Pick me a blueberry…
Under the bridge and over the dam
Looking for berries, berries for jam!
~Bruce Degen, Jamberry (1983)
Oregon’s Willamette Valley bursts with wonderful things to eat all summer long. We are so fortunate to live here. Every year, the kids and I go off on U-pick adventure, mostly for blueberries. We freeze them by the gallon for winter oatmeal toppings, muffins and pancakes. But I mostly make jam, normally at least 5 dozen 8-oz and 12-oz jars. We always have the makings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, although our consumption fell off greatly in the last year between Nora’s diet and Anders’ newfound love for hot lunch. This year we had around 2 dozen jars left by summertime, so I only made about 15 fresh jars of blueberry jam last week.
August 6, 2010. This is what a jam-making day looked like 2 years ago, pre-keto.
I feel like there is a homesteading pioneer woman (or a squirrel) inside of me, urging me to put aside enough food for winter. My family might not make it through the cool rainy days here in Oregon without my homemade jam to provide us with vitamin C and lift our spirits. It would have felt wrong to not make jam this year, so I took Anders out picking with friends for a day to gather all of the blueberries, and a few blackberries, to make our jam. Nora stayed home that day because surrounding her with blueberry bushes and not allowing her to eat them would be cruel and I did not want to closely supervise her (although she is amazing about not eating things). Anders is a super-picker and between the two of us, we can get enough blueberries for several batches of jam in a few hours of picking.
Nora stirring the berries for her jam.
Nora has been enjoying the fresh and frozen berries with meals (4 or 5 at a sitting), but I wanted I could make her some jam too. I always use a low-methyoxyl citrus pectin (brand name Pomona’s Universal Pectin, but I buy it in bulk at our co-op). It is sugar-free, preservative-free and uses calcium as the bonding agent, so recipes do NOT require sugar to gel (unlike typical pectin products). Instead of sugar, you add a bit of calcium citrate to the recipe (comes in the box or also available in bulk). Seemed like I should be able to make Nora some sugar-free jam, but I hit a roadblock. I couldn’t find any definitive nutrition information on the pectin. I saw references to it as a form of soluble fiber, but without specific numbers I did not feel comfortable factoring it into a recipe.
I went for the other jam option that I’ve heard about but never tried: gelatin-based freezer jam. It’s keto-genius! Berries are already low-carb when eaten alone, but for gelatin jam you add in a substantial amount of water and gelatin is all protein. No added carbs, and the carbs in the berries get diluted in a larger volume of food. The final product has fewer carbs-per-weight that the berries themselves, with all of the flavor and satisfaction of eating jam just like everyone else. Win-win-win!
And another big win–it’s easy and can be made in batches that store for a long time in the freezer. The only caveat is that once opened, you have to keep it refrigerated and use it fairly quickly (I would guess 1-2 weeks) because it does not have sugar to act as a preservative. Divide it into small containers–I used 8 oz jars. This goes for all low- or no-sugar jams like my usual homemade versions, so we are accustomed to using our small jars quickly. And your keto kid will like it so much, it won’t hang around long.
Nutrition information for 1 full batch (524 g) of mixed berry gelatin jam. Divide all amounts by 524 to get the per-gram breakdown and see blog post for calculations. Nutrition information from www.caloriecount.com
Mixed Berry Gelatin Jam
70 g Blueberries
70 g Strawberries
70 g Raspberries
70 g Blackberries
1 envelope Knox Unflavored Gelatine
1 cup cold water
In a large saucepan, crush berries. They will break down more as you increase the temperature. Add water and gelatin, mixing well. You can add any no-carb sweetener to taste.
Over medium heat, slowing increasing temperature, bring mixture to boiling while stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes.
Finished jar, after an overnight in the fridge.
Pour into jars, allow to cool and then cover. If you leave it out at room temperature it will take a long time to gel, so don’t be discouraged if it’s very liquid for some time. Put in the refrigerator overnight and it will be the right consistency in the morning.
Can be stored in refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, or frozen. It is not shelf-stable unless you process in a hot water bath (which I normally do for pectin jam), so keep this in the freezer for long-term storage. I would suggest stirring before using a new jar, as the fibrous skins and bits fall to the bottom.
Perfect jam consistency!
Per gram nutritional breakdown:
Total carbs: 0.058 g
Fiber: 0.021 g
Net carbs: 0.036 g
Protein: 0.02 g
Fat: 0.002 g
Per 10 gram serving:
Total carbs: 0.58 g
Fiber: 0.021 g
Net carbs: 0.37 g
Protein: 0.2 g
Fat: 0.02 g
Just compare that to berries alone: Raspberries are great at 0.056 net carbs per gram, and the jam beats them by 0.02 g net carbs. Blueberries have the most carbs, at 0.12 g net carbs per gram of blueberries, four times more carbs than the jam. I know, seems like small gains here, but cutting a bit more carbs means a bit more yummy food to eat. The ease and convenience of having the jam in the freezer or fridge meets all of my criteria for top Nora foods.
Now, to make a truly keto food: mixed berry cream cheese. I overshot the ratio here at 4.25:1, so it can be put atop a lower-ratio baked good and balance out for a perfect ratio treat. You could decrease the ratio by adding more jam or omitting the coconut oil. I’m always trying to sneak in coconut oil because Nora gets 15 g spread out throughout the day and I get tired of mixing it into other things at mealtime. This will be a regular breakfast food, containing 1 gram of coconut oil per 10 g serving.
Nutrition facts for 1 batch of mixed berry cream cheese. See blog post for per serving break down. Nutrition facts from www.caloriecount.com
Mixed Berry Cream Cheese
140 g Primrose cream cheese (adjust your nutrition facts for the brand that you use)
20 g coconut oil
50 g Mixed berry jam (above)
Mix with a hand mixer and serve!
Note that I also show the nutrition label for 1 full batch here so that you can see the fiber content. I calculate the per-gram and per-serving values with net carbs, but if I break it down into smaller servings in the recipe analyzer that I use, the fiber line gets dropped because it is so small.
Mixed berry cream cheese
Per gram nutrition information:
Total carbs: 0.025 g
Fiber: 0.005 g
Net carbs: 0.02 g
Protein: 0.052 g
Fat: 0.31 g
Per 10 g serving:
Total carbs: 0.25 g
Fiber: 0.05 g
Net carbs: 0.2 g
Protein: 0.52 g
Fat: 3.1 g
Good stuff. I love batch cooking. Nora loves jam and cream cheese.
As I have said before, efficiency is life. But that isn’t really the most important part of this food story. The most important part was finely expressed by Voltaire: “Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”
And talk about the necessity of eating. Food is good medicine, quite literally for our keto-kids.