(REFINED) SUGAR-FREE, STRAWBERRY LAVENDER CHIA SEED JAM
***2015 UPDATE! You can also make this into raw freezer or fridge jam! Simply put the chia seends into a high powered blender to make a POWDER (so genius, again, I love my Vitamix – it’s truly my boyfriend), and add that to the raw mashed strawberries with the honey. Jar and freeze or put into the fridge. SO EASY, SO YUM.
All of the exclamation points. To me, this is huge. Jam without all of the preservatives of pectin? Without more white sugar than actual fruit? Glory be indeed. Why might I take such a chance with my precious, organic strawberries picked from July, washed and hulled in freezer bags just waiting for the perfect jam?
Because I’m a lunar that way. I like taking culinary chances, in the name of delicious food that’s actually good for you. Healthy. Yet still TASTES GOOD. THAT’S MY JAM. All pun intended.
Clearly, in a house with two toddlers and an old-fashioned food loving man, with all of the substitutions and experimenting I do with (refined) sugar-free, low-carb or gluten free baking and cooking, stuff’s still gotta TASTE GOOD. For me too. I’m no birdie and I love food. So. When a friend of mine whispered sweet nothings into my ear about how she tried out some jam making with chia seeds instead of pectin, I was like, COME HITHER TELL ME MORE. And then one of the 3 children under our feet stuck a finger up someone else’s nose or something and the conversation was left by the wayside.
Fast forward to way past strawberry season, with frozen bags of deep crimson heaven just waiting to be turned into jam. It was this past weekend after just having gotten home from apple-picking that I decided I couldn’t very well make apple butter and apple pie filling without first making jam. Seasonally speaking, I was way late already.
I don’t even know with where to begin on how much I love this jam. It’s preservative free, because NO PECTIN. It requires waaaaaaay less sweetener, because NO PECTIN. (Pectin requires obscene amounts of white sugar to work.) All of the added health benefits that come from chia seeds most definitely make my culinary nerd brain do a little dance…
SO WHY CHIA?
Chia seeds soak up nearly 3 times their weight in liquid and act as a most wonderful thickener. Chia seeds get all gelatinous and stuff when combined with any liquid. It’s just an added bonus that they are incredibly good for you, chock full of omega 3, protein, phosphorous, fibre and more! It’s a bloody Christmas miracle this jam, I tell ya. Which is why I’m going to include this recipe in my upcoming 25 Days of Handmade Holiday Gifts series starting up here in November. Heck, I may even turn the series into an eBook. More on that later. Just trust in the magic of the chia seed when making your jam. It works, it really does. Even after all of my research, I was wary and had to squash the little voice in my head that whispered, ‘you can’t make jam without pectin silly goose!’ The only drawback being that you will have a seedy jam, which when we’re talking about strawberry jam (or raspberry), doesn’t really matter now does it? Things are seedy anyways. Blueberry jam or marmalades may be something you don’t want seeds in. I myself, I don’t care, I’ll take the seeds with the health benefits. Because it still tastes dang good. Chia seeds don’t alter the taste AT ALL.
SO WHY LAVENDER?
Because we’ve already established that I’m a little bit lunar is why. But also, because my mind is already on handmade/homemade holiday gifts and strawberry jam has been a traditional gift we include in baskets for friends and family. This year I wanted to do something a little bit different. It’s not that far-fetched of an idea. Even though Trev gave me the side-look over this combination, he begrudgingly admitted that it pairs well. He later proclaimed that he in fact actually likes it. This, from mister meat and potatoes. Mister, ‘don’t mess with my jam, yea there’s a ton of sugar in it because that’s what makes it TASTES GOOD.’ According to him, which I of course disagreed with. You don’t need 7 cups of white sugar to make 5 cups of organic strawberries taste good. Just no with that. THEY ALREADY TASTE GOOD ALL BY THEMSELVES. I think the two marry wonderfully together (strawberry and lavender), and I know I’m not alone in this. I haven’t created something new here. I’ve seen strawberry lavender jam on store shelves, at farmer’s markets and fairs. Surely there are other recipes for it online.
I hot water bath canned my jam after making it and have included the instructions for that here too. Canning doesn’t have to be a laborious, time-consuming task, but you need to know some basics. Like what can be hot water canned? What needs to be pressure canned? I’m by no means a canning pro, in fact I’m pretty new to canning anything outside of jam.Let’s get on with this miraculous jam business shall we?
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- 12 cups of frozen organic strawberries
- (previously washed and hulled)
- 2 cups raw honey
- ¾ cup chia seeds
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 8 tablespoons dried (culinary) english lavender
- INVALUABLE CANNING GEAR BASICS:
- Ball utensil set, including funnel, jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter and bubble removing knife
- Large pot and rack - just get a kit! You'll get the Ball utensil set, the pot and the rack
- Potato masher
- INSTRUCTIONS (JAM):
- Prep your lavender if you have dried sprigs from your garden or market. If you bought them already to go then obviously skip this step! Lavender is really easy to prep, it swipes off of the twigs and branches effortlessly. Tie 8 tablespoons up into a make-shift cheesecloth sack.
- Using a large dutch oven (or other heavy bottomed pot, jam easily burns!) use your potato masher to give those berries a good mash-up before bringing the strawberries, honey and cheesecloth lavender satchel to a boil. Some say to mash them on cookie sheets, I say naye - why make extra mess? I had just a fine time doing it straight in the pot. Simmer on high for a bout 20 minutes, stirring quite often. Since I used frozen berries from the summer, I had quite a bit of juice that had released, so need for water. If you're using fresh, or frozen from the store, you'll want to add a bit of water into the pot. Half an inch or so. Reduce heat to low after that 20 minutes and simmer for 1.5 hours, lid off. Longer than what you'd usually cook jam for yes, you're reducing a bit here. Thickening the strawberries up a little bit, naturally, before adding in the chia seeds.
- Stir in the chia seeds and the lemon juice! That's it! You'll notice the jam won't immediately thicken (hey, it's not THAT magical). It takes time for the chia seeds to do their thang, soaking up all the liquid and gelling everything up. I've also found that the jam is thicker when cold. I hot water bath canned them all immediately, and then left them on the counter for a few hours before putting them in the fridge overnight. My tester, the one we get to devour…was the perfect jam-like consistency the next day.
- INSTRUCTIONS (CANNING/PREPARING THE JARS):
- While the jam is cooking, sterilize your jars, lids and bands in boiling hot water. I do the jars in a traditional canning pot. Fill it with (3/4 full) water and bring to a boil. Do the lids in a smaller pot of boiling water. Lower and submerge your jars using the rack and boil those jars, lids and bands for a good 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave everything in that hot, sterile water until you are ready to lift them out and fill them up one at a time.
- When you're good and ready, take a jar out of the water using the jar lifter and shake out the excess water. Don't touch anything (especially the inside of the jar), you want things to remain sterile, right? Put the funnel through the top of the par and use your ladle to fill up the jar leaving a ¼ inch headspace at the top. Use the bubble removing knife to swipe all around the inside of the jar. Bye bye air. Wipe the rim with a clean wet cloth.
- Grab your magnetic lid lifter and take out one of your lids, shaking off the excess water. Set it on top of the jar and follow lead with a band, screwing it on gently. Firm enough to be closed, but not super tight.
- PRESERVE IT!
- Bring that big pot of water back up to a boil and place your filled jars of jam in the rack. (Not touching, I never put more than 8 pint ball or mason jars in it.) Slowly submerge the rack into the boiling water, making sure there is at least 3-4 inches water covered over the jars. Process those beauties in the boiling water for a good 10-13 minutes, no less.
- When your timer goes off, lift them out one by one using your jar lifter. Put them on a towel and walk away. Do not disturb! Sit back with a hot cup of tea or something fine to sip on and wait to hear one of the sweetest sounds in the world…that Pop! Pop! Pop! Of the lids sealing. If some of your jars didn't seal, (which doesn't typically happen if you followed all of the steps properly), pop them in the fridge and eat within 4 weeks. Remove the bands and wipe any reside away with a wet cloth to prevent mold/bacterial growth. Don't screw the bands on too tightly!
- Those suckers can be labelled and stored in a cool dark place for up to a year! Don't stack your jars if you've been on a real canning kick, you're liable to break the seal. Or you know, until the holidays - when you get to hit your shelves up for some homemade holiday gifts, nothing better!
I’ve read in some different canning forums that you’re supposed to remove the band as well as not stack your jars when storing them to stay away from the growth of mold and bacteria. I’ve never heard of this before and I grew up with watching my mom can and many other family members and family friends. Do you know anything about this? What’s your take on that?
NOTE: When I was first learning to can, I followed a tutorial online that didn’t explain there were certain foods that you can’t can this way. There are indeed certain foods that you simply cannot can with anything but a pressure cooker. Hello botulism if you don’t. A good rule of thumb to follow is this: low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats and fish should always be canned using a pressure canner. Read why here. High acid foods such as Fruits/Tomatoes (with bottled lemon juice)/Pickling (vinegar) can be water bath canned. Read more here.