Category: dip/salsa/spread

Snack time with Milton’s! A delicious ricotta dip… and a giveaway!

*****COMMENTS CLOSED! 1/25/13*****

*The winner is… EILEEN! Comment #21*

Eileen- Milton's Cracker winner!

 -Thanks to everyone who entered! -

***********************

Yep. Today I’m going to be giving away a TON of crackers from Milton’s Craft Bakers, but first, I’m going to give you an easy recipe idea. A really, really easy dip recipe for any party, football game- or even just for movie night!

Baked ricotta dip with mozzarella, garlic, olive oil & basil. Goes great with Milton's Craft Bakers gourmet crackers!

I love dip. I love any kind of dip; hot, cold, room temperature, cheese, onion, vegetable, sweet, salty, creamy, tangy, savory, etc. And I love any kind of vehicle to eat aforementioned dip. I’m a snack person. I can make a meal out of snack foods. But crackers? I looooove crackers. I love crackers with 5 o’s, that’s how much I love them. I eat crackers plain. I eat ‘em with cheese. I eat ‘em with dip… and this hot baked ricotta dip is just the thing.

It’s easy to make, bakes up quick and you can make it in as large or small a batch as you need!

Baked ricotta dip & Milton's gourmet crackers. (click for recipe)

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Saying goodbye to summer with tomato jam.

Wow. Hey there, end of summer.

You snuck up on me, as you usually do. But this time I feel like I really haven’t been expecting you at all. By this time in years’ past I have already thought about you once or twice, usually around my birthday. I have perhaps even dwelled upon you, sadly, as I acknowledge the days already getting a smidgen shorter, & the cicadas song plays the finale. But this year? You got me good. Suddenly, it’s the unofficial end of summer: Labor Day.

A delicious tomato jam; try it with goat cheese on toasted bread for a different spin on bruschetta!

I feel like I haven’t made a whole lot of things I wanted to this summer. Having a blog makes you a bit crazy, see. I wanted to make all these awesome things over the summer & then blog about them. I wanted to take some tomato canning classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen. I had big plans for recipes- Miemo’s mama’s eggrolls, paella. Things like that. Things that were new to me (kitchen-wise), things that I never made before. I did make one-pan pasta & homemade butter, though, both of which are things I’d never done. But the other, more complicated things? Nope. I got caught up in the enjoyment of summer… the corn on the cob, the cookouts, the lazy sticky days & humid starry nights roasting marshmallows, drinking frozen alcoholic drinks, the soaking in of the sun, eating fresh fish after a day at the beach, the making of pickles & jams, the cutting of herbs, the inhaling of said herbs (frequently heard around here: “OH MY GOD that fresh basil/cilantro/oregano/rosemary smells AMAZING!”). Then I was tricked by the unseasonably cool weather (not a day over 90 degrees in August) & I was lulled into having the windows open with cool air blowing in. But I still forgot all about the end of summer. Basically, I got distracted living life.

There are worse things.

Stepping away from the internet is a good thing. Anyway… I got distracted & forgot that summer was about to end. Summer is weird that way; it starts to end the minute it begins and before you know it you’re catching up, trying to squeeze in the last bits of it any way you can. Now, suddenly, it’s tomato time.

Fresh grape tomatoes... about to be turned into tomato jam.

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I can’t believe it’s… butter.

Julia Child might be my spirit animal. The mere fact that she once said, “if you’re afraid of butter, use cream” is enough for me. Not to mention the myriad of other amazingly awesome things about her, she was a butter lover. I’m a butter lover too. I love butter like there’s no tomorrow. I love olive oil, don’t get me wrong. Big hunks of crusty bread dipped in a high quality olive oil is as close to heaven as it gets. But butter! There’s NOTHING like butter. And I find I can never have too much of it around. So I decided to try my hand at making my own, & it’s deceptively simple.

Like making homemade bread, making homemade butter has a kind of impressive nature. It practically screams either “AMISH!” or “HOMESTEADER!” Which I assure you I am neither; as best evidenced by my extreme lack of any religion, my nose ring & my obsession for going out to eat & looking in mirrors.

Quick & simple homemade butter. Made in a stand mixer using just heavy cream (40-60% butterfat) & salt.

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My bloody valentine.

Listen, I know I’ve been overloading you with cutesy, Valentine-y stuff lately. I know that. I don’t really care if you like it or not, though, sorry to say. Because I love it. I actually get more pissed at the people who bitch constantly about how much they hate Valentine’s Day than I do about seeing the hearts & candies in the stores starting on New Years Eve. If it really bothers you so much, pretend it doesn’t exist. Go celebrate something else like Chinese New Year or Mardi Gras & stop complaining. Just ignore it. Football bothers me- but I understand there’s some kind of sick obsession with it in this country so I just ignore it. Which is hard, because it’s everywhere, but I manage. If you like it, then good for you. I just don’t, so I spend my winter Sunday’s baking, cooking, blasting punk rock music or watching things like Inglorious Basterds instead of watching grown men in tight pants tackle one another in hopes of not becoming the next paraplegic on the news. I spent Super Bowl Sunday shopping, then eating homemade nachos supreme & watching Downton Abbey. Now, I don’t tell everyone else not to watch it. I don’t constantly spout off about how awful & boring I find it all day, every day. I just get on with my life. Just like the Valentine’s Day haters should do.

However… I do understand that if there was a blog that I read fairly regularly that posted non-stop football crap for a month I’d be tired of it & maybe a little bit turned off.

So today I’m here to make amends. I’m posting something that’s still appropriate, but yet not quite as overtly dyed-pink & cheerful & cheeky as heart cupcakes or rose tarts: blood orange curd. There’s a special place in my heart for blood oranges.

And I’ll tell you why: Blood oranges are like the citrus family’s dark secret; like the black sheep cousin of the Navel orange, you know the one… who hangs out in a dark room, smokes cloves & listens to death metal.

And that’s sorta something I relate to. Not that I’m a black sheep per se, not within my family so much. Yeah, I’m different… but I was always accepted & appreciated. However when you’re the Agnostic punk rock short-haired bleached blonde Catholic school girl who tells your Theology teacher (a nun) that you’re pro-euthanasia & don’t quite understand why women can’t be priests, there is some level of that, somewhere. In my uniform I (sorta) looked like anyone else in school… until after school, or until you looked closely and saw the Sharpie-written lyrics on my blazer, my spike collars and dog collars, safety pins in my ears, my too-many-earrings-according-to-the-student-handbook and numerous band patches & pins on my backpack. And so I relate to that metaphor, and the blood orange. It’s sinister bloody-colored inside is almost concealed by the bright orange skin, it almost tricks you into thinking it’s just like any other orange. Maybe one that’s a bit overripe? And then you slice it- BAM! Deep, dark red flesh and a juice to match. There’s a reason they use a blood orange (not a regular orange) in the opening sequence of Dexter.

They’re right up my alley, truthfully.

And they’re also perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Conveniently, they’re in season right now. And if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a few, well then you better make good use of them. They make beautiful marmalades, gorgeous cupcakes, they’re beautiful when candied. And of course, when made into a curd, it’s a lovely pink color… which is perfect for a Valentine’s Day breakfast. It elevates your average toast to something spectacular. (heart shaped toast or English muffins not required!)

Or use it for dessert. When used as a topping for vanilla or chocolate ice cream- or even yogurt, it’s amazing. Another idea? Make it into a tart. Or using an ice cream maker, swirl it into plain homemade frozen yogurt for blood orange yogurt. It makes an amazing cake or cupcake filling too.

When you’re picking the oranges, be sure to pick ones that aren’t bright orange. The outside color is usually indicative of the color of the flesh & juice, so pick one that has a darker flesh, or even a mottled orangey-red flesh. That way you’re assured a deep burgundy flesh, and juice, and therefore a bright pinky red curd. My oranges were Moro, so they actually have a darker flesh & stronger flavor anyway, but I picked middle of the range ones that weren’t too dark, but weren’t too light. Actually the outer skin of all of mine were bright orange on one side, and a deep red on the other. I could’ve gotten ones that were so dark maroon on the outside they looked almost alien. In retrospect, I should have!

The thing that’s great about this recipe is that it doesn’t use so many egg yolks that you end up with an orange-colored curd. Orange colored curd is great, if it’s plain orange curd. But blood orange curd calls for a reddish color, doesn’t it? At the very least, a pretty rosy pink, like mine. But if you choose darker oranges you can really achieve a really bright pinkish red curd.

Also… listen up. Curd is a terrible word. Let’s be honest. Everyone hates it, from chefs to home cooks to pastry chefs to bloggers. It’s horrible to say, it rhymes with turd and it turns people off completely from trying it. Although, in Southern America they call lemon curd “lemon cheese”… and as far as I’m concerned that’s not much better than curd. But I hope that doesn’t put you off from trying it. It really is something else. But here’s the deal: curd isn’t disgusting. I swear. It’s basically similar to a lemon meringue pie filling, or in this case substitute blood orange for lemon. It’s like a creamy, citrus custard. Like a citrus pudding, kind of.

BLOOD ORANGE CURD (adapted from Local Kitchen who adapted it from Rose Levy Beranbaum)

Makes slightly over 1 cup (8 oz.), it can be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium to large blood oranges, scrubbed clean and dried
  • 1 large egg and one large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • a pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Zest enough of the oranges so you end up with roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons of finely grated zest. Set aside in a medium bowl.
  2. Juice the blood oranges, making sure to get every last bit out of them! Strain the juice to get out any pulpy bits or miscellaneous sneaky seeds. In a medium saucepan, over low heat, reduce the juice to 1/2 cup and set aside to cool in a measuring cup. Be sure to stir often while it’s reducing to avoid scorching.
  3. Rinse out the saucepan and place the sugar, eggs and salt in it. Whisk them together. Add the butter and slowly whisk in the reduced orange juice.
  4. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes together and is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (roughly 15-20 minutes for me).
  5. Once thickened, strain the curd into the bowl with the zest in it. Then stir the zest into the curd to incorporate. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the curd into a clean jar. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Here’s a secret: if ALL you’ve got is a 1/2 cup of blood orange juice, you can just use that without the reduction. It’ll still work. It won’t be as concentrated, and the color probably won’t be as amazing… but the basic product will be successful. And best of all? EDIBLE! And some people don’t like zest in their curd. I know this, but the point of the zest is to impart even more flavor & the scent of the fruit to the curd. However if you’re one of those people, I’d add the zest into the mixture while it’s cooking then strain it out. That’s a matter of personal preference, of course.

Some people have trouble with curd. I never have- it’s always come together relatively quickly & easily for me, regardless of  whatever the recipe, or whatever source it’s from. If you have trouble, and it fails, rest assured you are not the first & will not be the last. But also don’t give up! If it scorches or it doesn’t thicken, etc, these are all just steps on a ladder. Learning the way. I know it sucks to waste materials, especially if blood oranges are really hard to find near you. But you’ll get it, I promise. Maybe try it out first with a plain lemon curd; those are cheaper and easier to find.

The recipe above made one cup, or 8 ounces, of curd. You might want to double it if you’re thinking of using it for a cake filling or a large tart filling. But I find one jar is perfect for a slow, sweet, laid-back breakfast.

Enjoy your Valentine’s morning with a little burst of pink sunshine, for you & your bloody valentine. (hey! that rhymed!)

A four-day weekend: it’s like buttah.

So this is what I do two days after Thanksgiving: I make maple-pumpkin butter. Thanks Marisa.

;

It’s been a maple-y kinda holiday for me I guess, between these little things & this sauce, and now this recipe. But when you’ve got a lot of delicious, quality maple syrup and you’re taunted with amazing recipes and you’ve got all this pumpkin…! I can’t really resist. Plus, this time of year is when there’s more pumpkin than you can ever eat at once- whether it’s canned pumpkin, or it’s whole pumpkins. So why not make something like this that’s freezable. That way you can enjoy a little taste of fall in the winter, or even spring.

If it lasts that long.

Are you Americans enjoying your 4-day weekend (if you get one, unlike Jay)? Did you have any “projects” this weekend, like my pumpkin butter?

Bloody Sunday.

In no way do I mean to make light of the actual Bloody Sunday (or the many others) by using it as a title. And in no way is this blog post about violence. It’s just that this is blood orange marmalade, I opened a jar of it on a Sunday, I’m posting it on a Sunday… and it made me think of the U2 song.

Well, I guess it’s kinda about violence- against blood oranges.

But there are many references one can use when making something out of blood oranges. The TV show True Blood, for one. You see, the Tru Beverage drink that HBO sells is a blood orange-flavored soda (of course it is!) so every time I use blood oranges I do think of these cupcakes I made. And Dexter, too. Blood oranges & Dexter definitely go together; think of the opening credits. Have I mentioned my crush on Dexter Morgan yet? Anyway… moving on. All those things are reminiscent of blood oranges, yes, but when you crack open a jar of blood orange marmalade & use it on a Sunday, it makes you think of the chorus from Sunday, Bloody Sunday, despite the serious subject matter it’s really about.

So yeah. Blood oranges. Blood oranges are delicious, and beautiful. Way prettier than regular oranges (sorry, dudes). If you’ve never seen one cut open, Google some pictures of blood oranges… you’ll see what I mean.

Gorgeous, right? And who wouldn’t wanna see a jar of this in their cupboard. It’s fantastical & intriguing, makes you want to taste it. I made a small batch, obviously, because I can’t possibly store or eat 16 more jars of marmalade, plus the fact that blood oranges here are pretty rare & fleeting. So if you can get your hands on 3 or 4 large, nice ones… consider yourself lucky. I had three pretty massive ones and that gave me almost 20 ounces of marmalade total (two 8-oz. jars and it didn’t quite entirely fill one 4-oz. jar). I used the same formula that I always use to make marmalade, and it worked pretty well for me (with the subtraction of using any rind in it and the addition of a bit of Certo pectin). If you’re anti-using commercial pectin in your blood orange marmalade, then you can use one lemon in it and keep the rinds in a small muslin bag during the soaking & boiling processes. That’ll add extra natural pectin without clouding the pretty color of the marmalade with the rind. I usually keep the rind in my marmalade but for this I thought it was too pretty to leave any in. If you’re like me, and would prefer to leave the rind out of the finished product, you can always use the rind to make candied blood orange rind, which is an awesome homemade candy idea. Waste not, want not.

This is amazing marmalade. The flavor of the blood orange is so present- not clouded by bitterness, stringy pith or too much sugar. Just pure blood orange. Just perfect.

Perfect. Something I am not. Something I am far from being. I know, I know, nobody’s perfect. Well, if you read food blogs (or fashion blogs, or any blogs I guess), you’ll be convinced of just the opposite. Perfect plates of perfectly prepared & perfectly plated food, perfectly photographed with perfect high-tech DSLR cameras in perfect lighting, photographed on perfect, neat counters or tables with just the right “ambience”; an expensive knife positioned just so, a cloth napkin folded just so, etc. And that may make you think, “Why doesn’t my jam/cupcake/roast chicken/homemade bread look like that?” I know that because I’ve thought it myself.

It’s bullshit, really. Because real life isn’t an issue of Bon Appétit or Saveur. I have no desire to impress you with my great photography skills or my awesome kitchen lighting. I live in a real house, with real lights and real counters and most of all- I do not have a $4,000 dollar camera with a light box & a huge set up just to get that perfect (there’s that word again) picture of a crumb cake. Truthfully? I use my iPhone ever since my camera broke. Yup. Just my iPhone in it’s little leopard J. Crew case. I e-mail the photos to myself, edit the pictures a bit in Photoshop a bit, and then I upload ‘em. But other than that, nope. Nothing fancy. What you see is what I see. No trickery, no optimizing, no fancy lights, no nothing. I have pets trying to jump on the table while I take photos, sometimes hungry people telling me to hurry up, and phones ringing. Sometimes I’m distracted by what’s on TV or by the music I’m playing. If it’s sunny out, you’ll see it reflected in the photo. If it’s dark, then you’ll be able to tell. My photos might have a golden cast from my artificial non-photographer approved kitchen light. Would I like a good camera? Sure. Maybe I’ll get one (not just for food photography, mind you) at some point. But honesty is why I’m here, and realness. And I’m always real with you- about my failures, my successes, my victories and my “wow, this sucks” moments. I’m here to show that ANYONE can do this. So to me, the idea of having a camera most people can’t afford so my cupcake photos look amazing, a light box set up at all times just so it’s all ready to catch just the right amount of steam coming off my soup or worse: a kitchen with lighting designed solely for the purpose of food photography… is obscene.

Everyone who has a food blog knows that chocolate NEVER photographs that well! It has a tendency to look… poo-ish?

Look, I am not Ree Drummond. I am not Rachael Ray. I am not on the Food Network. I do not have a chef’s kitchen with a Viking range. I’m a real person, with a real life, and a real-person’s kitchen. And I started this blog when people asked me to, to explain how I made homemade cupcakes so “easily”, on the premise that I’d be showing other real people how they can create these things, and that it isn’t as hard as they think it is. I didn’t start it with the idea that I would make people feel inadequate, or less than perfect, or that I would make so much money off of it that I could retire at 30. That isn’t why I’m here. So even if I get that camera, or even if I re-do my kitchen… I promise I’ll still have a stack of bills behind my jars of jam, you’ll recognize my plates from Ikea or that you’ll see my Christmas candles behind my cupcakes. I’ll never be perfect & my recipes will never be unattainably, crazily unreachable.

So just remember the next time you see a photo of something on a blog (even if it is mine!) & it makes you feel less awesome: real life isn’t staged. You’re no less awesome than you were before, & I guarantee you a DSLR & good lighting does not an awesome person make.

But in my opinion reading my blog does an awesome person make. And all of you awesome people make my plain lil ol’ boring blog worth it.

Oh honey, low sugar, sugar…

I hope that all you lovebirds had a nice Valentine’s Day. I did. I mentioned last week on Facebook that after my hand mixer died, Jay got me an even better, more awesomer kick-ass KitchenAid model for V-Day! Well its pretty dope; I can’t wait to use it. But that day I got a surprise delivery of some gorgeous red roses/white lilies with chocolates in a beautiful set of fancy boxes, too. I hope you all got equally kick-ass gifts. But more importantly, I hope you don’t need a specific day to show/tell someone you love them or buy them nice things, but I digress. Today’s recipe: low-sugar strawberry jam, made with just one half cup of real sugar. How sweet… or half sweet? Semi sweet? Warning: this is going to be a long post, full of information. But if you’re diabetic/know someone who is, if you’re interested in low-sugar canning or if you’re just interested in natural sugar substitutes in general, then read on. Even if you’re interested in making any kind of jam or jelly using a low-sugar pectin… then this post is for you!

A long, long time ago, back in early April of 2011, I received an e-mail from the folks at Xylitol USA asking me if I’d like to try baking with Xylitol. I had heard of it vaguely, but I didn’t know much about it. It intrigued me, so I said yes, I was very interested. I had forgotten all about it, and ironically, the day my uncle Pat was buried, I came home to find a box on my front steps. That box was the Xylitol delivery..The odd thing about that is that my uncle had diabetes for 40 years, and had lost his eyesight and was on dialysis for 12 years because of it. So to receive a diabetic-safe sugar substitute on the day I had to say goodbye to him was a strange little sign to me. So, Uncle Pat, you aren’t able to take part in this little experiment with me, but I know you probably got a kick out of the coincidence of all of it and you’re somewhere eating ALL the sugar-packed desserts & carbs you want without a care.

(Side note: this is why people talking shit about Paula Deen & her diabetes piss me off. Stop saying people deserve a disease- no matter what the reasoning, no matter what the disease- it’s hurtful, ignorant & insulting. And if you say it in front of me, I’ll knock your teeth out. Especially as someone whose lost an uncle & grandfather no thanks to diabetes & has a mother who is a breast cancer survivor. If you have an issue with her pushing a drug, that’s a different debate. But nobody deserves a disease this debilitating & potentially life-threatening, no matter what they do. And yes, it is indeed a life-threatening disease. It can be managed, but ultimately diabetes most likely will take your life. And honestly, if you don’t like her or her recipes, fine… then don’t watch her show & mind your own goddamn business.)

Okay now that I got that off my chest: back to Xylitol. Xylitol is actually really interesting.

Xylitol (from Greek ξύλον – xyl[on], “wood” + suffix -itol, used to denote sugar alcohols; pronounced /ˈzaɪlɪtɒl/) is a sugar alcohol sweetener used as a naturally occurring sugar substitute. It is found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including various berries, corn husks, oats, and mushrooms.[2] It can be extracted from corn fiber,[3] birch, raspberries, plums, and corn. Xylitol is roughly as sweet as sucrose with only two-thirds the food energy.

Xylitol was discovered almost simultaneously by German and French chemists in the late 19th century, and was first popularized in Europe as a safe sweetener for people with diabetes that would not impact insulin levels.[6] Its dental significance was researched in Finland in the early 1970s, when scientists at Turku University showed it had significant dental benefits.[6] Today, using hardwood or maize sources, the largest manufacturer globally is the Danish company Danisco, with several other suppliers from China.[7] Xylitol is produced by hydrogenation of xylose, which converts the sugar (an aldehyde) into a primary alcohol.

And for my purposes today, Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute for diabetics…

Diabetes mellitus, often simply referred to as diabetes—is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. This high blood sugar produces the classical symptoms of polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst) and polyphagia (increased hunger).

There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes: results from the body’s failure to produce insulin, and presently requires the person to inject insulin. (Also referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, IDDM for short, and juvenile diabetes.)
  • Type 2 diabetes: results from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency. (Formerly referred to as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, NIDDM for short, and adult-onset diabetes.)
  • Gestational diabetes: is when pregnant women, who have never had diabetes before, have a high blood glucose level during pregnancy. It may precede development of type 2 DM.

Other forms of diabetes mellitus include congenital diabetes, which is due to genetic defects of insulin secretion, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, steroid diabetes induced by high doses of glucocorticoids, and several forms of monogenic diabetes.

All forms of diabetes have been treatable since insulin became available in 1921, and type 2 diabetes may be controlled with medications. Both type 1 and 2 are chronic conditions that usually cannot be cured. Pancreas transplants have been tried with limited success in type 1 DM; gastric bypass surgery has been successful in many with morbid obesity and type 2 DM. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after delivery. Diabetes without proper treatments can cause many complications. Acute complications include hypoglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, or nonketotic hyperosmolar coma. Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease, chronic renal failure, retinal damage. Adequate treatment of diabetes is thus important, as well as blood pressure control and lifestyle factors such as smoking cessation and maintaining a healthy body weight.

As of 2000 at least 171 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, or 2.8% of the population.[2] Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common, affecting 90 to 95% of the U.S. diabetes population.[3]

The box, in addition to having a 1lb bag of Xylitol, also included a cookbook filled with recipes for cheesecakes & buttercreams and muffins and cookies! Xylitol is perfect for using in making baked goods or even jams & jellies for diabetics:

Possessing approximately 40% less food energy,[23] xylitol is a low-calorie alternative to table sugar. Absorbed more slowly than sugar, it does not contribute to high blood sugar levels or the resulting hyperglycemia caused by insufficient insulin response. This characteristic has also proven beneficial for people suffering from metabolic syndrome, a common disorder that includes insulin resistance, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and an increased risk for blood clots.

So pretty much, as excited as I was to try it, after my uncle died my spring/summer was a landslide of drama & the Xylitol got pushed to the back of the pantry. Besides- he was the person I was curious about the Xylitol because of, and he wasn’t here to try any of my experiments with it anymore. Then my grandma passed away, and it was further forgotten. Until recently. Recently, Jay asked me to make some jam for his grandma, who’s diabetic. I said sure, but I didn’t want to make her a full-sugar jam (obviously) so I needed to get a low-sugar or sugar-free pectin. I’d heard really good things about Pomona’s Universal Pectin (which requires no sugar at all to jell but instead is activated by calcium), but I couldn’t find it for the life of me! And I had a hard time finding most of the other low/no-sugar pectin options, if you can believe it. I did have my heart set on Pomona’s, though. And then… ta-da! The natural market by my house had a display of it.

It’s a little different from regular ol’ Certo or Sure-Jell. But not that hard. The calcium water thing seems intimidating at first, but in all honesty it’s really pretty easy to get the hang of. Just an extra step. In my jam I used 50% sugar & 50% Xylitol (for a total of 1 cup; mainly I used real sugar to help keep the color nice & keep it shelf stable & fresh for longer). If you’re going to make a smaller batch, or eat it quicker, you don’t even have to worry about that. However I was concerned that she wouldn’t get around to eating 2 pints of jam within a reasonable amount of time; not to mention I didn’t want the jam to look faded or be too blah. Better safe than sorry. Anyway Jay’s grandma likes strawberry jam, so that’s what she got (remember when I mentioned strawberries & a little experiment I was doing?). I got 2 pounds of gorgeous strawberries for $2.50 at the fruit stand by my house. They were so beautiful, which is rare this time of year. Usually the pickin’s are slim when it comes to nice fresh fruit that isn’t in season. Although Florida is right in it’s strawberry growing season now, & that’s where these are from. I’m just not used to seeing such a nice selection of them here.

The recipe is from Pomona’s; it comes in the box of pectin. Super easy, very quick, and you can use any sugar substitute that measures like sugar (Splenda, Xylitol, etc) to make it sugar-free or you can use honey! You can change the amount anywhere from ¾ cup sugar to 2 cups and ½ cup to 1 cup honey or any variation thereof, including artificial sweeteners. Go nuts. The recipe can also be doubled or tripled according to Pomona’s.

LOW-SUGAR STRAWBERRY JAM (adapted from Pomona’s recipe)

Makes about 4 half-pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups mashed strawberries (obviously washed & hulls removed)
  • ½ cup Xylitol or Splenda or honey
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons calcium water (instructions & ingredient included in Pomona’s box)
  • 2 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal pectin

Directions:

  1. Sterilize jars & lids, keeping both hot. Prepare water bath.
  2. Place strawberries in a large pot. Add calcium water and stir, then bring to a boil. Meanwhile, add pectin to sugar or honey (room temperature) and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Once strawberries have boiled, add pectin/sugar mixture; stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes until completely dissolved. Return to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat. Fill hot jars to ¼”-inch from the top, and wipe rims clean. Place lids & bands on and process for 10 minutes in a water bath. Remove from water and allow to cool. Check seals- lids should be all sucked down. The pectin completes it’s jell once it’s completely cooled. Lasts about 6-8 months on the shelf (depending how much real sugar is used), 3 weeks once opened. Change in color is usually harmless & normal.

The weird thing is no matter how much I skimmed the foam, it seemed to never fully go away. As soon as I poured it into the jars, it was foamy again, so I skimmed them as best as I could with a small spoon… but it didn’t 100% work. Maybe that’s a low-sugar thing? Or a Xylitol thing? No clue. This was my first time using such a low amount of real sugar & a sugar substitute in jam. Although as the jam cooled & settled, a lot of it did “go away”; not sure what the deal is with that.

Anyway, I was pretty proud of myself for making my first low-sugar jam, but I was a bit worried about the flavor. I read online a lot of people saying they made low-sugar jam & it was bland or runny, that got me a bit nervous. However as it cooled it set really nicely, so my worries in that department were for naught. But I was still paranoid about the taste. So I called in the cavalry- my mother was my guinea pig taste tester for the batch, & in her words: “It’s delicious, it tastes just like regular strawberry jam.”

My job here is done. And now I take a bow & make my exit.

Yup- those are cupcake liners. I used cupcake liners to dress the jars up ’cause they were perfect for it. And just as an aside: Jay’s grandma has gone through about 3 jars & it’s only been not quite 2 months. I think she likes ‘em.

And that brings an end to a sweet post about low-sugar, but-just-as-sweet, jam.