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sweet and slow: no-pectin jam

January 23, 2008

zora naki

bumbleberry jam recipe

i take the kids berry-picking in the summer, clean and freeze the berries and then make jam the old-fashioned way (in a hot and steamy kitchen) without artificial ingredients, additives or preservatives. why bother?


well, for one, the berry-picking is pretty fun for all of us (the aisles are wide enough to fit a stroller) and eating-while-you-work provides motivation and/or distraction for the kids to continue on while i power-pick my way up and down the rows.

jam by zora nakithere’s the health factor – picking fruit at the height of freshness and freezing/canning it helps to preserve nutrients, and lets me control exactly what goes into each jar – less sugar, no crap. (of course, the flip side of this is that it also makes me responsible for not poisoning my family with botulism, but this isn’t as hard to do as you might think).

most of all, there is the yummy factor. homemade jam bursts with flavour and knocks those wussy, store-bought jams out of the park. well worth the effort and appreciatively received as gifts (delicious and consumable – just remind the giftees that jam etiquette requires prompt return of empty jars).

this recipe was inspired by Mary Anne Dragan’s Well Preserved – a well-thumbed cookbook around here.

prepare the jam jars (sterilize them in boiling water for 10 minutes). sterilize the screw lids. boil the round lids enough to soften the rubber rings. (tip: a jamming tool with a magnet at one end is quite useful for getting these out of the water without burning yourself).

in one of your biggest pots, combine:

2 cups blueberries
2 cups strawberries (sliced)
2 cups raspberries
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

crush berries a bit with a potato masher. bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and stir frequently for the next 20 minutes, keeping an eagle eye on things to make sure that it doesn’t stick and burn or boil over (nasty mess).

do the test to check for doneness: put a small plate in the freezer for a few minutes to chill it. put a small spoonful of your jam concoction on the plate and wait a minute. tilt the plate – is it still runny? keep cooking. is it jam-like? you’re about there (this approximates what your jam will be like when it cools and sets – don’t wait until it springs back when you press it because this will result in what we call “the jam wedge” which you must carve up into slices to serve).

remove from heat, skim the foam off the top and use a ladle and a funnel to fill your sterilized jars, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace between the top of the jam and the top of the jar. wipe any splashes, etc. off the rim and just inside with a clean cloth before sealing to fingertip tightness (not as hard as you can turn – you don’t want to overtighten).

use tongs to put the jam jars back into the boiling water bath for another 10 minutes, take them out and let them cool on a rack. you will know that they have sealed when you hear the “ping” of a vacuum being created (the lid gets a nice indent). check them all the next morning. if any haven’t sealed properly, put them in the fridge and use those ones first. for the rest, store them in a nice cool, dark place and use them up within the next 6 months.

i’ve made all kinds of jam this way, and they’ve all worked out pretty well. the only exception is the no-pectin strawberry jam recipe – this sucker takes forever to gel properly and i usually give up in frustration and label it “dessert sauce” instead.



Post a comment
  1. suzyml #
    January 27, 2008

    This is a great recipe — I’m excited to try making my own jam now! Have you ever tried using anything besides sugar to sweeten it? Some jams use apple juice or grape juice so that they are 100% fruit based, so I’m curious how that would work.

  2. January 27, 2008

    I haven’t tried making sugarless jam. My understanding is that the sugar acts as a thickener and as a preservative, so that if you make jam without sugar, you will need to store it in the fridge or freezer.

    there’s an interesting recipe for peach jam that uses apple juice concentrate and gelatin to thicken at:

  3. Debby Miller #
    August 20, 2008

    I just finished making and jarring my first jam today using this recipe. Wonderfully easy, no messy cleanup (as long as you do it right away) – what a confidence boost to know I can do this! My friend called as I was pulling the last 5 jars from the boiling water and called me “Laura Ingalls”! It was so great. And the pop-pop-pop of the jars sealing was like music to my ears. Thanks for all the great info here.

  4. August 20, 2008

    That’s great to hear!

  5. K #
    November 13, 2008

    Why do you put in the lemon juice, would the jam come out the same without it? I’d rather not use it, it’s acidic on my stomach.

    I think the lemon juice is used to promote gelling. If you don’t like the taste, you should look at using pectin instead and leaving the lemon juice out…

  6. George #
    October 4, 2009

    Sounds great! I’ve had good experience with getting strawberry jam to set by using some green-tipped unripe strawberries in the mix. Apparently, they have more pectin than the ripe berries.

  7. June 8, 2010

    I make strawberry jam without pectin at the restaurant and to get it to gel I add lemon juice and cook the stuff long and slow in a wide roasting pan for a much longer time than other fruit jam made with fruit that has more natural pectin…but, I do get jam. It is a color thing when determining if the jam is done. Thank you for posting a recipe for rhubarb strawberry jam..I am trying that next at the restaurant.

  8. Felix #
    August 28, 2011

    Do you just put in the lemon juice and sugar with the berries?

  9. Marissa #
    September 8, 2011

    I make no-pectin strawberry jam. What I do is put whole stawberrys and sugar to boil at the same time on super low heat. As they begin to get soft I add lemon jiuce. The prosses takes about 3 or 4 hours. well worth the wait.

  10. Michelle C. #
    September 20, 2011

    Hi this will be my first timet to make jam… My kids had picked a gallon of wild hackle berries and they decided to have it made for a jam… I’ve been doing a lot of research but of no avail found nothing that helps. I want to try making hackle berry jam without pectin. Is lime good for it instead of lemon? How long does a jam that hasn’t pectin last when it comes to storing?

  11. Nick #
    May 15, 2012

    Thank you! Using your cook times and other pieces of recipes I was able to make thick strawberry jam with NO pectin!

    4 cups strawberry puree
    3 1/2 cups of sugar
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1/2 – 1 tsp butter (see *)

    Heat the puree over medium high until hot to the touch, add sugar and heat (medium high) to a rolling boil. *Cook for 15min the add butter. The butter helps bring down the foam.* Continue to cook for 20 – 25min. You will notice the mixture thickening. Follow the steps above and enjoy!

    Apricot mango jam

    2 cups apricot
    2cups mango
    3cups sugar
    1/4 cup lemon juice

    Heat over medium, high add sugar. Bring to a rolling boil, cook for 20 min, follow jarring steps above then enjoy!

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