sugar free jam

The Nostalgic Pull of Homemade Jam & A Sugar-Free Recipe

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When I think of a food indulgence, I immediately think of thick sliced bread slathered in fruity homemade strawberry jam or else buttermilk scones smothered with lashings of jam and cream on a lazy afternoon. There is something deeply decadent about real ‘proper’ jam with its deep rich flavour, but also something incredibly nostalgic.

For me, jam conjures up comforting memories of childhood and blissful summer days, whether it’s a spoonful of jam spread on a scone, jam sandwiches, or sticky fingers and the sweet smell of this fabulous preserve.

While jam can seem quite mundane, after all it’s one of those pantry staples, its origins date back much further than you think, with links to ancient methods of preserving food. Jam has been enjoyed by Ancient Greeks, through to soldiers in the Napoleonic war, and was heralded a food champion in the Second World War. Indeed the history of jam is a long and interesting one, but I’m hear to share my love of  a sugar-free version I’ve created.

 

Sugar-Free Jam for Good

 

My philosophy has always been that a bit of what you fancy does you good, so my only jam plan has been to reduce my refined sugar intake, not cut it out altogether. I love nothing more than a slathering of jam on my toast for breakfast, so making a refined sugar-free version seemed an ideal starting point, though as a purist and great advocator of traditional methods, it was a monumental step.

Like it or lump it, the Western diet is now very high in sugar, which includes in our jam, and too much sugar carries some health risks. On top of that, scientists from the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and Unilever in the UK have discovered that for every 1mm/litre increase in blood sugar, the perceived age of that person rose by five months.  I admit, the incentive of looking twenty years younger was a big lure, but my reason for l reducing sugar was that refined sugar robs us of energy. With six children in tow and a growing menagerie, I need all the energy I can muster! 

When developing recipes for jam that did not include cane sugar, a few issues popped up and took a little bit of experimentation to get my desired results. 

The food safety of the sugar-free jam was never an issue because it’s not the sugar in jams that makes a recipe safe, it’s the acid level. Here, the acid level is high enough to keep the sealed jar contents safe and unspoiled. But i’ll be honest, the jam is not going to win any beauty contests. Lacking that sugar-filled glossy lustre that traditional recipe jams have, sugar-free jam is duller in appearance.

I also found that sugar-free jams can discolour and become brownish over time. Unlike traditional jams, sugar-free version only keep for two months in the fridge (unopened). Once opened they last about a week in the fridge before turning mouldy. However, when it comes to taste I have been pleasantly surprised and, to be frank, rather delighted. 

The thing to remember with sugar-free jams is that what you put into it is exactly what you’re going get out of it, which s why I preach the use of the best, sweetest, and most perfectly ripe fruit you can find since there will be no added sugar to mask the tartness. The taste of the ingredients you add to the jam pan will be what you are tasting in finished jars of jam. 

Below is my recipe for Pear & Lemon Jam with no added sugar. If you’d like additional recipes for refined sugar-free strawberry jam of blueberry heaven, write to me.

While I cannot promise that I will be exclusively making sugar-free jam from now on, I have certainly enjoyed being able to serve up a healthier option to my family at breakfast and the results have been tastier than I ever expected.

 

Sugar free jam

Always choose fresh and perfectly ripe fruit for your sugar-free jam (Photo by By Sayantan Sarkar, own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Top Tip:  when making jams that rely on arrowroot powder for thickening, you must allow for the fact that the jam will thicken further upon cooling. If the finished jam is too thick or gloopy then you can return it to the jam pan and add some water before reheating and this will often resolve the problem.

No-Added-Sugar Pear & Lemon Jam

INGREDIENTS

4 llbs. pears, peeled, cored

2 lemons

59 ml (2 fl. Oz) white grape juice 

3 teaspoons pectin powder (for jam making)

METHOD

Take the peeled pears and quarter them. Cut each quarter of pear in half. Place the pear pieces into a saucepan and cook (covered) with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan for 10-12 minutes, until soft. 

Cool the softened pears and then blend with a food processor, hand blender or good old fashioned potato masher if nothing else is to hand.  Set the pear puree aside. 

Finely slice one lemon, after removing the pithy core, to do this cut the lemon in half along the stem line and remove the pithy centre, turn each lemon half over, and slice it finely. Place the lemon slices into a small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer for ten minutes. 

In a large saucepan add the water which the lemons simmered in to the pear puree and add the squeezed juice of the remaining lemon to the mixture. Bring the pear mixture to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring regularly to prevent sticking or burning. 

As the pears and lemon juice are simmering, blitz the lemon slices in a food processor. Add the lemon pulp to the simmering pears and stir well. 

When the pear mixture is a soft smooth consistency remove it from the heat and add the white grape juice stirring well. 

Bring the pear mixture back to a boil and quickly stir in the pectin solution. Cook the jam, stirring constantly, for exactly 1 minute. Bring it back to a boil and remove it from the heat.

Pour the jam into sterilised jars, wiping the rims clean before adding lids. 

This jam will keep for 8-10 weeks in the fridge and it is delicious in its own right, but best spread on thick toast or scones.

Sugar free jam

Spread your jam on toast, scones or any other favourite bread or biscuit (photo by Benson Kua ,CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Author bio: Seren Charrington-Hollins

Read more travel and food inspiration at BeSeeingYou

Seren Charrington-Hollins
Introducing Seren Charrington-Hollins Seren runs a bistro and cafe bar in Mid Wales, but she is not your run of the mill caterer or restaurateur, instead she is a mother of six and an internationally recognised food historian that has created banquets and historical dinner parties for private clients and television. Her work has been featured on the BBC and ITV and she has appeared in BBC4’s Castle’s Under Siege, BBC South Ration Book Britain; Pubs that Built Britain with The Hairy Bikers and BBC 2’s Inside the Factory, Channel 4’s series Food Unwrapped, Country Files Autumn Diaries,  BBC 2’S The World’s Most Amazing Hotels and Channel 4, Food unwrapped.  She is the author of The Dark History of Tea and Revolting Recipes from History. Her work has also been featured in The Guardian, The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail and The Telegraph.

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