Wednesday 12 October 2011

Sugarless Blackberry Jelly - the Update

A while back I posted about trying to find the perfect sugarless jelly recipe. I had come across Pomona Pectin, a product that says it will set jams and jellies without the need for sugar. I promised to report back once I'd tried it out, so here it is. I apologize as it's been a while, but I wanted to test a couple of batches and get a number of opinions. Luckily most people won't say no to a request to eat some jelly.

The Verdict:
The Pomona Pectin worked just like they said it would. It was easy, pretty unfiddly and there were no failed settings (like Ive had with pectin-sugar combinations).
The texture was pretty good. I thought it was maybe a wee bit gelatin-like, but people told me I was being too picky and thought it was the same as jellies set with sugar.
Taste? Freaking delicious. It was fresh, intense and tart, just like blackberries straight from the bush. It was tart even to my sugar deprived taste buds (since being off sugar, things taste a lot sweeter to me than to people on the typical Western Diet) but the tasters said that once they got it on their usual whatever-they-normally-put-jelly-on vehicle, that the tartness didn't matter.

So, as promised, here's how to make sugarless blackberry jelly.

Make the juice: 
Pick blackberries, 75% perfectly ripe, 25% slightly under ripe.
I found that the juice from the perfectly ripe blackberries was a little boring and the jelly didn't have the full blackberry flavour I was looking for. You may beg to differ.

Gently wash and pick over the berries then put them in a large pot. Pour in just enough water that the berries don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Place them on the stove at medium high until they come to a boil, then turn the heat down and allow them to simmer for about 20 minutes or until the berries are falling apart. I usually use a potato masher to help break up the berries.

Once the berries are mushy, pour the contents of the pot into a cheesecloth bag and hang over a large bowl to collect the blackberry juice. Let drip for several hours. You can freeze the juice for later jelly making if you wish or proceed to making jelly now.

Make the jelly:
Remember you can scale this recipe to any amount of juice you have as the Pomona Pectin is not finicky about amounts. Make up calcium water as described in the Pomona Pectin instructions. Clean and sterilize your jars, lids and rings.

To a large pot add:
  • 7.5cups blackberry juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
bring to a boil then turn heat down and allow to fast simmer for about 5 minutes. This is to further concentrate the blackberry flavour and add some sterilization. 

Add 7 teaspoons Pomona Pectin to 3/4 cup boiling water and blend well. I used an immersion blender for about 1 minute but the instructions say to use a blender on High. It made a very thick gel which made me a bit concerned but it turned out just fine.

Add 7 teaspoons calcium water to the juice and bring back to the boil. Add the pectin-water mixture and stir well. Return to the boil, then remove from heat and spoon off froth and bubbles. Ladle into clean, sterilized jars. Process in a hot water bath for 5-10 minutes. This made 6 one-cup jars.

Because this jelly has no sugar, it is more prone to bacterial and fungal growth. Ensure the jars have sealed; place any that haven't in the fridge and eat right away. They also advise you should eat low sugar jellies and jams within 3 months of jarring.

Now the only question is what to eat it with? For us primals, heap it on some sharp Manchego cheese, use it as a filling for paleo thumbprint cookies, or make some paleo bread to spread it over.


Wednesday 5 October 2011

Fall makes me S.A.D. Two things that help, a lot.

Its Vancouver, its October, so its raining again today. I know Im not alone in  feeling the effects of shorter days, darker days. We're not quite there yet but I absolutely hate waking up in the deep dark. My alarm jerks me up out of deep sleep and I feel like a little kid again, cranky and unbelieving that it can be almost 7 am and yet so horribly like the middle of the night. It sets me up for a bad day.

I'm very sensitive to the quality of light, and the grey days and thin sunshine of fall and winter do little to help elevate my mood. I sometimes have to struggle not to just curl up on the couch with a blanket, something warm in a mug and watch Coronation Street all day. Don't get me wrong, I think that's a lovely thing to do once in a while, but when I feel like that most days, its easy to sink into something near depression. I don't want to just get though winter, longing for solstice, I want to feel better than that.

To make things worse, I don't want to go to bed at night. I feel like Ive been cheated out of my day, so I tend to be up late playing on the computer, or catching up on a show. Not a good thing for promoting sleep. There is a complex interaction between full spectrum light, receptors on your retina and regulation of sleep hormones in your brain. New information is being discovered all the time, but for now, one of the things we do know is that blue light suppresses melatonin secretion so that we stay alert. That's great when we need to stay awake but my (our) tendency to sit in front of blue light emitting gadgets in the evening can disrupt our sleep hormone cycles. Blue light is emitted by TV screens, computer monitors, smart phone screens and even blue numbers on your digital clock.

So... Im disrupting my sleep hormones, not getting enough sleep, and feeling horrible from waking up in the dark. I do the things you are supposed to do, go to the gym, be social, eat well, take my Vitamin D, but still feel pretty down through much of the winter. But, happily,  I found a couple of things last year that helped a lot to get me to sleep and to make me wake up happy.

The first was to install a free program on my computers called F.lux. You tell the program where in the world you live and what kind of room lighting you have (halogen or fluorescent). At sunset, f.lux automatically cuts down on the amount of blue light your monitor emits and matches your ambient light. At sunrise, it makes the screen daylight-bright again. So now I can play on the computer and not worry that it's going to make it hard to go to sleep.

The second and now most deeply appreciated thing I did was to buy a Philips wake-up light. Also known as a dawn simulator, its a lamp that sits on my bedside table and gradually emits brighter and brighter light over a period of 15-30 minutes (you choose). The increasing light level brings me to a lighter and lighter phase of sleep and I wake up, usually before its even at its brightest, feeling awake and happy.

They aren't cheap but, for me, totally worth it. I got the Philips because a friend had had one for a few years and recommended it, and because it got the highest ratings, but there are lots of wake-up lights out there. I got mine from (Canadian, eh) but they are also available on (Clicking the Amazon link will take you directly to the Philips Wake-Up Light Plus - my model - on each site).

I know I sound like a paid advertisement for this thing, but the first night I used it I couldn't believe what I was feeling the next morning. I woke up with the feeling that it was a sunny summer day out there. A year later, I still get fooled into that happy state.

If you have that "it's too dark to get up" feeling, do yourself a favour and get one of these; you will never regret it. To wake up happy is a beautiful thing.