Condiments are one of the first things that I was seriously missing when we decided to make the switch to a healthier lifestlyle and leave processed foods behind. I especially missed fruit spreads and jam. Everytime I went to the grocery store, I would have my hands on every single jar of fruit preserves, jam, jelly, sauces... It was torture! Every label that I read had either sugar or some questionable sugar substitute, in addition to preservatives or just things that I couldn't even pronounce. And I have a strict policy on things like that - if I can't pronounce it or don't know what it is, then I don't even bother.
It was obvious. Like almost everything else that the family consumes, if I wanted to find a healthy jam option, I would have to find it in my own kitchen, whipping it up myself. To my surprise, the hardest thing about making a sugarless jam turned out to be deciding what kind of fruit to use! In the end, I went with strawberry since my oldest son requested that I make his favorite mock PBJ Cookies with strawberry for the jelly. No reason to put up a fight - strawberries are my absolute favorite fruit.
I suppose this is the part where I should start writing out an ingredient list and tell you what appliances you need. Got a pen? Paper? Ok, here goes. Write down, "strawberries" and "crockpot." Yup, that's it! I'm all for simple, and cooking doesn't get any simpler than dumping something into your slow cooker and walking away while the work is done for you.
Fresh or frozen berries are fine for making your jam. Frozen can often be significantly cheaper, depending on the area where you live. I just toss the clean berries into my crockpot (no need to thaw if using frozen), let it cook on low either all day or overnight. Once the fruit is soft and falling apart, I remove the lid so the excess water can evaporate. I find it helpful to stir and break up the strawberries with a fork occasionally. Once it's cooked down to a consistency that you like, you're basically done! Just ladel your jam into some mason jars, label and store. I suggest canning or storing in the fridge for up to a month. The lack of added sugar or preservatives means that it will not last quite as long as those varieties that you find at your corner grocery store.
Don't limit yourself to just strawberries/berries. This is a great way to make a jam or fruit sauce from any fruit that you and your family enjoy.
Cook down as thin as you like. A saucy consistency makes an excellent replacement for syrup on pancakes or deserts. Thick is perfect for spreading on toast or use in a sandwich.
Find out if your grocery store marks down their produce for quick sale each week. I like to stalk my produce section for their mark downs regularly. It saves a lot of money and I can use fruit that was otherwise destined for the dumpster and whip up something uber-yummy.