Jams and preserves · Reviews and opinions

Jam…balaya!

I love everything about home made jam: it’s versatility, the making process, the fact I can lock up the flavour of seasonal fruit and enjoy it later. I have many uses for jams: traditional spread for toasts/bagels,as a sweetener to my yogurt and granola and as an additive to baking (cookies/cakes), ice-cream or deserts. But my favourite way to enjoy a high quality jam is with a spoon that goes straight to my mouth! All these uses call for a variety of consistencies and sweetness levels which sometimes is hard to find.

Although Toronto offers a dazzling array of options I find myself disappointed with many jams I try. Cheap supermarket-bought jams make me cringe when I read the ingredient labels: low fruit content traded for pectin or other thickening agents, excessive sugar level and preservatives. When I am desperate for jam, my supermarket “go to” is the PC Blue Menu Twice the Fruit Spread (emphasis on spread). What I don’t particularly like is the number of ingredients (9!) and kinds of ingredients used in this product: strawberries, sugar, water, citric acid, pectin (jelling agent), carob bean gum (another jelling agent), black carrot juice extract for colour, potassium sorbate (preservative), sodium benzoate (another preservative). This spread is runny (WTF, 2 jelling agents and it’s still runny?!) and not suitable for most baking needs although you might find it adequate as an addition to yogurt. I like the PC Peach and Passion Fruit and buy it occasionally out of convenience.

Łowicz is a great Polish brand of jams available in Polish or eastern European grocery stores. They come in a variety of choices such as 100% fruit jam or low sugar jams. For example, the 100% strawberry jam has 4 ingredients: strawberries, concentrated apple juice, concentrated lemon juice, and pectin. So compared to the PC brand, I feel a lot better about buying and eating Łowicz. This is one of my favourite brand of jams to eat and I am capable of finishing a jar of black currant or blueberry jam in one sitting. Some of these jam are thick and great for use in cookies and cakes. Next time you’re in Roncesvalles give them a try!

Now, the opposite end of the spectrum – local and organic jams. I simply do not buy them for a practical a reason: local and organic jams in many cases have the same sugar content as the supermarket but double or triple the price. I received a jar of plum jam made by a local Toronto company, Kitten and Bear. I really like the idea of heritage products, however my teeth almost shattered from the sugar levels in the jam. As for organic jam, I simply do not have an example of organic strawberry jam to discuss because I have not bought one in years.

I refuse to pay for all the sugar I hate so much. Although the term “organic” is a legal term for products that conform to particular methods of farming, I find this definition too hipster, narrow, restrictive and sometimes misleading. In my mind, “organic” does not pertain only to the way ingredients are grown. For me, it is a way of life. A healthy and responsible way of life where the white death is kept in check, especially for the most vulnerable population – children.

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