Baking - General, Ingredient Insights

Freezer Jam Tainted by Carrageenan

This week’s post has gone through many revisions. Where do I begin? I wanted to make a batch of freezer jam with our surplus of strawberries that we’ve been getting from our CSA boxes over the winter. I chose freezer jam for a couple reasons. 1) because you don’t need to sterilize the jars; and 2) because one of the gelling agents I found for freezer jam required significantly less sugar than cooked or freezer jam made with traditional pectin. I made the batch, and everything was hunky dorey, including a glowing post about it. Then I looked into the gelling agent for this freezer jam: carrageenan.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that there is controversy around it, as there is with so many food additives. Carrageenan is derived from an algae, similar to agar agar, so it is vegetarian and vegan, and is often used as an alternative to gelatin for gelling or thickening food products (eg. low fat yogurts). But studies have linked it to various gastro-intestinal problems, and even some cancers, (See Carrageenan on Wikipedia, or just search carrageenan in Google to find several articles about it), and most articles I read suggest avoiding food products that contain it.

I was going to publish my original post after this intro, but as I thought about it I couldn’t in good conscience publish something positive about something that made me feel so angry and disappointed. I felt like I had wasted all those delicious berries and turned them into something potentially harmful; I had taken something beautiful and made it ugly.

'Feel Good' strawberry freezer jam made with pectin.
‘Feel Good’ strawberry freezer jam made with pectin.

Luckily I hadn’t used up all the berries. So a couple days later I took out my pectin and enough berries for a batch of the freezer jam listed on the package. It used a heck of a lot more sugar (which also has its drawbacks, I know), but I felt a lot better about making and eating this jam. And I still have some beautiful berries to spare!

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