Get summer started with easy berry chia jam

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How is it that toast is so wonderful? I am not even hungry, but the moment I smell toast being made by someone in my house, I want some too.

There is something cozy about the smell of bread baking, and maybe that’s what makes toast so comforting. Although some folks may question the necessity of cooking something again that has already been cooked, toast is definitely a departure from bread.

Thanks to browning caused by radiant heat from an oven, toaster, or campfire, bread becomes toast through something called the Maillard reaction. French chemist Louis Maillard first described the chemical reaction in 1912, after doing experiments in protein synthesis.

Scientists have discovered that when the Maillard reaction takes place and that lovely browning occurs, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds further break down and produce even more flavors. So, maybe there is our answer as to why toast is so wonderful.

One of my favorite breads to toast is a multigrain one that also includes a variety of different seeds including sesame, flax, and chia. It seems that chia seeds are turning up in a lot of foods of late, especially since it has been named a “superfood.”

Superfoods don’t wear capes and are not part of the Marvel franchise, but they are pretty super. Their designation comes from being densely packed with nutrients, much more so than other foods.

For example, chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids (these are the ones that provide protein for muscle building) as well as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, iron, calcium and fiber. Although they are relative newcomers to the modern diet, chia seeds were a nutritional staple in ancient Mayan and Aztec diets.

An interesting thing about chia seeds is 1) they are incredibly tiny and 2) they can absorb 27 times their weight in liquid. If you’ve ever had chia seed pudding or used chia as an egg substitute, you know what I’m talking about.

When these tiny seeds absorb water, or any other liquid, the seeds swell up and form gelatin-like balls similar to tapioca. The jelled-up seeds are slightly sticky and develop into a pudding or jam-like consistency.

I used to get together with some mom friends when my kids were younger and we would make jam while our kids played. Between the crates of strawberries, pectin, hot Mason jars and tongs, it was quite a sticky production. But it was fun and the jam was delicious.

After finding out about chia seed jam being fast and easy to make, no tongs required, I decided I had to try it. And with all the strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries coming into season recently, I had to try it now.

The result? The jam making process from start to finish was less than 20 minutes and that included me searching my pantry for several minutes looking for an empty mason jar. This was an easy, delicious way to make homemade jam.

This recipe is from Food Network and contains only five ingredients. If you decide to do all blackberries like I did, this becomes a three-ingredient recipe. The jam isn’t as sweet as commercially prepared ones and you can choose your sweetener of choice, substituting sugar, agave, or stevia for the honey. As you might have guessed, this jam is terrific on a piece of toast.

Five-Ingredient Berry Chia Jam

Photo by Betty Williams

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups strawberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey or other sweetener
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds

Directions:

Rinse berries and pat dry. Remove stems from strawberries and discard. Cut strawberries in half and add to a medium saucepan. Add the blueberries and raspberries to pan along with honey (or other sweetener). Cook berries and honey over medium heat until they soften and start to get mushy, around seven minutes. Stir in the chia seeds and mix well. Remove from heat and let set for 10 minutes. Jam will thicken and set as it cools. Pour jam into a mason jar or container and refrigerate until ready to use.

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