With strawberry season in full force, don’t forget to eat as much of it fresh as you can! When you eat local produce in-season, you get the best of the best, the most nutrition and vitamins you can get, so take advantage of it and eat to your heart’s content!
In the good old days, people were cultivating their own food, and so when vegetables and fruits were in season, they not only had to eat a lot, they also had to find ways to conserve some for a year, until the next season, and make sure they had enough nutritious food to last the winter. A few of those ways are to make preserves, jellies and jams. What really surprised me is how little I needed to make a decent quantity of preserves/jams! It’s also very quick, only about 45 minutes from beginning to end, including 25-30 minutes of cooking.
I decided to make 2 kinds, one that is a jam, thicker and less chunks, and the other a preserve, more liquid, syrup and chunks. Both equally delicious, but can be used differently. The preserves are really amazing in the winter to make quick and easy desserts, snacks, etc. The jams can be used on toasts, or in muffins or cookies.
Because I try to keep my recipes as simple and natural as possible, using real ingredients, I’ve decided to make them without added gelatin or pectin (other than the one naturally found in the strawberries of course!). Plus, I wanted this jam and preserves to be completely vegan. As you may or may not know, most commercial gelatin (used in puddings, Jell-O, jams, yogurt, candies like gummy bears, etc.) is an animal protein, made with animal bones/carcasses, and not only does that sound gross but it is also dangerous because it can carry bacteria like e.coli or salmonella. I’ve even heard about gelatin being processed in China, which has different rules and regulations, so the point is that I’d rather not eat any of it and simply use whole organic ingredients. So, I’ve used Chia seeds, because of their amazing gelatinous content when mixed in water. Basically, the difference is how much you use and if you grind them or not (in a coffee grinder).
I also used maple syrup only in the jam recipe and a small quantity of whole sugar (sucanat) in the preserves recipe. No white sugar of any kind! They are both really delicious.
Strawberry and rhubarb preserves and jams (makes approx. 8 x 250ml jars)
- 5 pints local, organic strawberries, stems removed, cut in quarters
- 3 cups of diced local, organic rhubarb (washed and peeled)
- 1/4 cup organic whole sugar (sucanat) [optional]
- 1/2 cup medium grade organic maple syrup
- 3 Tbsp organic whole chia seeds, grinded in coffee grinder (if you don’t have a coffee grinder, add them whole, but add 1 extra Tbsp)
(if you want to make jam – i.e. thicker, less syrupy – use 5 Tbsp grinded chia seeds instead of 3)
Simply put everything in a large pot over medium heat, mix, cover and bring to a boil. Then lower temperature to low, cover and wait 10 minutes. Use a potato masher or a large fork and mash everything. You do want some chunks left but no big pieces. Cover and let simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat.
In the meantime, get your pre-cleaned mason jars ready. Bring a very large pot of water (and the jars and lids) to a boil, let it boil for 3-5 minutes. When the preserve mixture is ready, carefully remove the hot jars and lids from the boiling water. If you do not have special tongs for canning (like me), use regular cooking tongs and a perforated spatula to do the job. BE CAREFUL, it’ll be really hot!!! You want to remove the jars empty (leave the hot water in the pot). Then using a small ladle, fill up the mason jars, but not all the way to the top, you want to leave a bit of room. Then place the lids on top and tighten as much as you can without forcing too much. Put the jars back in the boiling water (you may need to remove some water). Make sure you have water covering all jars, by an inch or so of water. Keep boiling for 5 minutes. Then, carefully remove the jars from the water and wait to hear a little “pop” from each jar. That sound means that it’s sealed and air-tight, ready to cool down for several hours and be stored away for later use! 🙂