Summer is Gone and Gift Giving is Upon Us
Easy low sugar strawberry jam with Pomona’s Universal Pectin
Looking for the perfect personalised gift?
Already missing the colors and flavors of summer?
Make some easy winter strawberry jam and feel the rays of summer sun shining right in your kitchen! Bonus? This recipe is for low sugar strawberry jam and you can even substitute in honey, agave or stevia!
Tie up your jam jars with pretty bows and custom kraft labels and you’ve got the perfect holiday gift or end of year thank you for your clients, customers or friends and family.
Everytime I give my jam as a gift, everyone is absolutely delighted. It’s the first thing they mention when they see me and most of them are very careful to return the empty jam jar. Some straight-out explaining that they hope to get a re-fill next season!
Why Strawberry Jam?
Because it’s the best. I’ve had a long-standing love affair with strawberries. At the age of three, I ate an entire mixing bowl full of strawberries that my mom had prepared for a cake. Soon after I broke out in hives, but like all obsessive lovers, a little bump in the road didn’t stop me from coming back for more.
For years the only flavor of ice cream I ate was “strawberry” and my favorite person in the world was my grandmother, who made a tantalizing batch of strawberry jam every summer. Ripe, juicy, sweet strawberries are still my favorite fruit.
Grandmother’s Strawberry Jam
My grandmother, bless her heart, continued making strawberry jam every year into her late eighties. A few years after she’d retired from the strawberry jam business, I decided I needed to follow in her footsteps and learn how to make my own strawberry jam.
First, I called up my grandmother to get her recipe, forgetting of course that my grandmother, a fabulous cook, didn’t actually have recipes. She had habits and instincts from all her years of cooking that she magically implemented in the kitchen.
That said, what she did have were plenty of tips, the so-called “secret sauce” or insider knowledge that takes an average recipe and makes it delicious.
The Inside Scoop
My phone call to granny did not disappoint. I learned that I needed a recipe for strawberry jam with pectin. She recommended Pomona's Pectin and a recipe that allowed me to use lemon juice to accent the natural flavor of the strawberries. Adding lemon juice both brings out the flavor of the strawberries and allows you to use less sugar.
My grandmother told me that to get a the strongest strawberry flavor, to use the least amount of sugar possible, adjusting upward for berries lacking in natural sweetness. She said she rarely used more than a cup of sugar in a recipe. Guess what, Granny's strawberry jam is so good, because it is low sugar strawberry jam!
A low sugar strawberry jam recipe is healthier, but most importantly, the reduced sweetness really makes space for the flavor of the strawberries to shine through. Especially when accented by the lemon juice. Don’t worry, you can’t actually taste the lemon, it just magically makes the strawberry flavor “pop.” And don't worry, the jam is still plenty sweet. It's just not cotton candy sweet!
In addition to my grandmother's advice on making the jam, she also suggested that I should pick up a copy of the Ball Canning Guide. The one and only definitive book on preserving food that you will really ever need.
For a few years after my first son was born, I lived in a house that had a huge strawberry patch. For the last 7 years, I’ve had to make do with store-bought (or farmer’s market) berries. The first year we moved away, I missed strawberry season due to the move, so I decide to try the recipe with frozen strawberries. And guess what, this recipe works fantastic, even with frozen berries! Trust me the flavor will still knock your store bought jam right out of the ball park!Yes, you read that correctly, you can even make jam from FROZEN BERRIES.
Winter Strawberry Jam from Frozen Berries
If you want to make strawberry jam in the fall or winter (or really anytime it suits your fancy) a 2-pound bag of frozen strawberries will do just fine. Defrost overnight in the fridge and drain before using.
I put mine straight into a colander over another bowl to drain so the juice and water drip out as they defrost. Once the berries are fully defrosted and drained, you’ll mash them with a fork and follow the recipe below.
Everything else is the same!
Why Low Sugar?
Some jam recipes call for an equal weight of sugar to fruit. With Pomona’s pectin you can make jam with as little as ¾ cup sugar (I like 1 cup). Or you can use honey, agave or even Stevia! The key is not to overcook your jam as this ruins the pectin. What could be more enticing than fast cooking, easy to make jam that is low sugar and thus healthier, tastier, and easier to make!
Jam Making (Canning) Supplies: do I really need them?
If you have never before made jam or canned any other foods, you will have to make a small investment into proper canning supplies. This is not a place to cut corners or “cheat.” If you are going to can, you need to do it right.
When I first started to make jam, I bought a big canning pot, but not tongs or a funnel. The result? I nearly got a 3rd degree burn removing my jars from the canner and it was impossible to fill my jars without spilling the jam. Regardless of where you buy your supplies, check-out the link below to a canning kit and make a list of everything you will need.
The good news is that these supplies are timeless. Once you have bought your supplies, you can use them for years and pass them on to your kids!
Shh! A secret tip: if you are terrified by the sterilizing process, then simply make sure your jars are cleaned with warm soapy water and store your finished product in the fridge. This is tricky for gift giving, but if you plan to eat your jam, it's just fine! If you plan to give your jam as a gift, bite the bullet and do it right!
Canning & Gift Giving Supplies
Affiliate links . . . when you click on these and order your supplies, I make a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
3 Easy Steps to Making Your Jam
(set aside 2 to 3 hours)
Prepare and Sanitize Your Jam Jars & Lids
Once you have all your ingredients and supplies laid out and clean. The very first thing you want to do is to prepare your jars. This part might sound really scary. It’s not. I promise!
Preparing your jars just means you need to boil them. And although jam is often made in the summer this is actually a perfect fall and winter activity, because all the steam warms your kitchen right up!
- Even if brand new and or apparently clean, wash your jars with warm soapy water or on a light cycle in your dishwasher. I use the dishwasher.
- Prepare you large canning pot (canner) with water. Sterilize your jars by placing them right side up on the rack of your canner. Make sure the water is at least 1 inch above jar tops. If you are at sea level, boil your jars for 10 minutes.
- If you are at a higher elevation, add 1 minute for each additional 1,000 feet of elevation. So if you live on the Colorado plains like me, boil your jars for 16 minutes.
- Turn off the flame or heat, but keep the jars in the hot water and don’t disturb them until they are ready to be filled. Right before you fill them remove them to a heatproof surface or towel and drain them.
- Lids: wash the lids and bands with warm soapy water or on a light cycle in your dishwasher (or according to the directions on the package). Keep them clean and untouched until ready to be applied.
Making Grandmother Mary’s Easy and Delicious Strawberry Jam Recipe
- 1 Quart Strawberries (about 2 pounds / 900 g) - fresh or frozen strawberries 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp pectin water
- 2 tsp pectin powder
- 1 cup white sugar
The first rule is only make exactly this recipe. Unless you are a super experienced jam maker, never attempt to double a recipe. If you are making jam to give as a gift and you need more, make separate batches. Once you have the process set-up, it will work best this way anyhow!
If you are using frozen berries, use their weight (see kitchen scale above) after they are thawed and drained, not before!
- Follow standard canning procedures to prepare your jars & lids. Leave in hot water until ready to fill (see above).
- Follow instructions on Pomona's Pectin to prepare your calcium water. Set-aside. (Ideally, store leftovers in a container with a lid unless you are making multiple batches of jam.)
- Clean, chop and mash about 1 quart or 2 pounds (900 grams) of strawberries to yield 4 cups of mashed fruit. Drain off any excess water (fresh or frozen berries).
- Add strawberries and lemon juice to a stainless steel 8-quart saucepan. Stir in two teaspoons of calcium water.
- Mix 2 tsps of pectin powder into your sugar. Use a wire whisk and make sure it is completely and evenly mixed. No clumps. Set aside.
- On medium heat bring your fruit mixture to a full boil.
- Stir in your sugar and pectin mixture while mixing with a wire whisk.
- Stir continuously for about 2 minutes until the sugar and pectin are completely dissolved and the mixture returns to full boil. If it foams, just scoop off the foam.
- Don’t over cook. Don't cook* any longer than a few minutes! This is why this is EASY.
- Remove from heat. Can while hot!
*Many jam recipes call for 15 minutes or more of cooking and a wrinkle test to see if the jam set. If you do this with Pomona’s Pectin, it degrades the pectin and it won’t work!
3) Filling Your Jam Jars
- Remove jars from water and drain. Set rightside-up on a heatproof surface.
- Use your canning tools (funnel, tongs, etc.) to pour jam into hot jars leaving ¼ to ½ inch space from the top.
- If you spill any jam on the jar lip, use a very clean (sterile) paper towel or cotton cloth dipped in a bit of boiling water to wipe down the edge. Your jam lip should be clean at least 1/4 an inch from the top.
- Once you have poured all the jam, apply the lids and seals following the instructions on your packaging.
- As the jars cool you will hear them “pop!” This means the seal has been made and your jars will be shelf-stable. Don’t move or touch anything until the are 100% cooled down. This may be overnight!
- Once your jars are cool label them, wrap with a bow, do whatever you wish to dress them up! I like to use a red satin bow and a kraft tie for a vintage look.
- Replace strawberries with raspberries or blackberries
- Replace 1 cup sugar with 1 cup honey or 1 cup agave (changes flavor)
- Pectin free: A friend’s grandmother made a very simple and yummy jam recipe with strawberries and other berries. Instead of using pectin, she simply added sugar and sliced lemon to the berries and then cooked them up to the jam stage. She made sure to include a lemon slice in each jar, which is very pretty! If you can’t find pectin, try this and let me know how it goes! David Lebovitz has a lemon only recipe, but I've not yet tried it out!
If you love this recipe and you want to do more canning or you want to learn more about pectin free canning read this article from the Colorado State Extension.
Pomona's Universal Pectin also has lots of online resources, including a PDF of their recipes.
Want to Grow Your Own Berries?
If you have the time and space to raise your own strawberries now (fall) is the time to plant them, so get going! Why grow your own? Even if organic berries can now be bought year-round at the grocery store? Unless the birds get them first, homegrown berries are simply sweeter, so you can use less sugar.
Show the Love
Did you love this recipe? Have you tried it? Do you have any questions? Be sure to comment below and share the recipe with your friends.