The recipe I share this week I started playing with last plum season. I love the St. Dalfour 100% fruit conserves and wanted to see if I could make something similar. I am pretty happy with the result, it is not too sweet, even a little tart, and has a wonderful jam-like consistency. I have used apple syrup, basically boiled down local (Nelson) apple juice into a thick syrup. It is available through Chantal [certified organic, Napier based] and Enza [Nelson based], we often use it in place of maple syrup on pancakes. If you can’t find apple syrup you can use any liquid sweetener in this recipe. This would still be a high-fructose jam so if you want to reduce fructose I would recommend making chia berry jam.
Cane Sugar-free Omega Plum Jam
- 1 kg omega plums stones removed and cut into small pieces
- 1 apple cored with skin on and chopped into small pieces
- 1 cup apple syrup or 3/4 cup honey
- Combine the plums, apples and syrup in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, on a low heat for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours until thickened. Stir occasionally then more frequently as it thickens so it doesn't burn. Once the jam is lovely and syrupy [it will thicken some once it cools] spoon the hot jam into 4 or 5 small hot sterilised jars.
- *If properly sealed in sterilised jars the jam will keep for 6 months in a cool pantry. Once opened keep refrigerated and use within a month.
A friend asked me this question recently… ‘Is it really better for us to just swap out white sugar in recipes for other sweeteners such as dates or honey’. This is a fantastic question, one I am often asked, and have pondered quite a bit over the years. Although, as so often with the complex subject of nutrition, it is not a simple answer. If you have come to one of my Healthy Baking workshops I would have talked in detail about this, and to cut a long story short, not all sugars are created the same.
Nutrition is one of those subjects that often has many contradictions. This summer I read two very interesting books. Both books were well written and researched, and both books advised avoiding cane sugar completely. The first book written by a Doctor, Gut & Psychology Syndrome [often refereed to as the GAPS diet by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride], recommends using small amounts of raw honey, ripe bananas and dried fruit as sweeteners. The reason being that their simple sugar structure makes them easier for the body to digest. Compared to the more complex make up of cane sugar, maple syrup and malted grain syrups [i.e. corn, rice and barley syrups].
The second book, the popular I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson, makes a hard case about fructose and why we should limit it in our daily diet for the rest of our life. That is right, fructose found in fruit and dried fruit such as dates, as well as sweeteners such as cane sugar, maple syrup and honey. Sarah recommends using only rice malt syrup as it is fructose-free, and small amounts of low fructose fruit [apples, pears and berries] and sweet vegetables such as pumpkin and kumara. Although Sarah is not a health professional she is an excellent researcher and many people have experienced profound improvements in their health from following her 8-week program. As have those following the GAPS diet, particularly effective for ADHD, autism, depression, schizophrenia and other psychological conditions.
(*Please note: I am not advocating one or the other of these diets, or any diet for that matter. I read the books to build on my knowledge and gain insight into different approaches to sugar-free diets. Everybody is different and what works for one person may not work for another. I have referenced these books here as examples of well written and researched views on sugar that have opposing recommendations.)
So where does this leave us with which sugar is best? As more and more research seals the case on sugar and refined carbohydrate being detrimental to our health, I believe the most important thing is not to get caught up in which sugar is better to use. Rather focus on reducing all sweeteners, and when using them use unrefined versions that will at least provide some nutrition as well as sweetness. Obviously, if you know a certain sweetener doesn’t agree with you then avoid it. I use a variety of sweeteners and interchange them in my cooking depending on what I am making. Including [in no particular order]:
- raw local honey
- fruit & dried fruit – including bananas and dates
- rapadura and muscovado [unrefined cane sugar]
- maple syrup and apple syrup
- cooked fruit/ mashed banana
My priority would be locally produced sweeteners such as raw honey and/or cooked seasonal fruit over imported sweeteners.