When I moved into my first house, in the garden there were a couple of vines bursting with green and red grapes. Wanting to make use of these abundant crops, I entered the world of jam and jelly making. One of my first creations was a grape and sherry jelly and I remember it as a wonderful way to preserve summer fruits and enjoy them through the year.
Although at the time it seemed that traditional jam making was an elaborate process, it can be part of many family traditions and it does add a personal touch to a kitchen staple. At the end of the day, nothing quite compares with the wonderful aroma of cooking jam and the resulting row after row of colourful jars as tribute to a good day’s work.
When did preserving start?
The notion of preserving fruit in sugar and honey is ancient and it is thought that one of the first recipes for jam is from the 1st century AD. Originally jam was basically soft fruit heated with sugar or honey and served at the end of a meal as a delicacy.
It was in the late 1800s that it gained popularity for the masses when it was used by the working classes to make the bread more palatable. At that time most of the factory-produced jams were laden with more sugar than fruit. Although the quality of commercial jams has improved since then, they are still high in refined sugars.
Why does traditional jam contain sugar?
Most homemade jam recipes contain roughly equal weights of fruit and sugar. The sugar acts a powerful preservative preventing the growth of mold and bacteria and, as well as sweetening the jam, it helps the pectin to set giving jam its thick consistency.
Although homemade jam is a great alternative to commercial jams because the amount of sugar can be controlled, another alternative which contains no added sugar is chia jam made from fruit and chia seeds.
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds are native to Mexico and Guatemala and have been cultivated since pre-Columbian times. Despite their ancient history as a dietary staple, chia seeds are becoming known today as a “superfood” as they are nutrient-rich with good sources of α-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
As chia seeds have a mild flavour, they are becoming a popular addition to beverages, desserts or even as an egg substitute in baking. One of their great advantages is that they will turn any liquid into a thick gel. This makes them ideal for jam making as they can transform ripe fruit into a low-sugar, spreadable jam within half an hour.
How does chia jam differ from traditional jam?
The consistency of chia jam is different from traditional jam. Although it will thicken after time in the fridge, chia jam is runnier. If you like sweet jam, some natural sweetener can be added to taste but other than that, chia jam contains no added sugars and so can be used more liberally without triggering sugar cravings.
The disadvantage of chia jam is that, without the sugar acting as a preservative, it does not have the shelf-life of commercial jam and will keep in the fridge for only a couple of weeks. However, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
What can jam be used for?
Whether commercial, homemade, or chia, jam can be enjoyed in many ways including on toast, scones, baked goods or as a topping for oatmeal or desserts. By making smaller batches of a variety of the chia jam, this can aid in eating a variety of fruits and is a great way to ensure that you eat the rainbow which can help to maintain a healthy microbiome and good health.
How to make chia jam
Two cups of fruit will make about 1.5 cups of jam. This recipe will work for just about any juicy fruit, fresh or frozen, including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, kiwi, and pineapple.
- 2 cups chopped fruit
- 1 to 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 to 2 tbsp maple syrup or another natural sweetener (optional)
- 2 tbsp chia seeds (more if thicker jam is preferred)
- Prepare the fruit and cook until it starts to soften and becomes syrupy (about 10 – 15 mins)
- Mash the fruit to desired consistency or blend until completely smooth
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sweetener and lemon juice to taste
- Add the chia seeds and stir to combine and let stand until thickened (about 5 – 15 mins)
- Transfer to a jar or other storage container once the jam has cooled to room temperature The jam will thicken further in the fridge and become thicker in consistency once completely chilled.
Note: when using the chia seeds with lighter-coloured fruits like kiwi and pineapple, they may contribute to a slight greying colour of the mixture as the seeds gel.
It seems that for many centuries jam-making has been a popular tradition to preserve and enjoy fruit. Jam has had a long and colourful history from its origins as a delicacy, to its use during the seafaring era of exploration to ward off scurvy and then being made on an epic scale during the war to prevent fruit from rotting and to contribute to food supplies.
It is also believed that Joan of Arc ate quince jam to give her courage before heading off into battle. I must admit that I had never thought of jam in terms of the armour I reach for in times of trouble. However, when I am now heading off to do battle with the world, I just might be tempted to opt for that pot of jam!
If you make this chia jam, I would love to know your experience and if you enjoyed this article, please feel free to like and share