Reduced Sugar Strawberry Mango Jam

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Ingredients:

2 cups crushed fresh strawberries (about 1 pint)

3 cups diced ripe mangoes (about 4-5 mango)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 package powdered no-sugar pectin

1/4 tsp ground ginger (optional)

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup Truvia (sugar-stevia blend)

**See bottom of post for how much jam this yields**

This week the strawberries of Annapolis Valley are ripe for the picking. So we loaded up the kids and set them loose in a local field. We filled our dozen baskets in less than a half hour!

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My husband also found a box full of mangoes at a local grocery. They worked out to be around 50 cents per mango. Thats a great deal and I figured I would try making a strawberry-mango jam pairing.

It was a great flavour match, and the color of the jam is so beautiful! Photos do not do it justice.

Though there is more mango than strawberries, the berries still break through as the dominant taste in this jam. I added just a hint of ginger, which is optional. It’s very subtle.

I have decided, for health reasons, to reduce the sugar in my baking and preserving. I don’t want to use artificial sweeteners, nor do I want to remove sugar all together. So, I chose truvia as my sweetener. *I was not sponsored by Truvia or compensated by them for this recipe. My honest opinion is, this stuff rocks. If you don’t know, Truvia is a sugar and stevia extract blend that cuts calories from your sweetener by more than half (they claim by 75%). A half cup of Truvia is equal to one cup of sugar.

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This jam’s sugar content is a lot less than regular jam but you really can’t tell. It still turned out very sweet. There was zero of that chemical aftertaste that some other artificial sweeteners have.

I will not go into every detail of jam making. If you have never made jam before, this is a link to an excellent resource. It is where I learned before attempting my first jam session.

Most importantly, have all your tools, jars, and lids sterile and ready. Crush your fruit, but don’t overdue it. You want a few small pieces of fruit in your jam. Cooking will make those pieces smaller yet!

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My daughter was my crusher of fruit (she used a potato masher). The mangos were diced small, rather than crushed. Post crushing, we measured the fruit and turned it into a container with a lid to keep the flies out. We are having a fruit fly problem at the moment 😦

Method:

Heat a deep stainless steel sauce pan over medium heat and pour in your prepared fruit and lemon juice. Stir in your pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil and then add your sugar/sweetener all at once. Stir constantly and bring back to a full boil. It will soon turn to a bubbling hard boil which won’t settle down, even with stirring. Continue hard boiling for 1-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Remove from heat and skim foam from top with a slotted spoon.

Funnel and fill your jars, leaving 1/4 inch head room. Place on lids. Tighten bands. Place jars in canning pot and cover with water, 1 inch above the tops of jars. Process your jars of jam in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

Lift jars carefully from pot and place gently on a counter. Do not disturb them for 24 hours. Around the 24 hour mark, check each jar for a good seal. Reprocess any that did not seal, OR keep in fridge and use up within a couple weeks. I don’t think it will last that long before it’s gobbled up.

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I made a total of 1.125 litres of jam. This filled four 250 ml jars plus one 125 ml jar. I could have easily filled another 125 ml jar by scraping my pot and tools…instead I made a lovely mess.

This was a good experience in showing the kids ‘from field to table’ literally. And they were pleased they had a part in producing such a yummy spread.

Now what to do with the rest of my strawberries and mangoes….

: caramel apple butter

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Here I go again, making apple butter.

One might wonder if it’s worth it. It takes 7 lbs of apples to render approximately 975 ml total of apple butter (or less if you like your apple butter really thick).

With caramels added, YES, it’s especially  worth it!

I prefer my apple butter not too thick. It took 1 pound of apples to produce each jar of my apple butter. A neat tip to remember is that 2 large apples roughly equals a pound. For this recipe, you will weigh the apples after they are peeled and cored.

This produces a sweet fruit butter with a velvety texture.

If you want to know which apple varieties s are best for apple butter, they are the soft ones. They cook down faster. Braeburn, Cortland, Fuji, Gravenstein, Grimes Golden, Jonamac, Ida Red, Pipin, Spies, and the classic McIntosh will all work.

A great site, from Nova Scotia’s own Scotian Gold company, has lots of info on apple varieties and their many uses. You can find the list here.

Some uses for this gourmet spread: the centers of thumb-print cookies, a layer in apple crumble bars, or swirled through a bowl of porridge. My daughter suggested it slathered on top cinnamon rolls. Genius idea.

A quick spoonful when no one is looking is also deeply satisfying.

everyone appreciates homemade gifts

everyone appreciates homemade gifts

I’ve dressed my jars up and attached a handmade ornament. I am giving them as gifts this year, to my Christmas guests.

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Ingredients:

7 lbs peeled and cored apples, sliced

2 cups apple cider

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

4 tbsp. butter

16 oz. soft caramels (approx. 56)

 

Method:

In a large pot, over low heat, cook the apples down until they resemble a chunky apple sauce. This takes about an hour. When it reaches this point, add the cider and spices. With a spatula or wooden spoon, start to mash up any big chunks of apples, to speed along the process.

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first, cook down until you reach apple sauce consistency

Cook another 2 hours (checking and stirring occasionally), at lowest heat, then add butter and caramels. Stir well.

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Continue cooking, still at lowest heat, another 2 hours or until it reaches a consistency you like (mine resembled the thickness of peanut butter).

Remove momentarily from heat to blend with an immersion blender.

this is the finished consistency I chose

this is the finished consistency I chose

Sterilize and prepare jars for canning. Funnel in the hot apple butter. Wipe the rims of jars with clean damp cloth, to remove any apple butter splatter. Place on lids and rings, tighten, and place into boiling canning pot for 5 minutes (or double that if you live more than 1000 ft above sea level). *Make sure the water level is at least an inch above the jars so they are fully immersed.

When done, carefully set processed jars on counter to remain undisturbed for several hours. Then check to make sure they have sealed properly.

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This made seven 125 ml  jars

: onion & spice chutney

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I am naming this ‘onion AND spice’ because both get the starring role in this recipe.

At one point, right after the spices were added, I thought I smelled Christmas.These are all the holiday spices we cook with this time of year. It’s such a homey aroma.

What prompted me to make this was my husband bringing home a 10 lb bag of onions. When he seen my raised eyebrows, he just shrugged and said, “the 10 lb bag cost the same as the 3 lb” We are learning this is not uncommon in rural areas. We get great local produce for cheap! So..I began caramelizing the onions…

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Choose a large pan or wok for this. Not non-stick,or the onions won’t caramelize properly.

What you are left with is a chutney that is sticky, sweet, and spicy. This would be great on burgers, sandwiches, and an added flavour to stews and meats. It makes 10- 125 ml jars, or approximately 5 total cups of chutney.

Ingredients:

6 lbs onions (peeled and thinly sliced)

2 cups brown sugar

4 tablespoon olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon ground cloves

3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

Method:

In a large wok or pan, heat the oil. Add onions and cook for 4 minutes.

Add vinegar, lemon juice and spices and cook for 2 minutes.

At this point your house will smell amazing! Who needs expensive scented candles?

Add sugar and then simmer on low, uncovered, for about 2 hours, until the onion is soft and the liquid is reduced. Stir occasionally, scraping up the nice caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan.

Funnel into hot, sterilized jars. Place sterile lids and tighten the rings. Allow to cool undisturbed for several hours. Check for proper seal and then label.

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After I made this I served it on chicken pita sandwiches…

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: apple butter

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Nearly every site with an apple butter recipe advocates the use of a slow cooker. This was my first time making it so I thought I’d use a more hands-on method. I wanted to be involved in the process…So I cooked it on my stove top.

This was my first time trying apple butter. It is fantastic! It has a deep, rich brown colour, it’s silky, and it melted in my mouth. To me, it seemed to have a perfect amount of sweetness and spice. I don’t think I’ve ever produced something so vintage and wholesome. I think it would be hard to mess up apple butter; it practically makes itself. For little effort put in, I ended up with something that made me so excited and proud. Yes, I know that may come off a tad pathetic.

But hey, I had a lot of apples to use up…

The best part of this experience was the aroma. My house smelled amazing for the whole day!

I can imagine doing all kinds of things with this. Like spreading it on biscuits, pancakes, or muffins. Using it as a punchy layer in squares. Using it to flavour lamb or chicken dishes. It would also be great for gifting. That way you can brag a little.

Any apples will do really. I used several varieties. You will use a tonne of apples to produce an ounce of apple butter. Ok, so I exaggerate a bit. Also, it takes a very long time. With a slow cooker you can throw everything in and walk away. Many have made this overnight as they sleep. If you go the stove top route, you will have to clear your schedule for a day. But it’s so worth it!

Ingredients:

5 lbs apples, peeled and cored (like a medium size pot full)

1 cup brown sugar

¼ tsp salt

¼  tsp allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ cup water

Method:

Put chopped apples and water in a pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Eventually this produces apple sauce. Once it looks like apple sauce reduce heat as low as it goes. Add in spices, sugar, and salt and give it a good stir.

Close with a lid. Stir occasionally (like every hour) until it looks like it’s reduced by half. You should keep a watch and stir more frequently if it gets a bit sticky- to prevent burning. It will be very brown and thick by this time (this will take aprox 8 hours or so to get to this point).

almost there...

almost there…

When you reach that point, remove lid and keep stirring frequently for another hour or 2 (I checked mine every 15-20 minutes), until it’s closer to a paste consistency. Then it is done. Turn off the heat. It’s not necessary, but I chose to blend mine smooth with a wand blender. Keep your apple butter hot by placing the lid back on and start preparing your jars.

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In a canning pot sterilize your jars and lids. Sterilize the jars for 5 minutes, and lids for 2 minutes only. Remove lids and put aside. Keep jars inside pot to keep hot. Now, one by one take each jar out and fill to ¼ “ of the top with hot apple butter. * take care not to get apple butter on rim of jar. If you do, wipe it off with clean moist paper towel. Place lid on and screw on rings tightly. After they are all filled, place back in boiling water (that is at least 1” above the jars) to process for 10 minutes (double that time if you are at high altitude). Gently remove cans onto a towel (at least 2 inches apart). Be careful not to bump them and allow to cool for several hours.

If you have never canned before you may be surprised to hear loud pops coming from your jars during cooling. Don’t run for cover. It’s just the vacuum seal process happening in the jar. And it’s a good thing.

Test each jar for a proper seal by pushing finger into center of lid. If it moves up and down, it’s not sealed. You can reprocess it or you can refrigerate and use up within a week. For jars that have a proper seal, you can store in a cool dry place and use up within a year. My apple butter yielded six 125ml jars (the little wee ones).