SfS Challenge, Week 1: Jams, Jellies, and Marmalades

Grapefruit MarmaladeSunshine.

There are few foods as comforting or as basic as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  It’s a sandwich of a million and one combinations, featuring different jellies, textures and types of nut butters, and even different breads.  A basic sandwich, however, is not the only place for delicious jams and jellies.  Jams make excellent cake fillings, marmalade makes a citrusy bright glaze for fish, pork and chicken, and jellies can make for simple, elegant syrups over pancakes or stirred in a cocktail.

The condiment aisle at the grocery store, at first glance, seems loaded with hundreds of different spreadable goodies.  There’s the gold-standards of strawberry and grape, sprinkled through with some special items like blueberry and plum.  If you’re at the right kind of store, you’ll find expensive blackberry jam, too.

But what about the flavors that your grandmother would know?  Elderberry or Quince?  Red Currant or Crab Apple?  These flavors tend to be the stuff of Farmers’ Markets, packaged in squat jars and tied up with ribbon.  Lined up together, they’re a collection of pantry jewels that make it easy to forget about the plus-sized jar of strawberry-flavored sugar gel hiding in the corner.

So, to start our Swap for Scratch challenge, we’re going to take a look at these sweet little jars and see what we can do.  There’s a lot of room for improvement in a basic jar of strawberry jam.  They often contain not just sugar, but plenty of high fructose corn syrup.  In low-sugar or fat-free versions, they feature artificial sweeteners as well.  Unless marked otherwise, store jams are also likely to harbor GMO fruits, and artificial flavors and dyes.  It’s an awful lot of negatives for something that is traditionally very simple.

The Swap for Scratch challenge is to try to make your own jelly, jam, or marmalade this week.  It doesn’t have to be canned, or even require special ingredients like pectin.  I’m linking a recipe here for Grapefruit Marmalade, a delicious little project I tried a few weeks ago, and I want to take some time to discuss the principles of jam making.  Check the end of this post for a strawberry jam recipe that requires only strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.

The Challenge

Replace your usual jam, jelly or marmalade purchase.

Good Swap: Buy an organic, all natural spread from your local grocery or natural foods store.

Better Swap: Buy a local, homemade jam from a local area fresh or farmers’ market.

Best Swap: Make Your Own!

Google for some jam and jelly recipes, use our index for the few we have posted here, including this tasty strawberry jam that requires no pectin, or check out this new, yummy Grapefruit Marmalade recipe.

Post here to let us know how you did!  If you blogged about it, send us your link and we’ll give you a shout-out

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