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Making low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin

Making low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin

strawberry jam

Last year, I meant to preserve things. I had such good intentions. I even bought jars… but they disappeared into the cupboard to make up for the glassware I break all the time, into the fridge, into the lunchbox drawer. What can I say, mason jars are amazing.

This year, it’s all different. I’ve started already!

My previous experience of canning and making jam had been marathon sessions in a boiling hot kitchen, working quickly to process kilos and kilos of strawberries we had brought home from the U-pick farm which were literally turning overripe as we worked. It’s tiring at the best of times, but after hunching in the sun picking berries, driving 90 minutes each way, no one is in the mood to then can the jam for four hours. The first time my husband accompanied me on one of these crazy outings was also the last time. He told me in no uncertain terms he was not doing it again!

So I had been reluctant to take on that project on my own, but a chance discovery at a fish canning class offered through my incredible local community-supported fishery gave me the confidence to get back into it.

The instructor mentioned making high fruit, low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin. I was intrigued, because the other thing keeping me from making jam was the truly insane amounts of sugar involved. Pomona’s Pectin is activated by calcium (supplied in the box), not by sugar, so you’re free to keep the sugar levels low – and in fact use all sorts of other sweeteners like honey, sucanat, stevia, or fruit juice concentrate.

For instance, I took advantage of some great sales on organic strawberries lately and made a batch last night of regular strawberry jam. With the Pomona’s Pectin recipe, I used 1 cup of sugar for 2 1/4 lbs of fruit. For slightly more fruit, the Bernardin’s website suggest 7 CUPS of sugar. Strawberries are gloriously sweet already, the idea of adding that much extra on top makes my teeth ache just thinking about it.

I’ve also harnessed the rhubarb abundance and made a very zippy rhubarb jam with ginger and vanilla. It’s a bit tart for toast, but I suspect around January it will be very welcome. Smeared on the edge of a piece of crumbly, aged cheddar though, oh, it is amazing.

I highly recommend checking out the imaginative Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin book, which contains the rhubarb jam recipe, as well as lovely sounding things like peach champagne jelly and strawberry balsamic conserve. Though the instructions inside the box are very comprehensive if you’d like to just start with a basic single-fruit jam.

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On Treehouse: Rice cooker apple oatmeal

On Treehouse: Rice cooker apple oatmeal

rice cooker apple oatmeal titled

I love oatmeal from the rice cooker. It is so easy, and doesn’t involve soaking the pot where I burnt a third of the porridge either. The other week I had the brainwave to dump apple chunks in with the oats and the water while it’s cooking. Even more brilliant!

The full instructions are over on Treehouse Parents.

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Pan-fried tofu noodle bowls

Pan-fried tofu noodle bowls

pan-fried tofu noodle bowl

I made this tofu noodle bowl for lunch in about 20 minutes, and then the day after that. And then again. It was one of those times you throw together three half-remembered recipes for things, none of which you look up and check, and it actually turns out well. The crispness of the tofu is a pleasant contrast to the pile of noodles lurking under those spinach leaves. I used those baby spinach leaves that come in a mammoth plastic container – they wilt nicely if you sandwich them between hot noodles and hot tofu. Enjoy!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:1] 

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How to make really good bread

How to make really good bread

bread

Master a good loaf of bread, and you will never have to bring anything complicated to a pot luck again. I have people over for stew lovingly simmered for hours, a gorgeous roast chicken, homemade ice cream – it’s the bread they reach for, groaning with pleasure, again and again. Arrive at someone’s house, unwrapping a fresh loaf from a tea towel and they will be a puddle at your feet.

It’s seems crazy, once you get the hang of it, because it’s so easy. How can something so simple give people such base pleasure? I swear, learn to make a good loaf and make some homemade butter and your friends will do anything for you. As an added benefit, I find homemade bread much easier to digest compared to a grocery store loaf. I won’t suggest you read the ingredients on one of those loaves, it will make you sad.

I would love to tell you exactly how to make a good loaf, but I can’t. It takes practice. Tasty practice, thankfully. I’ve been working on my technique for years. These days, I bake two loaves every 10 days or so, freezing one loaf straight away. I bake our everyday loaves in loaf tins, but for dinner parties and potlucks I make round loaves on baking sheets. Looks much more picturesque, but requires absolutely no extra work on my part.

Finally, I know the imprecise nature of bread making instructions make beginners crazy, but there are so many variables that giving specific rising times just isn’t practical. However, I will say this: slightly underproofing is better than overproofing. Speaking from experience. Keep your yeast in the fridge, even if it’s dried, and buy local flour if you can.

If you live in Vancouver, I highly recommend taking Florin Moldovan’s breadmaking class (you can read about my experience here). If you’re in the UK, I hear great things about the Bertinet Cookery School’s breadmaking courses.

Here is my two loaf recipe, let me know how you get on.

Basic 60% white 40% wheat bread with chia seeds
makes two loaves

725ml lukewarm water

11g dry active yeast

2 tbsp honey

3 tbsp chia seeds

22g fine sea salt

900g white all-purpose flour (if in UK, use bread flour)

200g whole wheat flour

1. In a stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, combine water, yeast and honey, and leave to sit for 10 minutes.

2. Add flours on top of water, followed by the salt.
– If using a stand mixer: mix with dough hook until mixture comes together as dough ball, this will take about 2-3 minutes.

– If mixing by hand: using the in-bowl kneading technique until dough comes together, and stops sticking to your hands, this will take about 4-6 minutes. Don’t give up!

3. Cover bowl with cling film and leave until dough doubles in bulk. For me, that’s about 1 hour in the summer, up to 2 hours in the winter when it’s cold.

4. Sprinkle flour on a clean counter, and turn out the dough, scraping out the bits with your fingers. Start oven preheating to 400º.

5. Spread out the dough gently with your hands to distribute the air bubbles. Shape it into a rough rectangle, with the long side facing you. You’re going to fold it in three as if you were folding a letter to fit in an envelope. Fold in one short side and press down the edges to meld it into the dough, you may have to pinch it a bit to make sure it attaches to the dough you’re folding it over. Repeat. Spread out the dough again gently, and repeat. Leave to rest covered by a towel for about half an hour.

6. Split the dough in half, and then shape into loaves. Tuck into oiled loaf pans.

This Kitchn video demonstrates both the letter fold and the loaf shaping. Personally I pinch the edges after my letter folds as well as the shaping, but up to you.

7. Cover loaf pans with tea towel and leave for about half an hour.

8. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tops are brown and sound hollow when tapped. Let cool 5 minutes in their tins, then turn out onto cooling rack.

Note: to shape dough into more artisan round domes, follow the recipe until step 6. Instead of shaping into loaves after the letter fold, you’re going to make a round and place it on an oiled cookie sheet. This Kitchn video demonstrates the shaping step. Continue as above.

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Burrito bowls

Burrito bowls

burrito bowl

I am secretly obsessed with those ‘what I ate’ blog posts and magazine pages. I know, I know, most of them are made up or at least massaged into appearing super healthy. But like most people, I struggle with inspiration for my daily meals.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to start posting recipes for the meals we eat at home all the time – the ones that get requested again and again. They’re not particularly original or very complicated, but I think we could all use a few more of those regular meal ideas.

Burrito bowls are, by their very nature, super flexible things. We eat these at lunchtime mostly, utilizing leftovers in the fridge, but the base stays essentially the same: brown rice and black beans. Often I will cook a batch of onions, corn and peppers to add to omelettes and burritos, and keep it in the fridge. Add hot sauce, nuts, whatever takes your fancy. Skip the salsa and sour cream and use a miso-soy dressing and it’s immediately more Asian, no longer really burrito related but also amazing.

Here’s an example bowl we had today. I haven’t given measurements because this is up to you.

Burrito bowl

  • Cooked brown rice
  • Black beans, rinsed
  • Corn kernels, frozen
  • Peppers, chopped
  • Onion, sliced
  • Cheese, shredded
  • Kale, either raw and chopped or leftover fried kale, chopped
  • Pico de gallo or salsa
  • Sour cream

1. Heat or cook the rice, add black beans if you’re just heating it up.

2. Fry the onion, corn kernels and peppers together, by the time the onions and peppers are softened the corn will be defrosted.

3. Layer rice, then beans in a bowl, top with shredded cheese, and then the onion mixture. All the heat will melt the cheese for you.

4. Finally, top with the kale, salsa and sour cream. Enjoy!

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