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!

Coconut Blondies!

Delicious coconut blondies, featuring both coconut oil and coconut flakes! Yum!

Delicious coconut blondies, featuring both coconut oil and coconut flakes! Yum!

Coconut blondies are one of our family’s ultimate quick and easy desserts! We hope you enjoy them!

Ingredients

  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2/3 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 2 c. Rapadura
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or carob chips, divided
  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes (more or less to taste)

Directions

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate large bowl, mix together the coconut oil and Rapadura (it should have a sand-like consistency). Then, in another small bowl, mix together the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture to the coconut oil and Rapadura mixture. Thoroughly mix. Slowly add the flour mixture to the coconut oil mixture just until blended. Pour into the 9×13 inch dish and smooth it out until it is an even layer. Sprinkle 3/4 c. of the chocolate chips on top of the batter. Then, sprinkle 1 c. of coconut flakes on top of the chocolate chips, creating an even layer of coconut flakes (add more or less as desired). Finally, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c. of the chocolate chips on the top of the coconut flakes. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until done (knife inserted into the middle comes out clean). Enjoy!