I’m thinking jam. Tis the season with the berries and stone fruits harvesting.
We have become very accustomed to fruits available all the year round, but you will find they have nowhere near the same level of flavour. Fruits are fleeting, lasting only a few weeks, but there is a way to capture that moment — jam. But not jam as you might know it, but a spoonful of deliciousness that tastes like the fruit it is, with just enough sweetness to bring out it’s full flavour. A snapshot of the season in a jar. Now I am often asked can you make jam with something other than sugar, or less sugar and the answer is complex, and included below. So here it all is – as Wholefood Baking is currently out of print, I’ve put the recipe here for you. I promise you that once you know the hows, it’s very easy. But there are rules….
The only fruit to use is that which is ripe, preferably organic and in season. Fruits such as this are bursting with natural sweetness, colour with enormous complexity and luscious flavour. The jam (it’s a universal recipe) here relies less on sugar, and more so on technique to capture the true complexity and glory of fruit flavour — it is a snapshot of the fruit at its best and the season. Jams are very easy to make, and will store in the pantry for up to one year. On a cold winter’s day, when you take that batch of scones out of the oven, you will thank yourself for your stash of homemade jams and the colour and taste of summer will lift your spirits.
Technically, the object of preserving is to slow down the process of decay. Food spoils from the continued activity of natural enzymes in all fruits and vegetables and the continued work of microorganisms in the form of moulds, yeasts and bacteria present in the food and air.
SUGAR, PECTIN AND ACID
Jam relies on sugar to saturate the natural moisture of the fruit and thus preserve it. I am often asked if something other than sugar can be used to make jam — the answer is complex. Many of the sugar-free jams you see are made with white grape juice concentrate, use pectin and have been processed in a boiling-water bath. Because there is not enough sucrose to saturate the fruit and preserve it (and this is true of many other non-sucrose based sweeteners, such as stevia, agave and brown rice syrup), the boiling-water bath is the preserving method. I prefer to use one of the semi-refined organic raw sugars (not rapadura, which is too low in sucrose and too strong in flavour)( I like to use the Billingtons Golden Castor Sugar) in the smallest possible amount, this allows the glorious flavour of the fruit to shine through. Most jam recipes call for equal quantities of sugar to fruit by weight. You need about 60–70 per cent sugar for good gelling to occur naturally (sugar, pectin, acidity). I find this way too much sugar and prefer a ratio of 20–40 per cent sugar to fruit, but this will vary with the fruit — tart fruit will require more, and sweet fruit will require less. Because the holy trinity of sugar, pectin and acid is disrupted, this will result in a softer ‘set’, which I happen to prefer.
Pectin is a carbohydrate that helps to ‘set’ jam. It is particularly concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit. The conversion of the pre-curser substances to pectin occurs naturally during ripening but can also be forced by long cooking, as in the traditional methods of making jam without added pectin. Fruits vary in how much pectin, or pectin pre-cursers, they contain. Pectin produces structure and a kind of stiffness in jam by forming a water-holding network within the crushed fruit. Before gelling starts, individual molecules of pectin are surrounded and isolated from each other by water molecules. If the surrounding solution is acidic enough, the pectin loses some of its attraction for these isolating water molecules. Sour fruit will normally provide enough acid to take care of this step. If the acid content of the fruit is low, lemon juice can be added to make the fruit mixture more acidic. Once the pectin has loosened its hold on the water molecules, something more attractive must pull the water away from the pectin — this is the role of sugar. With its water stripped away, pectin opens out into a structure that links readily with other pectin molecules to form a three- dimensional network — a gel.
Fruits with high natural pectin and acid content include: blackberries + crab apples + cranberries + plums+ quinces+ sour apples
Fruits with low natural pectin and acid content include: apricots+ blueberries + figs+ grapes+ guava+ peaches+ pears+ prunes+ raspberries + rhubarb+ strawberries
Low-pectin fruits benefit from the addition of lemon, to boost the acidity and thus setting. Unripe fruit (sour) will also increase acidity. Jam is best made with a good percentage of fruit that is not overripe because as the fruit ripens, the pectin breaks down and you will not get a good set.
PICK THE RIGHT POT
The right pot is critical to making low-sugar jam, I cannot stress this enough. Mine is a traditional French copper preserving pan that is shallow and wide. It’s about 12 cm (41⁄2 inches) high, 36 cm (141⁄4 inches) across the base and 39 cm (151⁄2 inches) across the top, with a 10 litre (350 fl oz) capacity. The wide surface area encourages evaporation and reduction, thus cooking the jam quickly. It is extremely difficult to make jam in a deep pot with a small surface area — tall pans are a major cause of runny jam.
However, you can make smaller amounts in your average large domestic saucepan. You can use a simple stainless steel pan — just make sure it is not too deep. A wider and more shallow pan with less capacity (for example, a sauté pan with a 5 litre/ 175 fl oz capacity and a depth of 8 cm/31⁄4 inches) is better than a pot with a 10 litre/350 fl oz capacity, but a depth of 16–18 cm (61⁄4–7 inches), or even a frypan with a large shallow surface area. It will mean you can only make small amounts at a time — about 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) of fruit, but your jam will be more successful. You can also use a 20–24 cm (8–91⁄2 inch) typical domestic saucepan, but keep the amount of fruit to 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz).
Never make jam in large quantities — another cause of runny jam — and never crowd your pan. How much fruit you use (the weight) will depend on the size of your pan — for mine, I use 4 kg (9 lb). A good guide is to only fill your pan two-thirds full of fruit.
JARS AND LIDS
Always use tempered jars that can withstand the temperatures involved in sterilising, jam-making and storage. Some jars manufactured for products such as coffee, peanut butter and mayonnaise are not tempered and do not have strong seals on the lids. Jars must not be cracked, chipped or damaged in any way, and lids must not be scratched or dented. Jars can be re-used, but lids are good for one use only.
STERILISING YOUR EQUIPMENT
Your jars, lids, ladles and funnels must all be sterilised. This is easy to do in an oven at 120°C (235°F/Gas 1⁄2) for 20 minutes. Jars and lids must be sterilised, dry and warm. Once sterilised, turn the oven off and leave in the warm oven until the jam is ready. Equipment can also be boiled for 12 minutes in a large saucepan of water, then dried in the oven at a low temperature.
PUTTING THE JAM INTO JARS
Bottling technique is the other very important part of making low-sugar jams — the jam must be spooned with a sterilised ladle through a sterilised funnel into warm jars (as hot jam into cool or cold jars will cause the jars to break) as soon as it is ready. Make sure the sterilised jars are warm (from sterilising and then being kept warm in the oven) and sit them on a wooden surface or on towels (so they don’t crack when the hot jam is added). This process will ensure the jars seal properly and that the jam does not spoil.
After ladling the jam into the jars, make sure there is no spillage as this will hinder a seal being formed. Gently wipe any spillage, taking care not to touch the sterilised lip of the jar. Place the lids on, taking care to touch only the outside of the lids. Holding the jars with a damp cloth (for a good grip), turn the lids until firm.
Let the jars sit until fully cool — do not move them for 12 hours or you can disrupt the vacuum process. A concave dip in the middle of the lid indicates a vacuum seal. If there is no concave dip, store the jam in the fridge and use straight away.
Once opened and the seal is broken, the jam begins to deteriorate and must be kept in the fridge.
The beautiful photo at the top of this post is ©Cath Muscat and all copy is ©Jude Blereau and Murdoch Books, and taken from Wholefood Baking. Published by Murdoch Books, 2013.
Why cake ? Because joy and deliciousness are nutrients in their own right, as our love and beauty. With the cooler weather, the cakes I bake become a little richer and with Mothers Day coming up, I threw in a couple of frostings as well. We’re getting dressed up and special.
Now, this cake is an old recipe – it was hands down the best selling cake back in my Earth Market days (the wholefood cafe and store I co – founded back in the late 90’s), and one of the most popular recipes from my first book Wholefood – heal, nourish, delight. This post is going to be all about the cake, I’ve got to get it finished, and then finish of packing up my house as I move in 2 weeks (equal measures of arrrrgggghhhhh and excitement). All of these beautiful photos ©Harriet Harcourt
The cake itself:
- If you choose to use the rapadura sugar it will be less sweet, more whole and possibly a little drier (a bit similar to my Coffee and Walnut Cake from Wholefood Baking) – this is because sugar makes up part of the liquid percentage in baking. But, I reduced the amount of sugar from the original also, and I give you the option of increasing it in the recipe (this will help to moisten it up). You can also get around this by baking it as one 20cm cake, then cutting it into 3 – I chose to divide the batter as 3 individual cakes, but think it suffered for that – mind you, there were very few complaints from the WACA (West Australian Cricket Association) testing crew – some did find it a little dry.
- This cake is largely dairy free – see cake itself recipe. The chocolate fudge frosting is dairy free but I chose to use the raspberry better buttercream for the in-between layers. If you would like to use all chocolate, there will be enough frosting to layer the cakes, and top and side it. The raspberry BB will only be enough for the 2 layers – you will need to double it if you want some for the top and side.
- The cocoa powder. Please, do not use raw cocoa powder – you won’t find any in my pantry. This recipe is designed for, and uses a dutched cocoa – this is a less acidic cocoa. It’s tricky to know which good (organic) brands are, but certainly Organic Times is, and generally freely available.
How to put the cake together:
1: I didn’t stress about making a perfect cake, hence I put it basically together on the workbench. But you can put it together on a cardboard round (making it easier to move onto the cake stand), and also do it on a cake turntable stand. I’m using my 15cm palette knife, here and for pretty much the entire cake.
2: Start by placing a very generous amount of chocolate frosting on top of the cake, then push it towards the edge, taking it down the side of the cake. continue this until the entire cake is covered. When it is entirely covered, pick it up using a larger palette knife and place on the cake stand.
3. I use my stainless steel squared off dough scraper, and gently turn the cake around while I even out the frosting on the side, then on to my trusty 15cm palette to tidy and clean it all up.
4: Onto decorating and eating !
Being a mum of my beautiful daughter Nessie, is without doubt the blessing of my life – here we are (when I still had dark hair) circa 1986, and how grateful I am to my mum, without whom I would have not been able to do a fraction of what I’ve been able to do in my life. Blessed indeed, and I wish the same for you… x jude
This little baby has been in my head for sometime as a distant image – I kinda knew what I wanted, but didn’t have time to work it out and thus it missed going into the new book. So you are getting it for Christmas dear reader. As I began to slow down last week, I finally could see (in my mind) how to go about this recipe. As it happened I had a play date set with my gorgeous friend Emma Galloway (My Darling Lemon Thyme) as a chance for us to really catch up before she heads back home to New Zealand. What a truly beautiful soul is Emma – and talented. Given photography is not my strength, and it most certainly is Emma’s, I asked her if she would mind bringing her camera and take some shots. These gorgeous shots you see here are hers, and the making of it was a joint effort :) Needless to say, we did not stop talking from the second she arrived to the second she left. Thank you for the beautiful photos Emm!
It’s very easy, gluten and dairy free. Now I say that not because I think gluten and dairy free means something is wholesome and healthy, but because I like my sweetness a little less rich and lighter when the weather is 40c (as it is want to be on a Perth Christmas Day). For those of you that follow my work, you will see it’s pedigree in the Vanilla Bean Almond Cream and Creamy Cocoa Butter and Vanilla Frosting from Wholefood Baking. Just a couple of things:
- You will need to soak the almonds for the milk overnight to make the almond and coconut milk (and please don’t be tempted to use tetrapak almond milk, it will be watery and not nice. You can however make the almond and coconut milk the day before, so you are ready to go the next day.
- You will really only need about 3/4 of the chocolate biscuit base, but I’m too tired to work that out. I would make it up, and perhaps make little tartlets with the left over !
- This really is best eaten the day it is made -it will also look it’s best. I know that’s not optimal for Christmas, but you could have the milk made, and the strawberry juice made and it really doesn’t take that long to put together.
- Use a good vanilla – I like Heilala
- Dont use a generic agar powder, go to a Natural or Wholefoods store and buy it there. Two good brands are Honest to Goodness or Lotus
- If you are wondering about kudzu, you can find it here (in Australia) here in the U.S
I’d like to ask you something here though… enjoy this recipe and I would love you to share it but please respect the copyright of both myself and Emma. There’s a lot of craziness going on in the blogging and instagram world. I (and others I know) will now often see a recipe that is mine (or theirs) directly posted with no acknowledgement, or a few small changes with no nod to it’s source. I would ask that you please respect this.
It’s been a big year for me, with lots of blessings and challenges. I didn’t run the Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program this year as I was exhausted, and with a book to finish. That new book is just about put to bed, my family are well, I am loved and supported by that wonderful family and true friends, I have wonderful neighbours, I’m finally able to own my home and am building, I’ve been doing public classes again and I have the absolute blessing of doing work I love – and I hope, making a positive difference. I got the flu badly (twice), I didn’t balance work and rest too well and I’ve learnt a lot of about false friendships and those that are true – lessons are blessings in their own way as they free you for the new growth, deeper friendships and all that really matters. I go into the new year grateful, loving with arms open wide to embrace the new year with joy.
I wish you and your loved ones a joyful, peaceful and safe Christmas, may you be richly blessed with everything that really matters.
Hello !!! Are you as busy as I am right now, finishing off jobs before Christmas (for me that is putting the new book to bed – going through last pages, checking it twice – and getting my new online tax system finished, making sure my builders are going to get the roof on my new house before Christmas to avoid delays in the new year, thank you notes)….. ? I’ve tidied up the blog a bit (but really it needs a lot more tidying up – as does my garden) and have rounded up some recipes that are 1) Christmas and 2) are great for this time of the year. Please bear in mind, some of these recipes are old (but not bad) and have not imported into the new website beautifully – and, I’m a bit better photographer than before (not a lot, but a bit!) They are still favourites.. especially the puff pastry. I’ll have a new post up next week for a easy, dairy + gluten free + vegan dessert – one of my favourites.
Till then… x jude
There are an awful lot of hyped up conversations about sugar going on and sugar free is in, big time – another book, another movie, another fractionalised approach to food. I’ve stayed out of this debate, preferring to run a conversation in my books and classes about a wholefoods and wholistic life, but after reading this great article by Jess Cox, I felt it was timely to put forward what I consider a sensible conversation about sugar. This also coincided with the passing of my dear friends Denise and Julies’ mum – Shirley – but more about that later.
When I started out on my wholefood path some 25 years ago, I too saw things from quite a black or white perspective – I had not yet learnt that things are always far deeper and more complex than at first glance and that it is generally not what the food IS that makes it good, or wholesome and healthy, ethical or sustainable, but how we grow it, process and prepare it that is. And, the context in which we source it, eat it and the life we live. And my, but is sugar a great example of this, and of a wholefood philosophy and a wholistic lifestyle in general.
From a wholefood perspective, we could say that cane sugar juice in its natural state is a rich source of vitamins, minerals enzymes, fibers and phytonutrients, which the body requires to digest the sucrose and provide a slow release of fuel. Indeed the minerals calcium, phosphorous, chromium, magnesium, cobalt, copper, iron, zinc and manganese are absolutely essential for this process. To store over long periods and stop it from fermenting, cane juice is boiled to evaporate water and this end product is known by many names – for example Rapadura or Panela (they do the same thing, for the same reason to maple syrup and coconut palm nectar). In its traditional homes (Central and South Americas) it is consumed within the context of a whole and balanced diet and is considered a healthful and nourishing food – this is what we should be referring to when we use the words cane sugar. But, I do understand that in most cases, when we say the word sugar, we are referring to what we know as refined sugar – the cane juice instead is boiled under vacuum to achieve high enough temperatures for crystallisation, with all nutrients removed or at the very least with a few left in, during the refining process. It is a very different thing because of the way it has been processed and now, without the wealth of nutrients and polyphenols to aid the digestion of sucrose and slow down its release, it will hit the blood stream too quickly. I also understand very well that our bodies have not evolved to handle this, however will do it’s best – pulling nutrients from elsewhere in the body leading to depletion.
Which brings me to Shirley. One of the things that came through so clearly and strongly at the funeral of this very beautiful woman (both inside and out) when people spoke about their memories of her, was that the cake and biscuit tin was always full – made with refined white flour and sugar – and in the profound words of the CWA (Country Womens Association), ‘it’s not just about the scones and tea’. Shirley was always there, her door was always open, with a cup of tea and comfort. Somehow (according to the current fractionalised views on sugar) with this refined sugar in their diet Shirley and Ralph raised exceptional, healthy, wonderful children that contribute so much to our community. Somehow Shirley and Ralph lived full, happy and rich lives. Now I could also be talking of my mum (and indeed much of this generation now in their late 80’s and 90’s), who still makes biscuits and muffins for when people drop in, or to give to others. She uses white flour and refined white sugar. From a wholistic perspective (the one that fascinates me the most) is that I honestly don’t think that this bit of white sugar in a whole and balanced diet is evil, or cause disease, or indeed is going to kill you. But eating a lot of refined white sugar and flour, low fat, processed vegetable oil, nutrient deficient, additive laden food in a stressful life possibly will. From this wholistic perspective, I think we are looking in all the wrong places for salvation (hello green smoothie).I think it is far more important that we focus our attention on the fundamentals which you can find here, and when these are strong and in place (as they most certainly have been and in many cases still are in our very older generations) the issue of refined white sugar diminishes. And of course the elephant in the room always is that whilst people might be ditching refined white sugar, but they are most certainly not ditching sweetness – sweetness is always about balance and context.
Personally, my choice is for less refined sweeteners, I like the flavours and nuanced sweetness they give, but when I eat my mum’s muffins I am partaking in powerful love medicine. I love rapadura sugar, but when I do want a cane sugar with less impact I will choose the semi refined (but still crystallised) sugars such as the Billingtons range, where less goodness is taken out in the beginning. I also love maple syrup, maple sugar, coconut palm sugar and brown rice syrup (but take note all brands of BRS are not equal and in Australia I choose Spiral), and of course fruit. I dislike and do not advocate products such as Agave or Xylitol – both highly refined products.
Shirley was known for and for her love of a good sponge cake and for the time she took to sit down with others. Afternoon tea is a great way to slow down on the weekend and stop, and for some to lay their burdens down. I thought you might like to make one for a weekend in the warmer spring weather. A sponge is certainly my favourite cake too – I love it with passionfruit and banana. If a sponge is not your thing, there’s plenty more delicious options in my book Wholefood Baking (and don’t forget to check out the yummy Choc Peanut Truffles on Jess’ post. Vale Shirley.
I know, we have Christmas in summer here in Australia, this year they promise a cool 30c rather than the general 40+. I don’t know if it’s because I am a child of tradition, or my age but I love to think of snow. Perhaps it’s because I love cold weather – the food, the clothes, the snuggling, the games, the reading etcetera. Whatever the reason and because of both I wanted to do a gingerbread home this year – just for whimsy. Whimsy is an important thing -you better not pout (with reason or logic) it’s your heart calling, and when your heart calls you better listen. When Nessie was growing up, her beautiful older cousins Kim and Lisa took charge of the GBH. They provided all the lollydom that she missed out on at home, and I’m incredibly grateful. Not for the lollies in all their chemical and fake glory, but the experience, the daringness of it all and the connection (even now her cousin Fran sends her a text the other day with a picture of the kids making a GBH with the caption ” look Ness, real lollies”). I’m pretty much of the belief that it’s actually not about the lollies, but the experience and if you provide your makers with enough fun, they will be very very happy indeed. Can I say a word about ‘wholesome’? I don’t belive that means no sugar – I believe it means close to it’s natural state as possible, moderation, connection, fun and deliciousness.
So let’s get to it.
I’ve chosen to use whole ingredients with a minimum of whole and semi refined sweeteners (namely rapadura, golden icing sugar and brown rice syrup). The home is built on a wholemeal spelt base with rapadura sugar – if I was in the U.S I would have chosen maple sugar as it would give an amazing flavour. I’ve made the royal icing glue using the Billingtons Golden Icing Sugar – a semi refined sugar which I love (in Australia it’s available in many supermarkets, even Woolworths). Because it’s semi refined, it will come up brownish when made and you can see that beige tone in the glue along the side of the walls. Because of this, I’ve not used this icing for ‘snow’ on the roof, or indeed even sprinkled it to resemble snow – as soon as it absorbs a touch of moisture it will be brown. SO, I thought I’d try marshmallow and very happy with the final result. I chose to press crystallised ginger (I bought some without sugar around the edges) onto the roof panels, and love the end result – and the more ginger for me the better. Children might not like to eat that, what about some roughly chopped pecan or walnut? Something just gives it a wonderful textural, roofy effect. I sprinkled cornstarch over the entire house for snow, and found some shiny cake sprinkly things in my pantry and gave it a touch of that also. You can see I was lazy and didn’t make windows – that’s easy to do if you would like, but with children involved, I would recommend you keep it simple.
Before we get started, I want to say to you how much I’ve enjoyed meeting you this year as I travelled with my new book Wholefood Baking, and through facebook and instagram. I spoke to a woman called Lisa from Sydney the other day who had rung, to ask which book she thought I should buy her friend for her birthday. In talking she said that her very, very fussy mothers at playgroup don’t blink when she brings and says ” this is a Jude cake / dish”. Please know I understand that trust given, and thank you for having me in your kitchen and home, and know I consider it a deeply meaningful honour and privilege. Blessings to you and your loved ones for a beautiful Christmas season and blessed 2014.
PUTTING THE HOUSE TOGETHER:
It is best to make the royal icing and glue the house together first, THEN start on making the marshmallow. The Gingerbread pieces must be absolutely cool before using. Decide also what you are going to put it on – I have simply used a chopping board.
You can find the Gingerbread recipe below, the Royal Icing /Glue recipe below, the Marshmallow recipe here with a few extra notes about it below, and you will also need 1 tablespoon cornstarch for the snow.
Place 2/3 royal icing into a large piping bag fitted with a 5 – 7mm nozzle.
Start by piping a good amount of cement along the sides of the front and along the sides of the side panel. Join together on the board – you will find you only have to hold them for a few seconds or so, and leave to ‘set’ for a couple of minutes before continuing on with the back and other side panel. Make sure it is nice and sturdy/set before doing the roof. Be generous with your cement, and nothing says you can’t go along with the piping back and add more to the gaps if needed. For the roof panel, you will need to pipe cement along the top of the house sides, front and back tops and along the top of the roof panel. Place them on one at a time, and then pipe more as needed. Using a finer piping tip, use the remaining icing to decorate as needed (window’s, etc).
NEXT STEP IS TO MAKE THE MARSHMALLOW. I made the recipe in a vanilla version without the strawberries, and did a couple of different things. Firstly, replace the strawberries with water. When adding the gelatine to the water make sure you sprinkle it in and mix it until smooth – no lumps. Secondly, reduce the amount of sugar – there is no acidity from the strawberries to buffer the sweetness, reduce it to 280 – 300 – no less, or you won’t have what you need. Thirdly, I used 3 kinds of vanilla – all my favourite Heilala brand – I scraped out vanilla seed from 1 pod and added the seeds to the sugar, water, brown rice syrup mixture + the paste and extract as per the recipe. The trick with using the marshmallow to decorate was beating it for ages – easily about 15 – 20 minutes which helped it to cool and set up a bit. You can see how I used mine, but even at this stage it would still run – I couldn’t make snow banks against the house, as it just ran down so I would say practice before you commit yourself. You will have left over marshmallow (terrible I know). I’ve set mine up to use in a rocky road – you can read how to set it in the recipe.
When you’ve snowed it with marshmallow, add twigs, trees etc as desired and stick them with the glue.
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