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Surprise ingredient makes easiest jam ever

I remember every summer my mom would make the best jams and jellies with all the perfectly ripe seasonal fruits. She made strawberry, peach, plum, apricot and even strawberry rhubarb jam.

She’d fill the pantry, and we’d have summer fresh flavor all year long.

Over the years I’ve made and canned lots of jams. It’s actually very satisfying in many ways. But, to be honest, it’s so time and labor intensive I have all but stopped doing it. Sterilizing jars, working with pectin, skimming foam off the jam, processing filled jars in a water bath. It’s quite a procedure.

But first a little about chia seeds. Remember ch- ch- ch- chia pets back in the day? Well the chia seeds we eat are the same seeds that grew fur and Afros on our terra-cotta pots in the 1980s. Chia seeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet. They’re an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, and they provide iron, calcium and other minerals, as well as fiber that promotes a healthy digestive tract. Who knew? In fact, “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”

What does this have to do with making jam? Chia seeds also have the amazing ability to gel because of the soluble fiber content. The outer shell is hydrophilic, and they can absorb over 10 times their weight in liquid. Mix chia with fruit, and it naturally thickens into a beautiful spreadable jamlike consistency. No cooking, no added sugar, no artificial colors or unpronounceable ingredients. Just fruit and chia seeds.

When choosing fruits, if the fruit will puree when raw (like berries and stone fruits), simply purée and go. If the fruit needs to be cooked before it blends well (like apples or pears), then cook the fruit in a saucepan to soften first and proceed as written.

BASIC CHIA JAM

What you’ll need

1 pound fresh soft fruit or frozen and thawed

3 tablespoons chia seeds

Here’s how

Prepare the fruit by washing and removing stems and seeds. Remove peel if applicable. Thaw if frozen.

Place fruit in a blender and purée. Add the chia seeds and blend to combine thoroughly.

Optional: Taste the mixture, and if the fruit is very tart, add honey or sweetener of choice to taste. Place the mixture in the fridge for about an hour, stirring once to blend the seeds further. Keep refrigerated for up to one week.

Here are some recipe variations you’ll love.

STRAWBERRY BASIL CHIA JAM: Blend 1 pound strawberries and 3 tablespoons chia seeds. Add 1 tablespoon minced basil and 1 tablespoon honey.

BLUEBERRY LEMON CHIA JAM: Blend 1 pound blueberries and 3 tablespoons chia seeds. Add zest and juice from half a lemon and 3 tablespoons honey.

This method of making jam is perfect for small-batch jam for immediate consumption and is not recommended for canning.

Enjoy your jam on toast with ricotta or mascarpone cheese or spooned over oatmeal, or make a yogurt parfait. Divas got a brand-new jam.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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