Strawberry Chia Seed Jam with Lemon Balm
From April through June I marvel at the quantity of strawberries that pass through our kitchen. Some don’t even make it that far — enjoyed in the warm sun straight from my raised bed or the perfect mounds at the berry farm.
May is apparently National Strawberry Month, and the celebration is clearly well underway here. As we polish off the last of this year’s harvest, eaten fresh or frozen to restock the freezer (see my tips on successfully freezing fruit), the less than perfect “jam berries” become many pints of preserves.
Similar to my Celeste fig jam, this strawberry jam involves no pectin or refined sugar, no cooking or canning, and gets its thickening powers from chia seeds — this time, a combination of milled and whole chia seeds.
Depth of flavor comes from a light touch of pure maple syrup, plus a uniquely bright ingredient that’s lurked in my refrigerator since drying last summer’s harvest: lemon balm powder. The latter is entirely optional, and could be omitted or replaced with citrus zest, but if you have it, do try.
What’s in it for me?
Ripe red strawberries are sources of manganese, fiber, folate, plus potassium. One cup contains more than 150% of your daily needs for vitamin C, and because they are one of the lowest sugar fruits, this serving is only 50 calories. Strawberries are ranked in the top 20 fruits for total antioxidant capacity, particularly rich in in polyphenols.
A 1-ounce serving (a scant 3 Tbsp) of chia seeds has roughly 11 grams fiber, accounting for almost half and almost one-third of the recommended amounts per day for adult women and adult men, respectively. Chia is an excellent non-dairy source of calcium, as well as magnesium and potassium — all essential nutrients for bone health. These tiny black (or white) seeds also provide 4 grams of protein per serving, and when compared ounce-for-ounce to wild salmon, chia comes out the winner in omega-3 fatty acid content.
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that contains manganese, zinc and provides a small amount of anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Beyond flavor, lemon balm — a member of the mint family — is rich in phytochemicals that may impart natural antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
As simple as it gets, Strawberry Chia Seed Jam with Lemon Balm is a delightfully vibrant, full-flavored addition to spring line-up. Use it on toast or ice cream, swirled into porridge or yogurt, blended into vinaigrette or smoothie, as a condiment for grilled meat… be creative.
Save the beauties for dipping in dark chocolate, and rescue the stragglers or bruised-up berries to make my ridiculously easy, nutritious jam. For those of you in the south, be quite quick about it — these sweetest of the berries are almost gone!
Tell me… What’s your favorite berry for preserves?
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds, divided
- 2 cups ripe strawberries, washed, trimmed and halved, or quartered if large
- 2 tsp pure maple syrup
- 2 to 3 tsp dried lemon balm powder, to taste (optional)
- In a spice grinder, clean coffee grinder, or small food processor, finely grind 1 Tbsp of the chia seeds. Pour into a small bowl with the remaining 1 Tbsp whole chia seeds, and set aside.
- Add half of the strawberries to the bowl of a food processor with the maple syrup, and puree until smooth. Add the remaining half of the strawberries, the mixture of chia seeds, and 2 tsp dried lemon balm, and pulse a few times until combined. Taste; add the final 1 tsp lemon balm if you wish.
- Transfer the jam to 1 clean pint jar or 2 clean half-pint jars that tightly seal, and refrigerate 1 hour to set. Will keep in the refrigerator up to 4 or 5 days, or in the freezer up to 6 months.
Because this is a raw jam, it is highly perishable and should be eaten within 4 to 5 days. I chose to keep the recipe small for this reason. If you have more eaters on hand, the recipe easily doubles or triples to meet your needs. (You could also halve it, if needed.)
+ Use lemon zest in equal amounts in lieu of powdered lemon balm, or swap in 2x as much freshly minced fresh lemon balm or another herb like thyme, sage, rosemary or mint.
+ Blend in a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, ground anise, and/or ginger. You can even try some freshly grated ginger or finely chopped candied ginger!
+ Omit the maple syrup altogether if you like, or swap it with either 1 Tbsp pure honey or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract.
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