Saturday, May 26, 2012

No sugar added strawberry preserves

I often get asked if it’s possible to make a natural pectin strawberry jam with stevia or Splenda.    Unfortunately, the answer is no, because pectin needs sugar to set up properly.   There are some pectin products on the market that allow you to use non sugar sweeteners,  but  I wanted to try my hand at making something totally natural out of fruit for people that would prefer not to eat sugar.  
I really like the fruit products made by American Spoon, an “Up North” (as we call it in Michigan) purveyor of fine foods made of local fruits.   Last year, I made my own version of their Cherry Berry Spoon Fruit, which is a fruit juice sweetened spread – no sugar added.    I was eagerly awaiting strawberry season for this year, so I could try out the same technique with strawberries.  It was an all out success!

Strawberry season arrived early this week - we had a really mild winter and warm spring here in Michigan.  I picked up the first of the season berries this morning at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market for $4.50 a quart.  A quart of berries is about 1.5 lbs, and a pound of berries yields about 3 cups halved and hulled berries.   The beauty of this recipe is that it uses no added sugar - it's naturally sweetened with fruit juice.  

Strawberry Spoon Fruit
makes about 6 half pint jars

12 cups halved and hulled strawberries (purchase 4 qts)
10 tart apples (like Granny Smith) peeled, cored and chopped small
2 cans (12 oz) frozen apple juice concentrate

Heat all ingredients in a preserving pot (I like to use my cast iron enamel dutch oven) stirring often until the fruit has thickened considerably.   It will foam up during the process, so make sure to use a deep enough pot.  

The foam will dissipate eventually and the mixture will thicken until it mounds up on a spoon. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. The result is a fruit preserve perfect for those that are trying to limit their sugar intake.   It's a bit tangier than strawberry jam, and a little looser set than jam or jelly, but I actually prefer it to jam.  The strawberry taste is much more pronounced than in jam.   Enjoy!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Canning Forecast

I was looking through the remains of my pantry to see what I still have remaining.    Only 2 jars left of my McClure's style pickles my way.    Anytime I open a jar of these pickles, they go fast.   I will need to make more this year, and I made a ton of them last year.  I want to say that I made at least a dozen quarts.This year, I need to keep better track of the quantities I make.    I have lots of strawberry jam left, largely because I demoed it at both the Chelsea and the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, and I made some grape jam and cherry berry spoon fruit so the jam eaters of the house (largely the menfolk) had more jars to eat than usual.   There's also 6 jars left of my most famous canning recipe of all, Salsa #5, but I expect we'll be done with them all by the time August hits (high salsa canning season).   From an old blog post, it appears I made 24 pints and a few stray quarts last year.   I have only one jar left of  pickled Brussels sprouts that I am saving for the Downtown Home and Garden pickle contest this year. One thing I didn't make last year, but wish I did, was corn relish.  I missed that this past winter. 

I decided to crack open a jar of strawberry jam myself this morning to sample my own wares.  This jar could have won the Michigan State Fair blue ribbon if we still had a Michigan State Fair.  The oldest state fair in the country, it ended its run in 2010.   This jar had tons of fruit evenly suspended in a matrix of not too sweet jam, and there were no air bubbles or foam.  It still has a very true berry taste, and smells of a quart of freshly picked berries.  This year, I expect our berries to be here early....maybe by Memorial Day, which would be unusual.   I better start eating more jam.