Monday, June 6, 2011
Sugar-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
I confess; when my friend Mimi (who's also living a low-carb life) told me that she and her friends had made 75 jars of strawberry jam for a fundraiser at our elementary school, I wound up feeling a teeny bit sorry for myself. You see, I love that jam. There's just nothing like homemade jam, and homemade strawberry jam - well, you know. And since I'm living a sugar-free life, I just couldn't see myself eating any of that lovely jam, or even making jam again. Sniff. Apricot. Sniff. Plum Butter. Sniff. Strawberry Rhubarb. Sniff, sniff.
And then I thought - ha! Of course - I can make my own jam! I've seen ads for sugar-free jam, but the commercial products just sound so.... fake. And unappetizing. But every sugar-free thing I've made so far has been, well, FABULOUS. (My Mama told me never to brag, but well, you know - "no brag, just fact."
So, I went out and bought 7 quarts of gorgeous organic Swanton Berry Farm fruits, a big bunch of fresh rhubarb, looked at recipes, decided what my ratio of sweeteners ought to be, and set to work. I admit, I was nervous. What if it was lousy, and I'd wasted all that lovely fruit? I made one batch, using about half of the strawberries and all of the rhubarb. OMG, it was amazing, it was so good. So as soon as I canned it, I plowed back in and made an all-strawberry batch. The whole thing took hardly any time at all, and afterwards, I felt like I had a treasure-trove of rubies. Ahhh.
Now I just have to figure out how to make low-carbohydrate bread to go with it....
Sugar-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
You will need:
11-12 8 oz (half pint) canning jars, lids and rings
8 quart heavy stockpot for the jam
Another 8 quart (or larger)stockpot for sterilizing jars
1 box pectin for low-sugar jams (I use Pomona brand)
wide-mouthed funnel (optional, but super useful)
4 cups rhubarb, (app. 2 lbs) washed, dried, cut crosswise into 1/2" slices
6 cups strawberries, (app. 3-4 pint baskets) washed, dried, hulled, and cut into quarters
3 TB lemon juice
5 tsp calcium water (from pectin kit - or follow instructions from package)
2 cups erythritol
1 1/3 cups xylitol
28 tiny scoops stevia
5 tsp low sugar pectin (or follow instructions from package)
If the jars are brand new, wash them and the rings and lids to remove any chemicals left from processing. If they have been sitting in the basement, check them for dust, and wash off any you find. Put the jars and rings into a very large stockpot or canning pot and fill with hot water to cover by an inch or two. Put them on the rear burner of the stove over high heat and bring them to a boil. When they come to a boil, turn the heat down and keep them hot and ready.
Following the instructions in your low sugar pectin kit, make calcium water. (I use Pomona brand.)
Prepare the fruit: wash it, dry it, cut it up (1/2 if small, 1/4 if medium, 1/8 if large) and put it in an 8 quart, heavy stock pot, along with the lemon juice and calcium water. Put it on the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a full boil and the fruit is softened. (The rhubarb will take longer than the strawberries.)
Meanwhile, measure the sweeteners and the pectin into a medium sized bowl and whisk them all well to combine.
When the fruit is ready, get a long-handled wooden spoon ready, and gradually add the sweetener mix to the hot fruit, stirring constantly as you pour in the sweeteners. Stir well and frequently to combine the pectin with the fruit and prevent lumping. Bring it back to a full boil. When it looks lovely and thick, turn off the heat and get ready to can. (Don't worry if it isn't as thick as jam; it thickens as it cools.)
Clear a good sized work surface near the stove, and cover it with clean dishtowels (preferably ones you don't care about!)
Turn the heat off under the pot of jars and move it to the front of the stove so you can reach them easily, and move the jam to the back of the stove so you don't get water into it by accident. (Put the lid on the pot if necessary.) Using tongs or a jar lifter in your dominant hand, and a clean dishtowel in your other hand, carefully remove the lids and rings and drain them on the towels. Lift each jar out of the hot water, dump the hot water back into the pot, and carefully guide and transport the hot jar over to the towels. Turn it upside down to drain out the extra water. Repeat until all of the jars are drained and ready.
Turn the heat back on high underneath the pot that the jars came out of, and bring it back to a full boil while you can.
Now, again using your tongs (or a clean towel, oven mitts, or tough hands!) turn the jars right side up, and line them up to be ready to fill. If you have a wide-mouthed jar funnel (which I so highly recommend - available at any good hardware store, Bed Bath and Beyond, well stocked grocery stores, etc., for less than $5) put it on top of one of the jars.
Grab your best ladle, and bring the pot of hot jam over to your work surface. Carefully fill each jar, leaving 1/4" of space at the top. If you have a wide-mouthed funnel, the bottom should come to just the right spot. If you don't, do your best! If necessary, spoon some out to reach the right level. After you have filled all your jars, use a clean, moist towel to wipe the ring area and the top surface of the jars clean. If you have less than a full jar of jam, put that one straight into use and don't bother to can it.
Put the lids on, followed by the screw tops, and screw them down.
When the water bath comes back to a full boil, and again using your tongs, carefully lower the jars back in one at a time. Boil them all for 10 full minutes, then remove them with your tongs and let them cool on the toweled work area. If necessary, work in batches.