How To… make any jam.

This post is part of the Nutritional Health Series, check the tag for the other posts!

Jam is a great way to make use of large amounts of fruit or slightly damaged or defrosted fruit. Many people don’t think they have the time for jam, but really, it’s fast, simple and will save you a lot of money on wasted fruit and buying jams!

1: The basics.

Jams come in three distinct forms. A jelly, made from only the juice. A jam, made from crushed fruit and juice. And a compote, a jelly with whole fruit preserved in it. They are all made largely from fruit and sugar, but sometimes use gelling agents like pectin or gelatine to help them along.

2: Fruit.

You need fruit for a jam or jelly. At least 500g or 1lb of fruit is needed to make a large portion of jam, but with the microwave method you can make smaller batches! Fruit juice is also an option.

In some jams, like marmalade, you use the rinds of the fruit as well as the flesh and juice.

3: Sugar.

The most efficient sugars for jam are crystal sugars, like white sugar, demarera sugar or brown cane sugar. But soft sugars like honey, palm sugar or maple syrup can work too, with a bit more patience.

The perfect ratio for jam is between 50/50 and 1/3 sugar to 2/3 fruit.

4: Gelling.

If you’re really not sure your jam will set, consider using a gelling agent.

  • Pectin is a natural fruit gelling agent you can use to firm up a jam.
  • Gelatine comes from animal bones and collagen, but may make your jam too solid.
  • Packaged jelly is easier to use for a bit of flavoured firmness.
  • Agar is a seaweed product that is used instead of gelatine in veg*n dishes.

5: In a pot.

The traditional way. You put your fruit in a pot and simmer until it begins to break down and release fluids. Then you add the sugar slowly, stirring the whole time. Reduce the jam and let it cool.

6: Microwave.

Small batches of jam can be made in the microwave. Just crush the fruit and sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl, cook for a minute at a time and stir in between until it becomes viscous.

7: Raw.

If you combine gelatinous fruit, like bananas, persimmons or lychee, with your sweet fruit and sugar of choice, you can make a tasty raw jam. Just blend 1/3 gelatinous fruit with 1/3 fruit pulp (mash the sweet fruit and squeeze the juice out) and 1/3 your sugar of choice. A viscous sugar like palm sugar, maple syrup or honey works best.

8: Jars.

Traditional jams can be preserved in a jar. Be sure to soak the jar in boiling water first and fill and seal it while it’s still hot. If you have a canning station, this may be the best option, but otherwise hot jam into a hot jar and seal works fine. My jams last a whole year like this without going off.

9: Fridge.

Microwave and raw jams are best kept more aerated in a bowl with a lid in the fridge. They keep 5-10 days, less if less sugar is involved.

And that’s how to make any jam you fancy. Almost all fruits can be jammed, but gelatinous fruits, apples, pears and berries will jam easier due to their high pectin content!

What’s your favourite jam or preserve?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

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How To… make a great salad.

At the moment I am living off salads. Love them. But too often people go wrong with salads, especially for weight loss. Either they’re just a pile of tasteless leaves or they’re so swimming in dressing, croutons, mayo, cheese or other calorific foods that they’re no better than any other lunch.

Personally, I primarily use salads to get some vitamins and minerals, some pickles, some fluid and other assorted things into my diet and only secondarily use them as a calorie-control method. Still, by using these techniques you should be able to make a largely raw, plant-based, low carb, low fat, low calorie salad that is also textured, flavourful and filling.

Step 1: Your base.

The first thing you need is a base of greens. Fill almost the entire bowl with greens. I like using lettuce, spinach and finely sliced cabbage, but all mild-tasting, leafy greens are good.

Step 2: First layer of texture and flavour.

Skip the croutons and crunchies. Leave the nuts and cheeses for now. What we need to add is around a fistful of onion, pickles, celery, carrots, etc per serving. Good quality tomatoes, radishes and watercress is also part of this category. The best bet is something crunchy and something strong, so a fistful of onion on its own, or half a fistful of carrots and half of pickles. Make sure these are all very finely diced.

Step 3: Booster texture and flavour.

This is literally a pinch of something. Maybe chopped chilies, sunflower seeds, fresh basil or pomegranate seeds. Not even enough to make a calorific impact, just for visual stimulus and a little variety of texture and flavour. Some things from the first layer can be added here in smaller quantities, but many boosters are just too rich, calorific or textured to use as the first layer.

Step 4: Topper. [Optional.]

You don’t need a topper. You can just have the salad as-is, or with the dressing. But, if you want to feel a little fuller for longer, then a topper may help. Pick something rich in protein and moderate to low in fat and carbs. Keep the portion fairly small. So a handful of walnuts, 20g of cheese, 50g of lean meat or a boiled egg. Increase if you need more calories or protein, decrease if you want a little bit but don’t want to eliminate it entirely.

Step 5: Dressing. [Optional.]

This is the bestest way to make a very low calorie dressing that helps you digest, adds lots of flavour and keep you healthy.

1 part (olive, coconut) oil to 3 parts (white, cider, balsamic, brown, rice) vinegar.

1-2tsp dry herbs (thyme, parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, mint, etc) and spices (chilli, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, anis, cumin, etc); any mix

1tsp mustard (fresh, raw, unsugared, unsalted if possible)

1-2tsp honey or sweetener (agave, stevia, coconut, sugar, cane, etc)

Put all the ingredients in an empty jar and shake until well mixed. Shake before pouring every time. Around 300ml makes enough for 6-8 well dressed salads or 8-12 lightly dressed salads.

And that’s how I make my salads. Some examples, to give you an idea.

Spicy surprise.

Base: lettuce and savoy cabbage.

Layer 1: onion.

Layer 2: chillies.

Topper: 50g cambozola cheese.

Dressing: brown vinegar, olive oil, smoked paprika, onion powder, dijon mustard, honey.

Pork salad.

Base: lettuce.

Layer 1: onion, pickles.

Layer 2: chillies.

Topper: 100g roast pork.

Dressing: brown vinegar, olive oil, onion powder, salt, dijon mustard, honey.

Light salad.

Base: lettuce, spring cabbage.

Layer 1: tomatoes.

Layer 2: onion.

Dressing: brown vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, american mustard, honey.

Egg salad.

Base: lettuce, spinach, cress.

Layer 1: tomatoes.

Layer 2: onion.

Topper: hard boiled egg.

Sweet salad.

Base: lettuce, spring cabbage, cress.

Layer 1: tomatoes.

Layer 2: pomegranate seeds and orange bits.

Dressing: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, onion powder, salt, palm sugar.

Hopefully that gave you some great ideas for light Spring and Summer salads!

What about you? What are your favourite salads? What is your biggest issue with salads? Do you prefer them sweet or spicy? Are you all about the greens, all about the fruit or all about the starch? Leave your thoughts, ideas and recipes in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!