Jam-bo-ree!

We turned these delicious peaches into 15 pints of jam!

This summer we turned these delicious peaches into 15 pints of jam!

We use a lot of jam. We use it on toast. We use it oatmeal. We use it to make pb&j sandwiches. Jam is a great way to flavor foods without getting all the sugar found in processed, industrialized foods.

Our decision a few years ago to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from our diet soon evolved into eliminating as much sugar (e.g. highly processed sugar) from our diet as well. Simply put- sugar is just not good for you. Now we keep three sweetening agents in our home: maple syrup, honey and Rapadura. Rapadura is a dried cane sugar. Think of it as unprocessed white sugar. Since it is not as processed, it retains many of the minerals naturally found in sugar cane. So, you are getting a sweetener plus a few other things, like potassium and iron, that are actually good for you. For a more detailed post on wholesome sweeteners, see here.

Most store-bought jams contain HFCS, large amounts of sugar and/or genetically modified fruits (among a host of other potential ingredients). Store-bought jams that have healthier ingredients are often much more expensive. So, in order to more easily afford a regular supply of jam with wholesome ingredients, we make our own at home using locally sourced, non-GMO fruits. To avoid the large amount of refined white sugar called for in most boxed jam recipes, like Sure-Jell, we use Pomona’s Pectin, which is a low sugar alternative. Pomona’s Pectin allow us to use roughly one fourth the amount of sweetener called for in most other brands. It also allows us to use a variety of sugar alternatives like honey or Rapadura. This makes the jam less sweet and allows the natural flavor of the fruit to shine! Most fruits are naturally quite sweet (if properly ripened before picking) and do not require a lot of sugar to make a delicious, flavorful jam.

Each summer and fall, we take family adventures to go pick (preferable) or purchase (let’s be realistic about the amount of fruit we need to make a year’s worth of jam for our family) fruit from local farms. This year you will find strawberry, blueberry, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry-strawberry and peach jam in our pantry. We are hoping to add raspberry jam to our stock pile as well. Right now, we have over twenty-five pints of jam to get us through till next picking season. Since we usually go through at least one pint of jam every other week, I am hoping to have at a least thirty pints of jam by the end of this year’s picking season.

If you have not made jam before, it is a very simple process. You will need a sweetener, fruit, and whatever type of boxed pectin (Sure-Jell, Pomona’s, etc.), you prefer. Certain fruits require lemon juice as well. All you do is follow the directions included in the package, which usually includes mashing the fruit, adding sweetener and pectin, heating up the fruit and sweetener/pectin mixture, filling up jars and then giving them a boiling water bath for about ten minutes. No fancy canner is required, just a large stock pot for the water bath. Once all the fruit is picked, it usually takes about an hour to whip up a batch of jam (6 pints or so).

Here are some ideas for ways to use jam:

  • Add to oatmeal
  • Use to make pb&j
  • Add a bit of water or maple syrup and warm for a fruit syrup for pancakes, waffles or french toast
  • Add jam to plain yogurt to flavor it (have you ever seen how much sugar is in store-bought flavored yogurt?!!!)
  • Add to quick bread recipes (muffins, etc.)
  • Use on toast or scones
  • Christmas or birthday presents

Jam making is a wonderful family activity with scrumptious results. Toddlers, preschoolers and kids of just about any age love to help pick (and eat) the fruit. We often bring along a picnic lunch and make a morning of picking fruit. It is a great way to show your children where their food comes from. Once it is time to start making the jam, kids really enjoy mashing up the fruit! Of course, once the jam is done, everyone savors the results! Happy jamming!

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Quick and Easy Homemade Fruit Tarts

When I was little, I loved helping my grandmother in her kitchen. Before we began baking she would always put on one of her floral print aprons. One time she even gave me my very own apron. It was just my size and on the front of it was a recipe for elephant stew, complete with a picture of an elephant. I was so proud of that apron and still have it today.

My grandmother was famous for her pies. All her grandkids loved her peanut butter pie the best, but she enjoyed making fruit pies more than any other type. Thinking back on it, I had no idea, at the time, how much effort she put into making those fruit pies. She usually handpicked (or bought from a farmer) the berries for each pie. Then, she made the sauce from scratch. I vividly remember the color of her blueberry pie sauce. Jet black. To this day I have no idea what she did to make that sauce such a rich, deep blue, but it was divine and brimming with blueberries.

Often, she would let me help her make the pies. Back then, I had little appreciation for pie-making. It was not making the pies I was most excited about, it was seeing what we would do with the extra pie crust. My grandmother, who grew up during the last few years of the depression, never let anything go to waste. She never threw away any extra pie crust. Instead she would always make something out of it. I was always fascinated to see what she would do with it. My favorite was when she would use the left-over crust to make homemade mini-cinnamon rolls. They were a perfect combination of crunchy and melt-in-your mouth goodness, and I often ate them by the dozens.

I continue to follow my grandmother’s tradition of never throwing away extra pie crust. Indeed, pie crust has many uses and one of my absolute favorite ways of using it is to make homemade fruit tarts. These tarts are a healthier version of the modern day pop tart. The pie crust is made with soaked grains and the filling is simply homemade jam made from last year’s berry harvest. I hope you enjoy it. Our family savors these and these tarts are wonderful reminder that one day soon berries will be in season once again.

Let’s first start with the dough. Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions (2001), strongly recommends soaking most grains to improve their digestibility and nutritional value. Here is our favorite pie crust recipe using soaked grains. This usually makes at least two to three pie crusts.

Soaked Pie Crust*

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt (I make my own. See here for recipe).
3 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp fine sea salt

Cream together butter and yogurt. Slowly add flour and salt until combined. Cover and leave on counter for 12-24 hours to soak. Then, either use the dough or divide into smaller increments and freeze.

When ready to use, roll out desired amount onto a floured surface. It usually takes 30 minutes or so to bake at 350 degrees.

Now, on to the fruit tarts!

Fruit Tarts

Pie crust dough, use leftovers or whatever amount of pie crust dough you’d like
Fruit jam, berries or whatever filling you would like

Roll out pie crust into a square or rectangular shape. Crust should be just as thin as if making a pie. Use a knife to cut crust into squares or rectangles. Then, fill one side with jam or desired filling.

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Fold one side over the next and seal edges closed. Cut a small line or tiny holes on the top crust.

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Then, place on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Bake on 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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*Recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions (2001) by Sally Fallon.

This post is shared on Real Food Wednesday and Tasty Traditions.