Berry picking in Alaska is a must-do activity if you’re in the state between the end of July through September. Nagoon berries, salmon berries, raspberries, watermelon berries and blueberries can be found in the forested mountains, along hiking trails and in the mouths of bears. I had never heard of nagoon or salmon berries before coming to Alaska. Both resemble raspberries in their appearance and tartness. Nagoon berries have a deliciously permeating sweet odor.
Jam can easily be made with just sugar, water and berries. (Pectin makes it more gelatinous but isn’t necessary.) If you go that route, aim for ¾:1 sugar-berries ratio and ¼:1 water-berries ratio. Stevia can be used instead of sugar. Really, any sweetener can be used, including agave nectar, maple syrup or honey. But in place of sugar, these sweeteners bring their own moisture so you’ll want to decrease or avoid adding water altogether.
After doing some browsing online and perusing what I had in the kitchen, I came up with this tasty all-natural recipe below. Coconut oil prevents the jam from foaming so that you don’t have to employ the help of cheesecloth when canning. The Chia seeds are optional. They make the jam more gelatinous.
1 ½ c Nagoon berries (or berries of choice), ¼ lemon, ½ tsp coconut oil, 2 Tbsp honey (or sweetener of choice), 1 ½ Tbsp Chia seeds*
Makes: 8 oz (half pint)
- Remove stems from berries.
- Mush the berries thoroughly in the bottom of a saucepan.
- Add the squeezed lemon, coconut oil and honey.
- Simmer on low heat stirring frequently. (It is easy to scorch jam if the heat is too high or it isn’t stirred often enough!)
- *Sprinkle a layer of Chia seeds on top of the jam while stirring. Do not add all the Chia seeds at once! They turn to gel almost instantly. Spreading out the addition of the seeds prevents clumps from forming.
- Continue simmering for 20 minutes.
- Allow to cool.
- Place in sealed container for storage in fridge or freezer. Enjoy!
*This step is optional. If you don’t mind your jam having a low viscosity, don’t bother with the Chia seeds.