A quick and easy recipe for strawberry chia jam, that uses less sugar, but doesn’t sacrifice on peak-season berry flavor. Enjoy this healthier version on toast, swirled into yogurt or oatmeal, or any other way you love to eat jam!
One of my favorite things about living here in coastal Washington is our access to dozens of farmers markets, great farm-to-table restaurants, super fresh seafood, and tons of local produce, the highlight of which for me, you may have guessed by now, is the many varieties of berries that grow so well throughout the Pacific Northwest.
BUT, we’ll soon be getting to know a whole new agricultural and food scene, when we move again for my husband’s job this Summer, this time to the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
We got the official word a few weeks ago, and I haven’t really processed how much we’re going to miss our life here. Instead, we’ve just been working madly to get the house ready to sell and move across the country.
We’re checking off all the little home improvement projects we’d had on our list, sprucing up the yard and planting pretty annuals, organizing and purging and staging, and top-to-bottom, down-on-our-hands-and-knees-with-a-toothbrush deep cleaning everything.
You think your house is in decent shape until someone comes to professionally photograph it and suddenly perfection takes on a whole new meaning.
Combined with taking care of Henry full time during the day, I’m finding fitting in my own work goals to be pretty challenging. There have been a lot of late nights around here lately, and still never seem to be enough hours in the day!
On the other side of the spectrum, under things labeled super duper easy, is this three – optionally four – ingredient, yummy strawberry chia jam.
I make refrigerator/freezer jam a lot. First, because I’m an overenthusiastic buyer of berries, but mostly because homemade beats the store-bought stuff more often than not (although I do have my favorites).
As with all refrigerator jams, this ruby recipe comes together quickly on the stove top, but uses a a fraction of the sugar, thanks to the addition of chia seeds.
While some chia jam recipes call for simply blending the raw fruit together before mixing in the chia seeds, in order to create a more traditional “jammy” texture and boost the flavor of the berries, I like to briefly cook the strawberries first.
This extra step releases the berry juices as they break down, builds complexity, and gives the natural pectin in the berries a chance to mingle with the sugar, and start thickening the jam. In traditional jam making, it’s that pectin (natural or added) mixed with a good amount of sugar over heat that sets the jam (and gives it it’s longevity).
However, the bulk of that job here falls to the chia seeds, which along with being tiny nutritional powerhouses – high in protein and fiber, and packed with omega-3 fatty acids – also absorb several times their weight in liquid, and make for an excellent natural thickening agent.
This natural ability to create a jelly-like texture requires a lot less sugar than traditional refrigerator jam or shelf-stable preserves, and gives the jam an extra healthy boost. Think of it as superfood jam!
Let’s get one thing out of the way. If you’ve never had chia jam before, let me assure you that it’s not as weird as it may sound.
Admittedly, chia pudding may be an acquired taste, texturally speaking, anyway. In the same way that tapioca’s gelatinous consistency may take some getting used to.
Which, I’m pretty sure is what my Mom was imagining when I mentioned that this strawberry chia jam was my next recipe for the blog, and she replied with a rather dubious, “…hmmm.”
Her tone was typically motherly and encouraging, as always, but still… suspect.
So to any of you doubters, this is simply a healthier version of a classic strawberry quick jam. You will not taste the chia, and the texture is reminiscent of rustic, seedy, raspberry preserves. It’s yummy, Mom. Promise!
There are a few ways to approach making this chia jam:
- Use fresh strawberries – best for peak season, wonderfully sweet and ripe berries.
- Raid your frozen berry stash – obviously available year round, and potentially just as tasty. I almost always have a few freezer bags of Summer berries hanging around for pies and smoothies and quick jams like this.
- Take things up a level with roasted berries, an easy process which concentrates and caramelizes the strawberry flavor, and requires little more than a sheet pan, a drizzle of maple syrup or honey, and about twenty minutes in the oven.
Whichever adventure you choose, the method is essentially the same: cook the strawberries until soft and fragrant and syrupy. Mash until only small chunks remain. Stir in a splash of aromatic vanilla or lemon juice, or if you want to get reaaal fancy, a splash of good balsamic vinegar. Stir in the chia seeds. Watch as the jam thickens, like magic.
And while we’re specifically talking about strawberry chia jam here, this method works for any kind of berry or quick-cooking fruit – you’ll just need to adjust the sweetness as desired (and it can vary from batch to batch).
Then slather atop toast, swirl into yogurt or oatmeal, and otherwise enjoy just as you would any of your favorite homemade jams!