Wonderberries Turned Homemade Triple-Berry Jam

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When I updated you on the progress of our garden, I shared a photo of the wonderberries (AKA sunberries) that had mysteriously begun growing there.  By the time we returned from Michigan on Sunday, they were ready to harvest.  Not naturally very sweet, we knew we were going to use them to make jam.

DSC_2065As you know, I’ve been craving peanut butter and jelly this pregnancy.  Between my PB&J smoothie, PB&J atop rice cakes and graham crackers, and good old PB&J sandwiches, I’ve got my cravings covered!  The downside to many jellies and jams, however, is that they are loaded with sugar.  Today, I’m making a triple-berry jam—inspired by our wonderberry harvest—that is low in added sweetener.

First, a few definitions that will help us along the way:

PECTIN:  A natural gelling agent found in the cell walls of plants.  You can purchase pectin in powdered form to make vegan jelly, jam, or jello.  (Gelatin, which is not vegan, comes from animals, and is found in such items as gummy bears and marshmallows.)  This pectin brand is available at Whole Foods.

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JELLY:  A smooth pectin-based mixture that contains fruit juice (or, unfortunately, artificial flavors that mimic real fruit) and no chunks of actual fruit.

JAM:  A less smooth pectin-based mixture that contains mashed, pureed, or whole fruits.

Of course, I am making jam.  As mentioned in a previous post, I try to keep my consumption of juice to a minimum; whole fruits contain more fiber, which aids in preventing the conversion of sugar to fat.  For my sweetener, I’m using light agave syrup, which I first introduced to you with my coleslaw formula.  Compared to many (if not most) store-bought jams, mine contains very little added sugar and no artificial sweeteners of any kind.

I must warn you, despite containing few ingredients, making jam does contain quite of few steps, including several rounds of boiling.  Having a helper in the kitchen makes a big difference, and you can make jam in bulk to save time later on.  🙂  This jam keeps at room temperature for one year, but should be refrigerated and consumed in three weeks once a jar is opened.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  JAM

Makes 2 small jars or 1 large*

  • 2 cups raw or precooked fruit**  –>  I’m using ½ cup wonderberries, ½ cup raspberries, and 1 cup blackberries.
  • 2 tbsps sweetener  –>  I’m using agave syrup.
  • 1 tsp pectin
  • 1 tsp calcium water (prepare according to package directions)

*You can find mason jars at many retailers including dollar or 99 cent stores.

**A hard fruit like apples will be easier to mash or puree if it has been precooked, but a softer fruit like raspberries will mash easily in a raw state.

Fill a pot with water enough to completely cover your mason jars in standing position and bring to a boil.  Add both the jars and their lids.  After the jars have boiled for a few minutes, turn the heat on low and keep the jars in the hot water.

Next, peel and precook your fruit, if necessary.  Place your raw and/or cooked fruit in a bowl and mash, or, puree in a blender or food processor.

DSC_2072Combine your mashed fruit and calcium water in a pot and bring to a boil.  While you are awaiting the boil, combine your pectin and sweetener in a separate dish.

DSC_2073Add the mixture to the boiling fruit and stir an additional 1-2 minutes, until the pectin is dissolved.  Remove from the heat.

Using tongs, remove your hot jars from the other pot and bring the water to a boil again.  While you are waiting for yet another boil, pour the jam into the jars, approximately ¼ of an inch from the top.  Wipe the rims clean and seal.  Once the water is boiling, submerge the jars in an upright position and boil for 10 minutes.

Use tongs to remove the hot jars and place on the countertop to cool.  Refrigerate once opened.

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Update: Our Backyard Garden

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Here in Phoenix, temperatures will be over 100 degrees by the end of this week. This means the beginning of some summer crops, but the end of most, with temperatures eventually reaching the teens. Since I last updated you on our DIY backyard garden, we’ve had a few changes and one surprise.

As previously mentioned, growing your own garden allows you to control the quality (i.e. organic, for example) and saves you money on purchasing pre-grown produce. Unless you’re an expert and/or have a ton of available land with extremely fertile soil and/or live in a region with perfect gardening weather year-round, you probably can’t grow everything that your veggie heart desires, but there may be a few items with which you can find success.

Other than our extensive herb collection—which, unfortunately, is starting to take a beating from the heat—our biggest success by far is tomatoes. We have at least four different varieties (that we’re aware of) growing in our garden, including these gorgeous beefsteaks (pictured above). Our plants are holding strong as summer approaches and we have 40-50 fit-sized tomatoes near maturity, including some sweet yellows and black rim.

We have a few baby yellow summer squashes and leeks, too. We received leaks in our Bountiful Basket one week and thought we’d try planting it; months later, it’s going strong.

DSC_2045 DSC_2043Other successes (not pictured) include continued growth of our pomegranate trees, shrub-sized rosemary and lavender, and lemongrass that’s been going for well over a year. We have about five ears of corn with a couple of kernels each and green onions that we planted over two years ago that just keep on giving.

Our oleanders are in bloom, as well as a few different flower varieties. The mini-red roses below came from a “house plant” given to us nearly two years ago. It was near death living inside, so we took a chance and planted it outside and it has been in bloom since. Blooming flowers = birds and bees = new growth cropping up unexpectedly…

DSC_2051Surprise: We have wonderberries! It took us a while to research and name the mystery plant that has taken root in our yard, but we finally did it. Wonderberries, sometimes referred to as sunberries, look similar to blueberries. When they are green, they are poisonous. Once they turn black, they are edible. When the skin goes from shiny to dull, they are at their best, but never quite as sweet as other berries. They are commonly made into pies or jams where extra sugar can be added. I’ll let you know when we harvest ours and make something out of them.

DSC_2041Still feeling daunted? Again, start with windowsill herbs and work your way up to planting bigger crops. 🙂 Your organic palate and fuller wallet will thank you in the end!