This post is the first in a series of summer guest posts here on my site … I hope you enjoy the variety of topics and authors I’ve pulled together for this!
This first one is by Marisa McClellan, creator of the popular blog Food in Jars. Marisa is a food writer, canning teacher, and podcaster who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Her latest book is Naturally Sweet Food in Jars: 100 Preserves Made with Coconut, Maple, Honey, and More, all about canning with alternative sugars. She also co-hosts a home cooking podcast called Local Mouthful.
I’m delighted to be back again on 100 Days of Real Food. Four years ago, I dropped in to share my recipe for a tiny batch of honey-sweetened blueberry jam. Two years ago, I was here with a batch of honey-sweetened pepper jam (it’s a rustic, naturally sweetened take on the traditional pepper jelly).
Today, I’m here with a recipe for strawberry jam that’s sweetened with honey and set with Pomona’s Pectin (unlike other commercial pectins, it doesn’t rely on sugar content to create a set). This approach makes a full ten cups of jam and firms up beautifully, thanks to the all-natural thickening power that Pomona’s Pectin brings to the party.
This is also a recipe you can use all summer long with other berries. It works beautifully with blueberries, or a combination of your favorite summer fruit.
While there’s nothing wrong with making jam without added commercial pectin (and Lisa’s method for using grated apple is a really great one), there are times when one is willing to invest in a box of pectin if it means a shorter cooking time and the guarantee that it will set up firmly.
Pomona’s Pectin is a two-part product. When you open the box, you’ll find a small packet of calcium powder and a larger packet of pectin powder (made with dehydrated and finely ground citrus rinds). You mix some of the calcium powder with water to create a calcium solution, and combine it with the fruit and some of the sweetener at the beginning of cooking.
You reserve some of the sweetener you’re using for the jam and while the fruit cooks down, you stir the pectin into the reserved sweetener. When you first try to stir the pectin powder into a liquid sweetener like honey, it will seem impossible, but as you continue to gently mix, the honey will eventually combine with the pectin quite smoothly.
Once you like the consistency of the fruit (for me, this typically takes about 10 to 15 minutes of vigorous cooking), you slowly start adding the pectin-spiked honey. Scoop a little with your spatula or wooden spoon and stir it into the boiling fruit. Repeat that process until all the honey is incorporated. Then it’s simply a matter of boiling for another 5 minutes, until you see visible signs of thickening along the walls of the pot and the drips coming off your spoon.
Once the jam is finished cooking, skim the foam off the surface with a big spoon, and then funnel the finished product into hot jars. I like to use half pints because once open, honey-sweetened jams are more prone to getting moldy than sugar sweetened ones. Because of that, it’s a good idea to choose jars that your household can easily eat within a couple of weeks.
You wipe the rims, apply new, clean lids and rings, and process the jars in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Once the time is up, you remove the jars from the canner and let them seal on the counter.
Once the jars are sealed, you will have a generous amount of firmly set, honey-sweetened jam that you can feel good serving to your family.