This Homemade Jam Hack Changes Everything

Jam is just fruit cooked with sugar, pectin, and an acid (like lemon juice) to yield a sweet spread perfect for filling in the crannies of an English muffin. The mashed fruit releases its natural juices when exposed to heat (via Serious Eats). Evaporation from cooking — along with pectin (a naturally occurring starch found in fruit and often added to jam) — combine to coax blueberries, figs, or nectarines into a spreadable consistency.

Homemade jam is a process, even if you're following small-batch instructions and not canning the season's bounty. From evenly slicing peaches for uniform cooking, to simmering fruit and sugar ever-so-carefully on the stovetop so it doesn't scorch, jam-making requires finesse in the kitchen. You'll hover over your stockpot, with a spoon ready for stirring, watching for the crucial moment when the fresh fruit transforms into a luscious spread. This, according to The Kitchn, can be anticipated based on a change in the soon-to-be-jam's bubbles: large bubbles kick off the process and condense to smaller bubbles, after about 20 minutes of boiling. This shift signals the jam is, well, becoming jam.

There is another way, however. The hack for the easiest ever homemade jam ditches both the tedious stovetop simmering and the liberal addition of sugar. Instead, this life-changing jam technique from Food52 calls for a surprising (and healthy) secret ingredient: chia seeds.

Chia seeds are the secret to easy homemade jam

Chia seeds were heralded for their strength-building properties by ancient Aztecs and Mayans. Today, they're gaining ground as a modern superfood thanks to their wallop of fiber, protein, and other important nutrients (via Healthline). Chia seeds are also earning fans due to their ability to absorb moisture — up to 10 times their weight in liquid, according to Harvard. This explains why chia seeds work so well as a thickening agent in recipes for pudding, smoothies, pancakes, dips, and even jam (via Eat This, Not That!).

When used for making jam, chia seeds soak up the fruit's juices — eliminating the need for cooking, pectin, and culinary prowess. Food 52's recipe is so, so easy. Just mix 1 cup of chopped fruit with about 4 tablespoons of chia seeds, 1 tablespoon of sweetener, and 2 tablespoons of acid. Then simply refrigerate. At around 30 minutes later, you have jam. 

Sure, the consistency might be slightly saucy. And, without cane sugar, chia jam is less sweet. The Kitchn says tweaking chia jam is as easy as making it. Adjust the sweetness by adding more honey or maple syrup. Cook your fruit before adding the chia seeds to achieve the consistency of traditional jam. Not loving the visible seeds? Puree all or part of the batch for a smoother finish.