Food stylist and photographer Megan Fawn Schlow shares her genius shortcut method for putting up summer fruit.
Hitting up the you-pick farm stand to gather peaches, berries, and other summer fruit is one of the ways I like to unwind, and more often than not I end up carting home more than I can reasonably eat, bake, or give away. When that happens, I love to go old-school and “put by” some of my haul to enjoy when the season is behind us. I’ve always been a big fan of preserving, but this summer I’ve become obsessed with making chia seed jam. If you’ve been hesitant to tackle jam or jelly making because of the mess and science involved or have had an iffy outcome in the past, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised by this goof- and foolproof method.
Tiny chia seeds thicken summer fruit preserves almost instantly.
As you probably know, chia seeds are a pinhead-size superfood. The same small seeds that, as a child, I spread on a ceramic sheep to create a “fleece” of green tendrils turn out to be nutritional superstars. They cram a whole lot of protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, calcium, manganese, and phosphate into a teeny-tiny package. When dry they look very similar to poppy seeds, but when they are soaked in any kind of liquid they swell to many times their original volume and become gelatinous. You can stir them into almond milk to make a tapioca-like pudding, add a spoonful to your morning smoothie, or sprinkle some onto yogurt to up the nutritional value—some people even down them straight, a sort of chia shooter, for the dietary benefits, although that can do a number on your tummy if you are not accustomed to eating chia.
I recently discovered that I could use chia seeds to thicken stewed fruit to a spreadable consistency, and now this is my preferred way to make jam. Typically jam makers use pectin, a soluble fiber found in fruits like apples and pears, to set up their fruit and preserve it. But pectin requires a large amount of sugar as well as some acid, all in precise quantities, to do its thing; chia is more forgiving and because it thickens on its own, you can use far less sugar. That means you can really enjoy the pure, unadulterated flavors of summer fruit, from blueberries and blackberries to plums, peaches, and pluots—all while getting a nutritional boost.
A note on storing chia jam: Because it has so little sugar it needs to be either refrigerated or pressure-canned to keep for future use. Both of these recipes will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks … if they stay around that long.
Read This Next: Giada’s Chia Seed Pudding
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