Have you ever considered how you might turn basic food storage into something exciting that you might actually want to eat? Having a variety of delicious fruit syrups and spreads can make anything a whole lot tastier in addition to providing critical nutrients. Our favorite topping is a strawberry spread we created to be the perfect consistency to eat on pancakes, waffles, and crepes.
This spread is bottled so it is shelf stable and will store for a few years (in a cool, dry, dark place) if it were possible to make enough to last that long. The secret is Clear Jel, a commercial thickening agent, that allows the final product to be the exact desired consistency even when reducing the amount of sugar used.
We purchase our Clear Jel directly from our local extension office. Once you start looking for it you will find a source to buy it. Clear Jel comes in two forms; regular (which must be heated to thicken) and instant. I prefer to use regular for home canning.
A great source for information and recipes for using Clear Jel in home preserves is Washington State University Skagit County Extension Office. Once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless!
Clear Jel is a derivative of cornstarch usually used as a commercial thickening product. It is my favorite choice for a thickening agent in my home canning. It allows me to add as much, or as little, sugar as I desire to a recipe and still get the thickness I want. This recipe is a great example of why it is the perfect choice for our family.
Our favorite breakfast includes whole wheat and Kamut pancakes without added sugar. A little applesauce gives them just enough sweetness and replaces some of the required fat in the recipe. A few dark chocolate chips are sprinkled on the batter after it is poured on the griddle. Why work this hard just to cover all that nutrition with a load of sugar? Bottling our own fruit spreads or syrups keeps the pancakes nutritious and delicious.
We usually make a huge batch each time. The first step is to thoroughly wash and hull the berries.
Next, mash the berries until juicy. I prefer to leave it rather chunky.
Mix the Clear Jel with 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir it into the berries and bring to a boil.
Gradually stir in the rest of the sugar and boil for one minute. Stir constantly or it might scorch.
Ladle the hot spread into clean canning jars. Leave 1/4" of head space and clean the rims before placing the lid and ring on the jar.
Process immediately while mixture is still hot. This spread looks as good as it tastes.
Always process according to local extension office recommendations. The National Center for Home Food Preservation http://nchfp.uga.edu/ is a great resource. We process our quart jars for 20 minutes.
This spread adds a wonderful touch to breakfast in the morning. It is just the right consistency so it doesn't soak into the pancake.