Until I moved to the West coast, I had never heard of a Saskatoon berry. It's not exactly a common or popular food in Montreal (where I grew up and lived most my life), or in PEI where I spent the beginning of my adult years.
But here, in Alberta, they are easy to find. Bushes grow by the trail in my town, and there are multiple U-pick farms around as well. Of course, I completely missed the picking season, but I was lucky enough to find some at the farmers market. It was the last week the lady was coming to sell some too. I got about 18-20 cups for only $12! Enough to make a good batch of jam, and still have some left over. I'm not sure if the rest will be for jam yet. I happen to know that Saskatoon berries make excellent pie!
The first time I made jam, was a week before having my son, almost 8 years ago. It went really well, except that I got a second degree burn on my thumb thanks to the piping hot jam. It wasn't until last summer, that I decided to give jam making another go. Only thing is, that we don't use processed sugar in our house. (Read more about my son's ADHD food-related issues HERE) I realized, with a bit of research, it is actually possible to make jam using honey!
I love using natural, unprocessed ingredients as much as possible, so that made me so happy! Saskatoons happen to be his favourite kind of berries, so I knew it would be a marriage made in heaven. As much as I want to make a delicious pie with the last bit of berries, I think it will be wiser to make more jam, to make sure it lasts him until next summer (and hopes he shares a bit).
Before I get to the sharing the recipe part, I'd like to share something with you about pectin. I used to use a popular brand name of pectin (that shall remain nameless), thinking pectin is pectin. Homemade jam is always better and healthier than store bought. I'm doing a great thing for my family. Wrong!
Not all pectins are created equal:
Yes, technically, homemade is better than store bought, but considering what I found in the brand I used to use, homemade was no better. I found Sodium Benzoate (also labeled as E211 sometimes), a preservative that many kids with ADHD are sensitive to. I actually found it in two very popular brands of pectin. I haven't checked all of them though. If you do any research on Sodium Benzoate and it's potential effects on health, the information is not pretty. Bottom line, stay away from it. Also, this particular brand I used to buy, also has lactic acid in it. My son has to avoid all dairy and it's derivatives. Lactic acid is not necessarily from dairy though, but I tried to call the company and look up on their website without finding anything out, so I am not sure what it's made from.
Choose your pectin carefully:
Personally, I use Pomona's pectin. It's gluten-free and vegan, I can use natural sweeteners to make my jams with it, and it's not packed with nasty preservatives and additives.
I find mine at the health food store. I used to think it was expensive, and yes, it cost more per box than the regular kinds. BUT. The package of Pomona's makes more jam than a batch using this old name brand of mine. So when all is said and done, it's not more expensive. Plus, I can't put a price on my family's health.
Now, onto the fun part. The jam making!
Saskatoon Berry and Honey Jam
- 8 cups of mashed Saskatoon berries (it took me about 12 cups of fresh berries to obtain that amount)
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups of local honey (or you can use other natural sweeteners if you prefer)
- 4 tsp Pomona's pectin
- 4 tsp calcium water (included in Pomona's pectin, just follow direction on how to make it)
Wash your canning jars in hot water (I used 7-8 250ml jars), just before canning so your jars are still warm.
Mash your fruit and add it to a large pot. Add lemon juice and calcium water. Bring fruit mixture to a boil.
While your fruit is cooking, boil your lids in a separate pot. Once they've boiled, turn the water on and set aside until you need them.
Add honey and pectin to fruit mixture once it's boiling and mix well. Bring to a boil again and boil just about 2-3 minutes. Don't let it go too long! To test your jam, spoon a bit of it on a plate. If it thickens, it's ready. Remove from heat.
Using a wide mouth funnel, scoop jam into jars, leaving about 1/4 inch space at the top. Put lids on jars, making sure you don't tighten the rings.
Place the jars of jam in a hot water bath, boiling for 10 minutes. Remove from water and set on a towel on the counter until it cools. You should hear the lids do a popping sound when they seal. If any of them don't seal, simply place it in the fridge and eat that one first ;)
Label your jars and they are ready to be stored, or to become gifts!
I still have plenty of pectin left. Next, I'm thinking raspberry and strawberry jams, maybe even a hot pepper jelly... The bounties of summer are so inspiring, who knows what else I'll make!
Tell me, what kinds of jams do you like to make?
Note: I was not paid or asked to advertise for Pomona's pectin. I simply am sharing because it's what I use and I truly believe in the goodness of this brand.