Monday, June 2, 2014

Homemade low sweetener strawberry spread

Perfect consistency and texture - the most gorgeous color!
Making homemade strawberry spread was surprisingly easy - so easy that I decided to make it two nights in a row! After tasting the finished product on my Ezekiel bread this morning I quickly realized my supply of 5 jars wouldn't be enough. I made jelly with my mom years back and my memories included lots of boiling, lots of mashing and lots of praying that it sets. Seemed to be a huge process.  Not the case for this recipe which took me no more than 30 minutes from start to finish and the end product is TO DIE FOR DELICIOUS!!

I had picked several pounds of organic strawberries at Wise Acres Organic Farm in Indian Trail a few weeks back and wanted to return when the berries were at the peak of their sweetness.  I just picked another fifteen pounds and they are the best I've ever tasted - bursting with flavor and sweetness! Here's the huge problem with jelly - it requires INSANE amounts of sugar. Like twice as much sugar as strawberries because regular pectin requires jelly to be 55-85% sugar to set properly. A few friends had tried low sugar or honey recipes without success - tasted good but was more of a syrup rather than jelly. I asked Cathy, the owner, if she had any favorite recipes and I'm SO GLAD she told me about her recent Pomona Pectin discovery. 

It allows you to sweeten your jelly with low amounts of any type of sweetener you chose (sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, stevia, xylitol, sucanat) and ACTUALLY SETS. It's preservative-free, sugar-free, vegan, gluten free and non-GMO. Peach season is coming up next and I can't wait to try a different fruit!

This recipe yields about 4-5 cups and here is what you need:
  • Mason jars and lids - I have a ton of vintage ones of all different sizes and it filled up 5 for me. 
  • Two big pots - one to boil your jars in and the other for the jelly. I used my Le Creuset dutch oven and big stainless soup pot. 
  • Small bowl
  • Soup ladle
  • Tongs
  • 4 cups of mashed strawberries
  • 1 cup of organic sugar (you can also use honey, agave, xylitol, fruit juice concentrate, stevia or any other sweetener of your choice!)
  • Pomona pectin kit (which is enough for 2 to 4 recipes). I bought mine at Wise Acres Farm but you can also buy it on Amazon. I haven't searched for it in stores and am hoping that Renfrow's Hardware will stock it next year :)
  1. Make the calcium water (never heard of this before, secret ingredient maybe?) by putting 1/2 teaspoon of the white calcium powder that comes with the kit and 1/2 cup of water in a small clear mason jar. Shake well. This will store in the refrigerator for a number of months.
  2. Wash and rinse your jars; Bring jars, lids and rings to boil; turn down heat just a little and LET STAND IN HOT WATER. (You'll be bringing this back to a boil really soon…)
  3. Prepare your fruit - remove stems and mash. I put mine in the Vitamix for about 30 seconds at the lowest speed and it worked perfectly. Put 4 cups of mashed strawberries in the pan.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of calcium water to the pan and stir well
  5. Add the 1 cup of sugar (or substitute of your choice) and 2 teaspoons of pectin to a separate bowl and mix thoroughly.
  6. Bring the fruit to a boil. Add the pectin-sweetener and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes to dissolve pectin while mixture returns to a full boil. Remove from heat.
  7. The pouring step is probably easiest with two people - I did it by myself and was far from graceful… I used the tongs to pick up the mason jar from the hot water and used the ladle to fill the jars to 1/4" to the top. Wipe the rims clean and screw on the 2-piece lids. Put the filled jars back into hot water and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. (Add 1 minute more for every 1,000 feet above sea level).
  8. Remove from water and let jars cool - I placed mine on a baking cooling rack. After a few minutes check the seals, the lids should be sucked down. If you listen hard you can hear a subtle pop. 
  9. Eat within a year and gobble up within 3 weeks of opening - TRUST ME, this isn't hard to do!!

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