars with lids and rings (I prefer 175mL or 250mL jars)
- Canning tongs (you will need these, seriously, do not attempt to just use regular tongs, you will end up breaking a glass or burning yourself or both)
- A wooden cutting board or two
- A canning funnel or a small pyrex jar and ladle

Ingredients you'll need:

- 6-7 cups of cut and hulled strawberries (this will ideally puree into 4-5 cups)
- 1 package of Pomona's Universal Pectin (this includes pectin and calcium water mix.  Normally sugar activates the pectin, in this case, the calcium water will)
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
- 1 bottle of liquid stevia drops (I used Now® Better Stevia)
- OPTIONAL: you can add sugar, honey, or only stevia to sweeten. I chose only stevia.  If you choose honey or stevia, choose 9 tablespoons of each.  

Once you have all your tools and ingredients, you are well on your way to entering the jam zone

1. Step one is to prepare the calcium water.  The calcium water mix is inside the Pomona's Universal Pectin box (it's the smaller packet of the two).  Prepare the entire package of calcium water as instructed on the outside of the box.  It's best to prepare it and put it in a small reusable container that you can keep in the fridge.  Once prepared, store it in the fridge, sealed.

2.  Take all of your jars and all of your lids/rings.  Place the jars in your stock pot and fill the pot with water.  You are going to be boiling these jars in hot water for 10-15 minutes.  Take your lids and rings and place them in the small-ish pot and do the same. Put on a timer, and once 10-15 minutes of boiling is over, carefully remove both the empty jars and place them on the wooden cutting boards to absorb the heat.  You can simply drain the water from the lids/rings and leave them in the empty hot pot if you wish.  These supplies should wait on the counter for you.  DO NOT TOUCH THEM with your bare hands, however, or you will need to re sterilize them. 

3.  While your jars are boiling, puree the strawberries.  You should end up with 5 cups of strawberries once pureed.  Put any extra aside for the next round or for eating.  You won't want more than 5 cups of pureed berries for this recipe. 

4.  Pour your pureed strawberries into your medium sized pot.  Add the 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, the 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, and 2 teaspoons of the prepared calcium water.  Bring this mixture to boil, stirring well. 

5.  If you have decided to use sugar in this recipe, you should mix 9 tablespoons of it with 2 teaspoons of the pectin.  Mix it very well. 

6.  Add your sugar/pectin mix OR just 2 teaspoons of pectin to the boiling strawberry mix.  Stir very well, constantly (seriously! don't stop stirring!) for roughly 2-3 minutes.  Make sure there aren't any lumps of pectin visible in your mix.

7.  At this point, if you are using honey as a sweetener, you can go ahead and add 9 tablespoons of it to the mixture and continue stirring until mixed.  If you aren't disregard this step, of course.

8.  Remove the mix from the heat.  If you have added honey or sugar, add roughly an additional 40 drops of liquid stevia to your mix.  If you have NOT added honey or sugar, add roughly 50 drops of liquid stevia to your mix.  Stir very, very well. 

9.  Now it's time to pour your jam into your cans.  You can use a canning funnel for this, or you can do what I did and use a ladle to scoop out the jam, pour it into a small pyrex container, and then pour it into the jar.

10.  Fill each jar carefully, and once you do, use regular tongs to lift the sterilized lids out and place them on the jars.  Carefully and touching only the outside of the rings, tighten the rings on the jar.  Tighten the jars only enough to ensure they are closed, don't do it super duper tightly.  If you do it too tightly it will interfere with the sealing process, which is exactly what you don't want. 

11.  Once all of your jars are filled, take the canning tongs and put them into the huge stock pot of water again.  Boil the jars of jam for 10-15 minutes.  Remove them from the pot when they are done boiling and sit them on wood cutting boards. Over the course of the next hour you will hear them "popping."

After 2-3 hours, you'll hopefully find that all of your lids are flattened.  This means the jars have sealed. If you find that you can push on the jam lids and they are floppy and make a popping sound, they aren't sealed.  Any jars that haven't sealed after 3+ hours should be kept in the fridge and will be good for 3 hours.  Jam that has properly sealed can be kept in the cabinet for storing.  Once you open the jam you have roughly 3 weeks to consume it and all opened jam should be refrigerated. 

Yay, you did it!

I was seriously proud that I pulled this off.  The first thing I did was force Morgan and Aias to try the jam, and then I went to a friend's house to make her try it. Along the way, I saw another friend, and I gave her a jar too.  Jam making is pretty rad.  Don't be scared to try it!



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