Freezer berry jam (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freezer berry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. It’s the time of year for me when I try and use up as much from the freezer as I can, both for reasons of economy and also to make sure there is room for any new season produce that comes along. In the past few days, the freezer fruit drawer has attracted my attention; the jam pan came out of the cupboard and another cooking session began.

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Frozen Summer berries from 2021. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I wasn’t that sure how the jam would taste if I put all the berries I had in one pot. I always have lots of raspberries from the garden but last year also produced some great hedgerow blackberries as well as homegrown salal berries and a few strawberries I decided to freeze down. I settled on 2 combinations: raspberry, strawberry and blackberry, and raspberry with salal berries. I made 2 separate batches of the recipe below.

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The vital ingredient. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When raspberries are fresh they have a lot of the setting agent pectin present, and any jam made with the fresh berries sets very quickly. However, freezing fruit destroys some of the pectin, so it is important to add freshly squeezed, pectin-rich lemon juice to any frozen fruit mix to compensate for the loss – redcurrant juice will also work. Otherwise, jam-making with frozen fruit is exactly the same as with fresh.

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Jars ready for jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Make sure your jars and lids are sound – no signs of corrosion on the lids if you are recycling – and thoroughly clean them in hot soapy water. This should mean that your jams, jellies and other preserves will store in perfect condition for many months ahead.

I have reduced the sugar content slightly in the recipe. Usually berry-based jam recipes suggest equal sugar to fruit, but I have found you can reduce the quantity slightly and still maintain a good set and a lengthy period of storage time.

Makes: approx. 1.2-1.4kg

Ingredients

  • 900g frozen berries – I used 300g each frozen raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, and then for the second batch, 450g each of raspberries and salal berries
  • 750g granulated white sugar
  • 2tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Put the berries in a large saucepan or preserving pan and allow them to semi-defrost so that the juices begin to run. When slushy, heat the fruit gently until steaming, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10 minutes or until very soft and pulpy.

2. Add the sugar and lemon juice, and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

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Cooking the fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Raise the heat, bring to the boil and cook the fruit uncovered until the temperature reaches 104 – 105°C on a sugar thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, check the jam after about 5 minutes of rapid boiling by spooning a small amount on to a cold plate. If you can push the jam with your finger and see wrinkles on the surface, the jam has reached setting point.

4. Turn off the heat and let the jam settle for 5 minutes. Stir and skim away any scum from the surface of the jam. Spoon into clean jars and seal with the lids while the jam is still very hot.

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Testing for setting point and spooning into jars. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Homemade jam sealed properly and stored in a cool, dry cupboard should keep for many months. If you have insufficient jam to fill a jar completely, let the jam cool before putting the lid on and then keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. I had some jam leftover from both batches which meant I could taste the fruits of my jam-making labours instantly 🙂

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Ready to enjoy, three berry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Homemade raspberry and salal berry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Great set, lovely rich colours, and above all else, delicious homegrown berry flavours in the depth of winter.

It looks like a wintry week ahead for this part of Scotland so I may just have to tuck into another jar to remind me of the summer just gone. All the best for now. Until next time, take care.

Salal berries – jam and muffins (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freshly picked Scottish Salal berries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well and enjoying the summer. I have made an interesting discovery since my last post. The berries I thought I had growing in my garden (and have been cooking for a few years each Summer) are not Aronia berries after all, they are in fact Salal or Shallon berries. Fortunately for me, they are edible – thank goodness! The shrub, like the blueberry, is part of the heather (Ericaceae) family and is called Gaultheria; it hails from north-west America, and seems very much at home here in central Scotland.

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Gaultheria Shallon. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Starry Salal berries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Gaultheria Shallon is evergreen and likes acidic soil. It is pretty invasive and has a tendency to spread all over the place. It throws up suckers which can be quite challenging to restrain. This August the shrubs in my garden have produced a bumper crop of berries which I (and the blackbirds) have been able to enjoy safe in the knowledge that I actually know what I’m cooking this year (!). The berries are deep purple and fleshy when ripe and have a soft bristly skin. They are quite difficult to pick individually so I pick small bundles and then strip the berries off the stalks later on.

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Stripping the berries from the stalks. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When ripe, Salal berries are very soft and squishy. They are attached to the main stalk by tiny woody ends. I have found that using scissors to pull the berries from the stalks is quite successful. If you don’t mind blue-stained fingers, then you can also gently pinch them off. To eat, the skin is very tender and the centre of the berry is very pulpy and full of tiny seeds. The flavour is much like a watery blueberry but without the slight acidity/tannins in the skin. Salal berries have a high Vitamin C content and the leaves have anti-inflammatory properties, although I have yet to try this out.

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Washing Salal berries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

After stripping the berries from the stalks, I put them in a large colander (strainer) and dunk them a few times in a large bowl of cold water. This gets rid of dust and the little bits of leaf and stem which get through your fingers. To cook with them, I treat them as I would blueberries but they do benefit from adding a little acidity such as lemon juice, which gives them a little extra tanginess.

If you are able to find some Salal berries or if you have them growing in your garden and didn’t realise what they were, I have a couple of basic recipes to share with you. The first is a very basic jam recipe (naturally gluten-free and vegan), and the second a gluten-free and vegan sweet muffin recipe; both recipes have been adapted from blueberry versions.

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Homemade Salal berry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes about 650g jam

Ingredients

  • 500g washed and prepared ripe Salal berries
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

1. Put the berries in a large saucepan, heat gently until steam rises then cover with a lid and cook for about 10-15 minutes to soften.

2. Add the sugar and lemon juice, and cook gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then raise the heat and boil rapidly for 8-10 minutes until setting point is reached – between 104°C and 105°C.

3. Ladle into clean, hot jam jars and seal well. Cool and label.

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Making Salal berry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Fresh out of the pot, Salal berry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Salal berry muffins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 12

Ingredients

  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 12g gluten-free baking powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 60g plain plant-based yogurt
  • 115g dairy-free margarine, melted
  • 150ml plant-based milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 165g washed and prepared Salal berries

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line 12 muffin tins with paper cases.

2. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well, pressing out any lumps in the flour and sugar. Make a well in the centre.

3. Add the yogurt, melted margarine, milk and vanilla and mix into the dry ingredients to make a thick smooth batter. Gently fold in the berries.

4. Divide between the muffin cases and bake for about 25 minutes until risen and lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container. They should keep for 3-4 days, and will freeze well.

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Making Salal berry muffins. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Muffins cooling. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Light, crumbly and very fruity. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have a good few days ahead. I look forward to posting again soon. Until then, take care and stay well.