Typically, made from scratch jam recipes call for a ton of fresh fruit and even more sugar. Oy vey! Fresh fruit, even when in season, can be costly in large quantities. So I’ve pared down this homemade jam recipe to produce a small batch using three different types of seasonal berries – strawberries, blueberries and raspberries – and far less sugar than is traditionally called for, but still with loads of fresh, delicious fruit flavor.
Use Seasonal Fruit to Make Homemade Jam
I love summertime and its bounty of fresh fruit. When the local farmers markets open their gates and seasonal fruit is available aplenty and relatively inexpensive, I am in heaven! I started making my own jam a few years ago using seasonal fruit and am continually surprised at how easy it is to do this at home. It’s been fun to experiment with flavors and add-ins for my jams and, of course, sharing them with family and friends!
Homemade Jam = less sugar!
My favorite part of making homemade jam is the ability to control the amount of sugar that goes into it. Have you ever read the nutrition label on the back of store-bought jams or jellies? If you haven’t, don’t! There’s loads of sugar in there. And, if you’ve browsed homemade jam recipes previously, you’ve probably noticed how much sugar those recipes call for, too. It’s kinda crazy!
I remember clearly when my middle sis, Stephanie, and I went to make our first batch of jam together at my house a couple of years ago. We both almost passed out reading the recipe that called for nine cups of sugar. Nine! We were making a large batch that we were going to can (aka, preserve), but still! Nine cups was a ton of sugar for the number of jars we were aiming to yield. We pared the sugar down by more than half and the amount of sweetness that resulted was perfect. So, I’ve been doing the same ever since!
How to Make Homemade Jam
Making jam at home is not difficult at all. And since this recipe produces about one eight-ounce jar of mixed berry jam, there’s no canning or preserving required to store excess jars.
To start, wash your berries thoroughly with cold water – see tips below for best time to do this. Pick out any stems from the blueberries. Hull the strawberries (aka, remove the stem and the tough part just below it – I love this little tool for hulling strawberries) then quarter them. Put all the berries in a large heavy-bottomed pot and stir in the sugar. Allow this to sit for at least 15 minutes. This is sometimes called macerating. It’s sort of like marinating and it helps to draw moisture out of the fruit.
Once the berries have been macerated, start cooking them, stirring continuously, following the directions in the recipe below. After you add in the citrus juice and the jam starts to resemble jam-like consistency, there’s a neat little trick for checking its doneness. Stick a small plate in the fridge while the jam is cooking. Once it reaches a point where it seems jam-like, spoon a small amount onto the chilled plate and stick it back in the fridge for a couple of minutes. If you can drag your finger through the jam and it retains it’s shape without being too watery or runny, it’s done!
Tips for Making This Recipe
- Store your berries in the fridge in their original containers until ready to make this recipe. Do not wash the berries until you are ready to use them. Leaving the berries in their containers unwashed will prolong the life and freshness of the berries. Here’s a great article on storing and rinsing different types of berries
- Be sure to keep close by the stove while the jam is cooking. When the berries begin to break down and the water naturally in them evaporates, the sugars that are left behind tend to burn very easily. So, continue stirring the berries, especially as the liquid thickens, to avoid burning
- Experiment with the types of berries in this recipe! Try anything that’s seasonal and inexpensive, just retain the quantities listed or adjust the scale as necessary (click the 2x, 3x buttons in the recipe card below if you increase the amount of berries). Try adding in different types of citrus zest, sprinkling in some vanilla seeds from fresh vanilla beans, or adding in some freshly grated ginger to spice it up a bit
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Small Batch Mixed Berry Jam
I’ve pared down this homemade jam recipe to produce a small batch using three different types of seasonal berries and far less sugar than store-bought jam without sacrificing any flavor or sweetness.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: About 1 hour
- Yield: 8 ounces 1x
- Category: Jam
- Method: Stovetop Cook
- Cuisine: American
- Macerate the Berries: Toss the berries and sugar together in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, periodically tossing to coat and to dissolve the sugar (this process helps coax the juices out of the fruit). Place a small plate in the refrigerator to chill (you’ll use this later to test the consistency of the jam)
- Cook the Fruit: Bring the fruit to a strong simmer over medium heat until the berries burst and the juices start to boil, about 15 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high. Cook the jam, at first stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula, then more frequently as the juices thicken. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the fruit has begun to break down, 40 – 50 minutes. How much it breaks down will depend on the fruit’s type and ripeness: for example, strawberries are likely to retain more of their shape, while raspberries will break down almost entirely. As the jam cooks, the liquid will reduce, the sugars thicken and the natural pectins activate. You’ll notice the liquid go from a rapid, rolling boil with smaller bubbles to a slow, thick, tar-like boil with larger bubbles: This is the stage at which it’s most important to stir constantly along the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching and sticking (sugar is heavier than water and will concentrate there, increasing the chance that the fruit will burn) It’s also the stage at which splattering may occur, so take care in stirring.
- Add Juice: Once the jam reaches a slow, thick boil, add lemon / lime / orange juice and continue to cook, stirring constantly until the jam returns to its previous consistency (before you added the juice), about another 5 minutes. To test the consistency, spoon a bit of jam onto the chilled plate, return it to the refrigerator and chill for 2 minutes. Drag your finger through it: it should hold its shape on either side without appearing watery or runny. If it’s not there yet, cook a few minutes more (note: some fruit, like strawberries, contain more water and less natural pectin than other fruit, like raspberries. This means the jam will never be quite as thick or gelled, but it will still be delicious)
- Transfer to Jar: Once jam has reached the right consistency, remove from the heat. Add jam to an 8-ounce canning / mason jar or two 4-ounce jars and store in the refrigerator
- Store jam in the refrigerator, using within a couple of weeks
- Recipe adapted from Alison Roman
Keywords: homemade jam, small batch, canning recipe, jelly, preserves, berries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
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