Paleo Jam: a contradiction?
Posted September 25, 2011on:
This was my dilemma: I recently discovered and harvested a huge batch of wild blackberries on our property. I stuffed myself silly as I picked them but ended up with way more than I could possibly eat fresh. In my suburban-raised chest beats the heart of a homesteader, and wasting such a bounty was unthinkable. But what’s a low-carb Paleo/Primal girl to do when it comes to preserving berries?
Google jam recipes and you’ll find that they are loaded with sugar. Your options if using a “no sugar” pectin are either huge amounts of sugar hiding in a more natural-looking disguise (honey, maple syrup, agave nectar) or simply going with the fake stuff. Frankly, it seems silly to me that something so sweet as a natural berry seems to require huge amounts of added sugar to serve in any other form, but I appreciate that in the magical transformation to jam the sugar serves other chemical roles besides flavouring. Anyways, I needed to do something with the berries ASAP and I didn’t have the special pectin. I wanted something that would keep in the fridge for a bit, and the rest I’d freeze in jars. Knowing pretty much nothing about canning and preserving, what I wanted was a way to preserve the wild harvest so that I could enjoy it for months to come, without adding a significant amount of sugar.
Before I could research the matter further a friend solved my dilemma by providing me with her favourite blackberry recipe. Basically I just cooked the blackberries in a pot with a wee bit of maple syrup (~ 1/2 cup in ~ 4L, or one gallon, of berries) and added the juice of one orange, plus a couple tablespoons of lemon juice. My friend suggested adding fresh thyme, but I only had the dried stuff, so I added it sparingly because while I found the idea intriguing I wasn’t sure I would like it. Next time I’ll leave it out, though I’m sure with fresh herbs the taste experience might be better. Anyways, I boiled it all down until it had lost over half its volume, then I poured it into six 250 mL canning jars (plus half a 500 mL jar which I kept out for eating now).
Now, when I have my Paleo Cereal (a mixture of chopped almonds, macadamias, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and flaked coconut all sauteed in butter), instead of heating up a cup of frozen store-bought berries I add about 2 teaspoons of my blackberry “jam”. Mixed in with yogurt and a splash of milk to thin the mixture (I use either full-fat cows milk or coconut milk beverage), the combination is delicious! Those little teaspoons go a long way with the flavour, let me tell you, and my cereal is as berrylicious as ever. In fact, I consider it a better option than the frozen berries, which come from who-knows-where and were probably grown using pesticides and other chemicals in a monocropping scheme that is robbing the soil of nutrients and life while padding the pockets of some multinational food conglomeration*.
My blackberries grew right here on my own property, with no help from me at all (other than clearing an area of land last year that unintentionally provided the perfect environment for the Himalayan Blackberry to take up residence). They are as local as you can get, the plants are part of a healthy ecosystem (some call them an “invasive species” but I (and others) question the usefulness of such a term), and I even share the berries with birds, deer, elk, and whatever other wildlife wants to partake in the bounty with me. And it’s free! We’ll see how long this batch lasts me, and then I will know how much I need to pick next year. That will save me approximately $300 in annual grocery costs alone!
So in case you thought that jams, preserves, and “putting by” the summer harvest of berry crops were off-limits to us low-carbers, think again. You can have your jam, and eat it too. Just skip most of the added sugar, stew the berries instead of doing the pectin-thing, and add some lemon juice to aid in preserving and flavouring. What you’ll end up with is something that will keep well in the freezer, and that you can enjoy in moderation as part of a healthy Paleo/Primal diet.
* I’ve not been happy with having this product on my list of staples, but I so enjoy berries with my cereal, and plain yogurt is just too sour for me. One cup of these berries contain 17 g of carbs, so its definitely acceptable from that standpoint. However, they are expensive and even more so if I go for the organic stuff.