It’s the middle of winter, and a fresh, good tasting berry can be hard to come by. I never buy fresh berries in the off season, I think they are flavorless and generally come from far, far away. However, any health book or article you read will say “Eat berries!”. And with good reason. Berries are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and are generally fairly low in natural sugars compared to other fruits. Frozen berries can save you in the long winter months. Whether you freeze them yourself in the heat of summer or buy bags of frozen berries from the grocery store, which are much less expensive than fresh berries anyway, frozen berries definitely should be on your grocery list when berries are not in season. Also, try to make sure that the berries you buy are organic, berries are very heavily sprayed and have thin skins, especially strawberries. Frozen organic berries are very easy to find.
Berries are great for an after dinner dessert, delicious stirred into oatmeal in the morning (you don’t even have to defrost them first!), or perfect to sprinkle over yogurt. Usually, every few days I take out a handful of frozen raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries and put them into a small glass jar and stick it in the fridge. After a few hours, they are defrosted and I can use them how I please. However, making fresh jam with them is another option that I love because it is versatile! My kids always want jam on their peanut butter toast or mixed into their plain yogurt, and I have issues with grocery store jam. Most of the time, it is loaded with sugar, sometimes in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. You can buy sugar-free or low-sugar jam, but usually then the sugar is replaced with an artificial sweetener like Splenda. In addition, many conventional jams have preservatives, artificial flavoring, and artificial coloring added. How does that taste on your morning toast?
Here is where you can take half an hour and make a fruit jam to last you all week. I really wanted to up the antioxidant level in this jam as we are deep into cold and flu season, and a little immune system help never hurt. Enter the açai berry. Açai berry puree is not sweet, surprisingly. The first time I tasted it, I was expecting a sweet grape or blackberry flavor, but it is much more of a tart, earthy flavor (be careful not to buy sweetened varieties). That’s why açai is almost always added to something sweet, like a smoothie filled with other fruits, rather than eaten alone. Açai berries are nutrition powerhouses with very high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Organic Açai packets sell for $4.49 for 4 packets. This is a much more reasonable price than many other I have seen, which can be double this amount.
To further increase the nutrition in my jam, I add chia seeds. Chia seed jam is a concept that is becoming very trendy, and I think it’s brilliant. Chia seeds are a natural thickener as they absorb around 10 times their weight in water, which is why your jam will turn from a syrup to a spread in about 15 minutes time. They are very high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, iron, calcium, and many other minerals, and don’t need to be ground up before you eat them to reap their benefits. I keep my chia seeds in a glass Ball jar in the refrigerator.
- 2 cups frozen organic raspberries
- 1 3.5 oz (100g) frozen açai packet
- 1½ Tbsp chia seeds
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- Small pinch salt
- Juice of ½ a small lemon
- ¼ tsp vanilla bean powder (optional)
- In a small saucepan, add the frozen raspberries and frozen açai packet (it helps to run it under warm water for a minute or two to thaw it a little). Heat over medium/low, stirring to break up and defrost the fruit.
- Let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until you have a uniform, syrupy mixture.
- Add the chia seeds, maple syrup, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla bean powder, if using. Bring the mixture up to a very low boil, then reduce the heat and simmer about 20-30 minutes, until the jam begins to thicken. It will continue to thicken even as it sits in the jar, thanks to the chia seeds.
- Store in a glass jar with a tight lid in the refrigerator.
- Note that this "jam" is not supermarket jam which lasts months in your refrigerator after being opened. This jam has very low sugar content and no preservatives, so it is best to eat within the week. Try it on toast, pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt, or straight from the spoon! You can also freeze half if you don't think you will use it in time.
Try this jam and enjoy all of it’s many uses, anytime of the year!