Preserving your summer berries: chia seed jam recipe

One of the most common ways to preserve the bounty of our summer berries is by turning them into jam. The process can be a bit intimidating because the right temperature, sugar content and pectin levels have to be spot on. Out of the nutrition world has come a simpler process that utilizes chia seeds as the thickener.

Chia seeds are great sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids, an important type of fat that we can all benefit from consuming more of, and they are also high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, iron and calcium. They range in colour from white to dark grey to black, all of which are equal in flavour and nutrient content. The white coloured option can blend in a bit better if lighter berries like strawberries or raspberries are being used, versus darker berries like blackberries. 

When added to cooked berries, chia seeds thicken up and become gelatinous, creating a thick jam. With berries that have their own tiny seeds naturally present, the chia seeds blend in seamlessly but if a smoother jam is preferred they can be blended and broken down to create a smooth consistency. The one downside is that this type of jam has a different density and usually has a much lower sugar content so it has not been proven to be a guaranteed safe option for canning, instead it has to be frozen if kept longer than a couple weeks.

Recipe

Ingredients
3 cups berries, chopped
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Optional: 1-4 tablespoons natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup

Directions for a chunky version
Heat the berries in a medium sized pot on the stove over medium high heat. Cook for around 7 minutes (increase to 10 minutes if using frozen berries), stirring continuously until the strawberries break down. Remove from heat,  stir in the chia seeds and set aside for 15-20 minutes to thicken up. At the 10 minute point, take a taste test and stir in any sweetener to taste. This second stirring also ensure that the jam thickens evenly and the seeds do not clump together.

Directions for a smooth version 
Heat the berries in a medium sized pot on the stove over medium high heat. Cook for around 7 minutes (increase to 10 minutes if using frozen berries), stirring continuously until the strawberries break down. Remove from heat, and place 3/4 cup of the berry mixture into a high speed blender with the chia seeds. Blend until the seeds are broken down then add the smooth mixture back into the pot with the rest of the berries, stir and set aside for 15-20 minutes to thicken up. At the 10 minute point, take a taste test and stir in any sweetener to taste. This second stirring also ensure that the jam thickens evenly and the seeds do not clump together.

As the jam cools it will continue to thicken but for an extra thick version add in an extra teaspoon or two of chia seeds as needed. Portion the jam into 1 cup jars, screw the lid on tightly and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. For longer storage, keep in the freezer for up to 12 months.

Happy gardening and preserving!

 

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 Guest post by Brittany Vukets

Outside of the garden I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and personal trainer. I started gardening as a young child under my grandfather’s guidance. Over the years my appreciation for all the benefits that gardening brings has continued to grow, but my favourite part then and now is the harvesting of the edible parts of the garden. I really enjoy making healthy meals for my loved ones and I share lots of recipes and tips at www.lovefromtheland.com