Aronia berry and apple jelly (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Garden berries and apples combined to make a delicious jelly preserve.                            Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I wasn’t planning another preserve recipe for my blog so soon after my “jam” post earlier in the month, but last weekend I made up a new recipe and as the result was a success, I am sharing it with you this week.

I inherited several established shrubs and bushes when I moved into my current house over 15 years ago. Many were familiar to me but a few were not. One of the curios was the Aronia Melanocarpa. This is an evergreen shrub with leathery green leaves. In the summer it produces arms of red berries which ripen and turn black. For a while, I assumed the shrub with its berries was purely ornamental, however after a wee bit of research I discovered that the berries are edible.

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Aronia Melanocarpa shrub and fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The shrub is well known in the USA and was introduced into Europe in the 1700’s, as an ornamental. The berries get their common name of chokeberry because the fruit is very astringent when eaten raw, however, I have decided not to test this out for myself! The berries contain a large amount of vitamin C and looking on the web they are considered to be a bit of a “wonder-berry”. Aronia berries are ripe when they are fully black, which happens from mid to late summer depending on where you live. I found the ripest fruit difficult to pick without squishing the berries, so snipped off the stalks as well (which is fine for jelly making). The juice is potent and stains a vibrant shade of blue, so you might want to wear gloves. I should imagine the berries would freeze ok if you needed to harvest them in batches.

I could find little reference in terms of recipes, so I based my mixture on a cranberry jelly, adding apple to temper the astringency and to help with the set. The final jelly has set well and is dark red-purple in colour, with a taste that is sweet and quite similar to a blueberry preserve. This is a great result for me because my blueberry bushes produced no fruit at all this year, so I’m glad I have discovered the wonders of Aronia Melanocarpa 🙂

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Scottish berry jelly with oatcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: approx. 650g jelly preserve

Ingredients:

  • 200g aronia berries, washed (small stems are fine if it is difficult to pick the berries without)
  • 400g whole cooking apples, washed
  • Approx. 430g granulated sugar – see method for exact quantities
  1. Put the berries in a large stainless steel saucepan. Chop the apples into small pieces, (skins, core and pips included) and add to the pan along with 350ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until very soft and pulpy.
  2. Line a large nylon sieve with muslin and place over a large bowl. Choose a sieve that you’re not too precious about as it may stain blue with the juice. Carefully pour the pulp into the muslin and leave to cool. Leave to strain for at least 3 hours.

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    Preparing the fruit for jelly-making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Pour the strained juice into a measuring jug, cover and chill until required. Tip the pulp back into a saucepan. Add another 200ml water, and heat, stirring, until back to the boil.
  4. Repeat the straining of the pulp as before, but this time, after cooling, put in the fridge and leave to strain overnight until the pulp is very dry.
  5. Discard the pulp and pour the juice into the jug. I achieved 375ml juice from the first straining, and 200ml from the second. The ratio of sugar to juice is 450g sugar to 600ml juice, so I used 430g for my 575ml.
  6. Pour the juice into a saucepan and heat until steaming. Add the sugar, and stir over a low heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. For jelly making, I use a sugar thermometer to gauge the setting point – 104°-105°C- to give the best result.
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    Cooking the juice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  7. Pour into warm, sterilised jam jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool then label and store in the usual way. The jelly will keep fine for at least 6 months. Serve as a sweet preserve or with savoury dishes too.

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    Aronia berries, ripe and ready for picking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

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Reduced-sugar raspberry jam (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Home-made reduced sugar raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s beginning to feel like Summer is over already. We have had a lot of wet and windy weather which makes it seem more autumnal than summery. I picked the last of the raspberries a few days ago which draws my home-grown soft fruit season to a close. The canes have produced another bumper crop this year, and the freezer is stacked out with berries ready to be used in the months ahead.

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The last harvest of summer raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Earlier in the year, I was intrigued by a recipe posted by my fellow blogger Joëlle who published a recipe for a reduced sugar orange jam. Her recipe inspired me to have a go at making a raspberry version. I am always looking for ways to reduce sugar in my diet and her use of one unusual jam ingredient seemed like too good an opportunity to pass me by. So, thank-you very much Joëlle. So, here is Joëlle’s sugar-replacing ingredient…

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Beetroot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Beetroot! I guess this revelation will put some of you off, but I can assure you, you really can’t taste it. You do need to make sure the beetroot is cooked very well – it needs to be completely soft to blend it into a pulp. I had some cooked beetroot in the freezer and found that the texture was much more silky-smooth once it defrosted; it blended into a perfectly fine purée. You can use ready-cooked, vacuum-packed beetroot, but please make sure it’s packed in natural juices and not vinegar, as that really would give the game away!

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50% less sugar Scottish raspberry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I usually use equal quantities of raspberries to sugar in my jam recipes, but in this one, I replaced half of the sugar with beetroot purée. Sugar acts as a preservative which is why jams keep so long in  the store-cupboard. This jam needs to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a month, so is better made in small amounts. However, it freezes well, so instead of sealing it in jars in the traditional way, leave it to cool and spoon into small, sealable freezer containers; freeze down and then you can take out the quantity you need to avoid wasting any. The jam will keep well in the freezer for at least 6 months.

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Freezing reduced sugar raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The texture of this jam is more pulpy than a traditional raspberry jam and it lacks the syrupy consistency that a full quantity of sugar gives, but the flavour is fruity and sweet and the colour unaffected by the beetroot. It spreads well and makes a deliciously fruity topping for pancakes and puddings. I hope you might be intrigued enough to give it a go.

Makes: approx. 575g jam

Ingredients

  • 400g fresh raspberries
  • 200g smooth, cooked beetroot purée
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  1. Put the raspberries and beetroot in a saucepan. Cook gently for a few minutes until the raspberry juices begin to exude.
  2. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking on the bottom of the pan, until thick and pulpy – like stewed apple.
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    Making reduced sugar raspberry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  3. Transfer the hot jam into sterilised jam jars in the usual way, and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then date and keep in the fridge for 4 weeks unopened. Use within a week once opened.

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    Pancake topped with coconut yogurt, fresh berries and home-made reduced sugar jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins