Y’all know my friend, Shae, right? She of the fabulous jamz and the pigeon love? If you do, you may have heard that Shae was recently diagnosed with some form of IBD, a blanket term that describes inflammation and/or irritation of the GI tract, typically of autoimmune origin. While this diagnosis has sadly put the kibosh on Shae’s fledgling jam business, she has responded in typically optimistic fashion, telling me that she sees it as both a challenge and an opportunity, and in a way, a blessing in disguise, as it will force her to slow down and really focus on the food she is putting into her body.
One of the standard holistic methods of treating any form of IBD is to adopt a diet free of foods containing known inflammatory triggers, namely, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) (some people adopt a similar plan called the GAPS diet). SCD operates on the premise that a carefully regulated diet can not only control the symptoms of IBD, but heal gut tissue and eventually reverse disease. A bold claim to be sure, and I’m not here to tell you whether or not the diet works, but it seems clear that it has worked for some, and when the alternative is a lifetime of digestive issues and anti-inflammatory meds, it certainly seems worth a try. SCD is no light commitment however: the list of illegal foods is long and somewhat heartbreaking for a carb-lover like myself: no grains (bread! pasta! beer!!), in fact no starches of any kind (corn! potatoes! popcorn!!), no sugar, in fact no sweeteners of any kind except honey, no milk, soy or fresh cheese products, and worst of all? No chocolate. <shudder>
But all is not lost: what can you eat on the SCD diet? Plenty of good things: bacon & butter are A-OK, as are meats and aged cheeses, most fruits and non-starchy vegetables, nuts and legumes (once you are well-established on the diet), even coffee, wine and whiskey, in moderation of course. (You know I checked specifically for tequila, which is not listed, but I’m optimistically voting it “legal.”) Even my beloved chile peppers & Tabasco make the legal list: I think I could survive just about anything as long as I can have bacon, chiles & wine.
While we’ve been friends for a while now (since the glory days of Tigress’ Can Jam, when so many of us like-minded folk found one another and managed to hang on tight), Shae & I had not had the opportunity to meet live and in person until my recent trip to San Francisco. While there, I threw a small dinner party for my friends in the Bay Area (including our blogtastic partner-in-crime, Mr. Punk Domestics himself) and I got to test out my (extremely limited) SCD cooking chops on Shae. Some roasted cauliflower with coconut-curry sauce, a lemon-drenched asparagus spear or two, but by far the hit of the night were the clementine sections stewed with honey & cardamom, and just a touch of Meyer lemon zest for added zing. When Shae gifted me with a bunch of fresh Rangpur limes from her Mom’s backyard tree, I stuffed as many as I could fit into my luggage, knowing that when I got home I would try to make an SCD-legal Rangpur preserve.
Sugar was obviously out, but as most citrus fruits are loaded with pectin, I had some hope that I could approach a jammy-type texture using honey alone. But therein lies the rub: pectin itself is actually not legal on the SCD diet, although fruits containing pectin, like apples & citrus, are. Obviously, a marmalade-style preserve as I have made here is going to be chock-full of pectin, but Shae & I discussed and she feels there may be some wiggle room in the illegality of pectin, given that natural pectin in fresh fruits is deemed acceptable. She’ll go slow, with tiny bites at a time, and see how it goes. Of course, it goes without saying that if you are on the SCD diet yourself, you should not take this as an endorsement to rush right in and party with the pectin: use your own judgement as to what will work for you.
As for the Rangpur-honey experiment? It turned out rather well, I have to say. I despaired of reaching any sort of “gel” without any added sugar, but in fact this set up rather nicely when all was said and done. The lack of a sugar-syrup meant that much of the liquid boiled away, leaving a very fruit-packed preserve with little honey-syrup to bind it, but what was there is spreadable on toast (grain-free toast, natch) or cheddar cheese, and I envision a little dollop in homemade yogurt as a sweet treat, or even a decadent mini tartlet baked into an SCD-legal pastry crust. Tai thought the end product was super-tart, while I kept yelling at him “One POUND of honey! One POUND!” I maintain that it is sweet, though not cloyingly so, with a healthy kick from the Thai chiles, and that funky, tangy, musty-bright flavor of Rangpur limes. And while I really don’t want to have to give up popcorn anytime soon <knocks wood vigorously> with this Rangpur honey preserve in my arsenal, I may just survive if I had to go SCD. Maybe.
- 1 and 1/2 lbs Rangpur limes (preferably unsprayed)
- 2 cups water
- 4 dried Thai chiles, chopped, with seeds
- 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 lb wildflower honey, divided
- Day 1. Wash limes, scrubbing the skin. Slice each in half, then cut the middle pithy seam out with a shallow “V” cut. Run you finger along the seam, removing all of the seeds, saving as much juice as possible (reserve seeds & pith). Slice each lime half in quarters, lengthwise, then thinly slice the quarters crosswise, to end up with tiny triangles of peel + fruit. Add fruit + juice to a large measuring cup as you go. My yield of fruit + juice was 3 cups. Transfer fruit to a medium Dutch oven or preserving pot. Add water (adjust water slightly if your yield of fruit varies), chiles and salt. Gather lime seeds and pith into a tea ball or cheesecloth bundle: add to pot. Bring fruit mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a heat-safe bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
- Day 2. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Transfer fruit mixture to your preserving pot. Remove tea ball or cheesecloth (give cheesecloth a good squeeze). Add honey, reserving about 1/4 cup (2 oz) to stir in at the end. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil, without stirring, until liquid is reduced and syrupy, about 15 minutes. Temperature will read between 214 and 216 degrees F and a dollop of syrup will mound slightly, but not wrinkle, after 2 minutes on a frozen plate. Taste and stir in additional honey, if needed. Fill hot jars to 1/4-inch headspace, bubble jars, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 3 cups.
- This version, with 4 Thai chiles, came out pretty spicy: I think it’s lovely, but adjust the amount of chiles to your taste.
- If you can’t source Rangpur limes, Meyer lemons would be a nice substitute, although they may need less honey, and regular, Eureka lemons could work as well.
- Please note, as discussed above, that pectin, whether natural or commercial, is considered illegal on the SCD diet (and also on the GAPS diet): if you decide to attempt this recipe while on the diet, you should consult your doctor and/or proceed cautiously and eat only a tiny amount at a time to judge the effect on your system.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.
Winter into early Spring.