“Do You Make Low-Sugar Jams?”

Glad you asked.

Jam is made by cooking mashed or chopped fruit with sugar until a spoonful of the mixture mounds on a plate. So by its very nature, jam is a sweet food. It likely originated in the Mid-East, where cane sugar was readily available, as a means of preserving fruit. Wealthy Europeans began making jam in the 1600s, when sugar became available to them.  In the American colonies, maple sugar, honey, and molasses took the place of sugar before most people could afford it.

In The Science of Jam (http://www.finedininglovers.com/stories/science-food-jam), Riccardo Meggiato says the fruit to sugar ratio in jam should be 2:1 (2 pounds of fruit to 1 pound of sugar) for sweet fruits and 3:2 for bitter fruits. Mr. Meggiato advises, “If uncertain, it’s better to round up with the sugar.” Various university and government publications suggest even more sugar, such as 47 parts by weight of fruit to 55 parts sugar, and 4 cups of fruit to 4 cups of sugar.

Duluth Preserving Company jams contain sugar; some also contain honey or maple syrup. In developing recipes, we fail to take Mr. Meggiato’s advice, choosing to reduce the amount of sugar to the minimum needed to obtain the soft set that characterizes jam.

How do DPC jams stack up? Our Strawberry Rhubarb, Strawberry Cranberry, and Plum Cardamom jams exceed that ratio, having more fruit to less sugar than the suggested ratio of 2:1. Apple Lemon Ginger and Blueberry Maple have the suggested ratio, and Rhubarb Cinnamon, Raspberry Red Currant, and Apricot Vanilla Bean fall between the suggested ratios of 2:1 for sweet fruits and 3:2 for bitter fruits.

While we’re on the topic of sugar, let’s look at the bigger picture. Nutritionist Kate Geagan, a consultant on the Fed Up Challenge, reports that sugar is the most popular ingredient added to foods in the U.S. (http://katiecouric.com/features/how-to-avoid-added-sugars-at-the-grocery-store/). For example, traditionally non-sweet foods such ascommercially made salad dressings may have six to eight grams of sugar per serving. That, Ms. Geagan says, is like putting more than ½ a donut on your salad.

Try this salad dressing instead: combine 1 tablespoon Apricot Vanilla Bean Jam, 1½ tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper. Whisk in ¼ cup oil. Toss on a salad of garden-fresh greens, sunflower seeds, and goat cheese.

Enjoy your jam.