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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Using Honey as a Sweetener in Homemade Jam

The busiest time of my home canning has started.  Ontario strawberries are in season just perfect for a few batches of homemade strawberry jam.  Of all the foods I can, strawberry jam is seldom a bargain in terms of cost.  Strawberries are expensive at as high as $5 per quart although you can get them a bit cheaper at the U-pick.  Even then, the price has risen significantly.  It takes on average 2 quarts plus the pectin and sugar to make the jam.  Certo (liquid or crystal pectin) adds about $1.50 to the price of a batch of homemade jam.  The average batch of jam takes 7 cups of sugar which further increases a batch of jam at a cost of about $1.40.  The yield for a batch of strawberry jam using traditional pectin is 7½ cups.  At the cost of homemade strawberry jam, it is hard to justify making it other than the fact you are getting a superior product to store bought. 

honey strawberry jamPectin is the ingredient that makes the jam gel.  It is dependent on the sugar content which is why recipes using traditional pectin should not be altered.  The cost of traditional pectin (eg. Certo) really adds to the price of homemade jams.  Liquid pectin averages $2.89 for 2 pouches but I've seen it as high as $3.49.  The biggest problem for me with traditional pectin is their short shelf life which means I can't buy a lot of it on sale for the following year as the pectin won't keep that long.

Sugar as mentioned is necessary for the pectin to form the gel (eg. jam set).  Sugar is also a bulking agent that adds texture to the jam.  This is noticeable when making a low-sugar jam that gives a lower yeild.   It is a cheap ingredient that doesn't add flavour only sweetness.  Until a few years ago, those making homemade jams and jellies had two choices.

The first was long cook, no pectin added and the second was shorter cook, pectin added.  Both relied on adding a lot of granulated white sugar.  Low sugar pectin became available but while the amount of sugar was reduced it was not eliminated and sugar substitutes could not be used.  Then I discovered Pomona's universal pectin.  This is a low methoxy pectin that uses calcium water, a solution of monocalcium phosphate for the gel which is not dependent on sugar.  That means sugar substitutes can easily be used in jam making.  Pomona's universal pectin works out to 35¢ per teaspoon.  Only a ½ tsp to ¾ tsp of Pomona's is needed per cup of prepared fruit so it is less per batch than traditional pectin.  It has no expiry date and you can easily develop your own recipes.  Pomona's universal pectin can also be used to make sugarfree jello and gummy candies.

I made a batch of honey strawberry jam (pictured).  This jam has no sugar added, only honey and my gosh is it ever delicious!  Honey adds a wonderful flavour to any dish!  Not only that, honey is good for you.  It is easier to digest and has a wide range of health benefits.  I never use the pasteurized, homogenized honey found in the grocery stores.  This honey is a blend of several honeys with the end result being a bland, tasteless honey stripped of its natural nutrients and health benefits.  Rather, I use raw, unpasteurized honey usually local or from an area we are visiting.  Honey varies in colour (very pale amber to very dark amber) and flavour (light to strong)  depending on the nectar source.  While it is the same sweetness as sugar, honey has flavour! 

I like pairing the honey variety with the fruit to enhance and accent the flavour of the fruit.  I used a medium amber (golden) honey in the strawberry jam which accented the flavour of the strawberries nicely without being overpowering.  Honey differs from granulated sugar in that it is a liquid as well as a humicant (attracts moisture).  It does not add the bulk to jam that sugar does but I used less honey than what I would have sugar if using a traditional pectin.  Jam foams as it cooks and normally that foam is skimmed off.  Jams made with honey have a finer foam that is a bit more tedious to skim off but there is a lot less of it than there is if using sugar.  The butter trick works to reduce the foam when using honey the same way it does if using sugar.  Everything comes back to the flavour and for that honey certainly does not disappoint in creating a gourmet, delectable jam!

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