>> Thursday, November 20, 2008
Jelly was going to be the surprising HFCS food of the week, but then I thought that jelly with HFCS - maybe not so surprising. I mean, jelly is sugar based, so it isn't surprising that jelly manufacturers might want to use HFCS to save a little money. But what do you do if you're a mom and you or your kids want a PB&J? Or if you want a piece of toast with a little smear of jelly? Well, fortunately, there are HFCS-free jellies and jams out there!
Most of the jams and jellies on my grocery store's shelves are loaded with HFCS, but I have found some exceptions. Most of the organic jellies, jams, and preserves do not use HFCS, and more and more brands are offering an organic option. I've bought Tropical brand strawberry and peach preserves that are just fine and HFCS free. One of my favorite non-organic finds has been Smuckers Low-Sugar (No Artificial Sweetener) Preserves. With less sugar, the fruit flavor is a little more pronounced than in the full sugar preserves.
One flavor - one of my favorite flavors - that has been exceedingly hard to find in a HFCS-free jelly is concord grape. In fact, I haven't found a HFCS-free concord grape jelly. I'm a bit surprised by that as it seems to be the flavor synonymous with PB&J sandwiches. There is a decent substitute, though. Cascadian Farm Organics sells a concord grape fruit spread. The consistency is not the same as a jelly, but it has a good concord grape flavor.
Or if you're really lucky, you have a mom who likes to make her own jelly and is happy to share it. I get the most amazing jellies from my mother - including kudzu blossom jelly made from the flowers of the kudzu vine. It has a kind of deep red-purple color and tastes kind of like a combination of strawberry and grape.
And my favorite - scuppernong jelly. My mom gathers wild scuppernongs (a wild grape closely related to the more familiar muscadine grape) or else gladly takes some that someone else harvested and makes a divine jelly that is quite unlike concord grape jelly.
You can also make freezer jellies and jams that have an amazingly fresh taste. They are a thinner consistency but really preserve the true flavor of the fruit much better than the kind of jellies that you can store in your pantry. I don't have it in me to make regular jams and jellies, but I think that I might try my hand at some freezer jams next year to preserve some of the wonderful fresh fruit of summer. The taste really is amazing!
Last, do you know what the difference between jellies, jams, preserves, and fruit spreads is? Jelly is made from fruit juice and has no fruit bits in it. Jam is made from crushed fruit and fruit puree and is generally less stiff than jelly. Preserves are made with large fruit chunks in a syrup or jam. There you go. They're basically the same, just getting chunkier as you go from jelly to jam and preserves.
So, if you're looking for a HFCS-free jelly or jam, head to the organic or specialty jellies and jams. Or, if you're an adventurous cook, make them yourself!