Fresh, ripe berries are the star of this fruity, spreadable Homemade Strawberry Jam without pectin. Made with just three ingredients, and you’ll get to enjoy the taste of sweet strawberries for months to come.
When strawberry season hits, I’m always searching for as many ways as possible to enjoy these delicious fresh berries. I love Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and Peach Vanilla Jam, but there is nothing like traditional homemade strawberry jam made without pectin.
Jam is a great way to preserve ripe summer fruit for the colder winter months. If the jars are sealed and stored in a cool, dark place they have a shelf life of 1-2 years. With strawberry season lasting only a few months in the Carolinas, if you want to enjoy those sweet berries, you’ll need to can or freeze them.
To make the best strawberry jam, I use a two step process in order to concentrate the strawberry flavor, and simple ingredients. First you’ll let the strawberries sit overnight to let the juices form. Then you’ll concentrate the juice and add the berries back to the concentrated juice.
This method brings out the flavor more than the traditional method. It’s not absolutely necessary for delicious jam, but it will give you an even better tasting jam if you have the time to refrigerate the berries in sugar overnight.
If you’ve never canned anything, it might sound intimidating but I promise it’s much easier than you think. It doesn’t take long at all to make a batch of great-tasting jam that actually tastes like fruit and not flavored sugar. It’s so much better than what you can find at the grocery stores.
You can use it to in a strawberry poke cake, and if you need a quick hostess gift, it’s easy to grab a jar on your way out the door.
While jam is a great way to preserve and use strawberries later, be sure to read my tips on how to keep strawberries fresh, it will allow you to grab baskets of berries at the farmers market and keep them fresh for up to two weeks while you decide what to make.
Why you’ll love it
- You can make delicious jam with just three simple ingredients
- This jam has less sugar and more flavor
- Your friends will love getting jars as gifts
- Canning jam is easy and you can control the amount of sugar
- A drizzle of homemade strawberry jam is good on so many things!
What to eat with homemade jam
Other ways to use it
Blend it into a fruit smoothie
Serve it with cream cheese on crackers
Drizzle it over ice cream
Stir it into cottage cheese
Add a spoonful to oatmeal
Stir into plain yogurt
Mix with oil and vinegar for a sweet salad dressing
What you’ll need
Fresh strawberries – you’ll need about 3 pounds of strawberries. While most of the strawberries should be ripe, about a quarter of them can be less ripe. The less-ripe berries have more pectin, which will help thicken the jam.
Sugar – granulated sugar adds extra sweetness to the homemade strawberry jam. You can adjust the amount to your taste, you also have to have some sugar for it to thicken. You can reduce the amount of sugar to 1 ½ cups but any less and it may not thicken.
Fresh Lemon juice – its high acid content helps the jam thicken and set. I prefer fresh lemon juice but bottled works as well.
Canning jars – this recipe will make enough for a little more than four ½ pint jars or 8 ounce jars.
Flat metal lids and rings – You need fresh lids for each mason jar. Canning lids are meant only for one time use. You can purchase a box of lids. Rings are re-usable.
How to make and can strawberry jam without pectin
If you are short on time, you can skip the overnight step. It will take about 45 minutes of cooking time to have canned jam.
Rinse your strawberries and use a paring knife to remove the hulls. Cut the berries in half and place them in a large bowl. Then add about two cups of sugar depending on how sweet the berries are and how sweat the strawberries are. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
If canning your jam, bring water to a full boil in a large canning pot. This can take a while since it’s a large volume of water, so be sure to start this first. You’ll want the water deep enough to cover an inch higher than the jars.
Remove the strawberry mixture from the fridge and pour it into a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Bring it to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 5 minutes.
Pro tip: the pot you use needs to be much larger than the amount of strawberries you have as the strawberries will boil, and you don’t want strawberry jam all over your stove.
Pour the mixture into a strainer or colander that is set over a large bowl to catch the juice. You should have about 4 cups of liquid. (Save the strawberries, you’ll add them back.) Pour the juice back into the pan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Cook until it’s slightly thickened and reduced to about 1 ½ cups. This should take about 10 minutes.
Add the strawberries back to the pan with the juice. Then add the lemon juice and bring it to a simmer again over medium-high heat. Stir frequently for about 15-20 minutes, until you hear a sizzle when pulling a wooden spoon through the mixture. When you drag the spoon across the bottom of the pan, it should take a second before the steak goes away.
Pro Tip: For an extra burst of lemon flavor, add 1-2 teaspoons of lemon zest to your jam when you add the lemon juice. As a bonus, the zest has extra pectin that will help the mixture thicken.
If you like a chunky consistency, leave the jam as is. Or mash with a potato masher or an immersion blender to make it smoother.
Now that you have jam, you have three options:
- You can place it in a glass container and refrigerate. Homemade jam will last about 3 months in the fridge.
- You can freeze it and it will last for about a year as long as you freeze it in an air tight container. The problem with this method is it takes up space and freezer space is limited.
- My favorite solution is to can it. Canned jam will last 18 months to 2 years. They will not be bad after that, but they will loose their flavor. If this is the first time you have tried canning, these tips will help.
How to can jam
Fill your canning pot, or large pot, and bring it to a boil. You will need to start with clean jars. Place the half-pint jars and flat lids in the boiling-water bath. Boil for 10 minutes to sterilize to remove any bacteria. Then remove everything with tongs and place the hot jars and lids on a clean towel to dry.
Pour the hot jam into the sterilized jars. Be sure to leave about ¼ inch headspace between the jam and the top of the jar. Use a wet paper towel to remove any extra jam on the rim of the jar. Then place a flat lid and ring on each jar.
Place the jars back in the hot water and bring to a full rolling boil. Make sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove them from the water and leave undisturbed until cooled. Most of the time you can hear the lids pop which will let you know that you got a good seal.
When the jars have cooled you can check to see if the lids have sealed by pressing down on the tops. If the lid pushes down, that means it didn’t seal. If you have any jars that don’t seal, you can put them in the refrigerator and eat the jam within 2-3 months.
FAQs and tips
Pectin is what makes jam thicken and gel. It occurs naturally in fruit, although some fruits have such low pectin levels that you need to add extra pectin. Berries have lower levels of pectin, but still contain enough that the mixture will thicken on its own with the help of a lemon, a high pectin fruit. Jam with store-bought pectin can sometimes turn out too thick and have a rubbery texture. I think it also dulls the flavor of the fruit.
There are a couple of reasons why it’s important to use lemon juice when canning jam. First, the acid in the lemons lowers the pH of the jam mixture and the extra pectin aids in thickening the berries.
Strawberry jam without pectin will thicken with the help of lemon juice. The acid works with the natural pectin in the fruit to absorb the juice and help it set. Also cooking it long enough to evaporate enough liquid out of the jam makes it more thick than runny. Jam also needs some sugar to thicken, if you add too little, it may be thinner.
First, make sure your jam has cooled at room temperature at least overnight. If it’s cooled and is still runnier than you’d like, you can empty the jars back into a pot and cook your jam until it is reduced a little further. Sterilize your jars again, add the jam, and place in boiling water to seal.
Yes. If canning jam isn’t your thing, you can skip the water bath and store your cooled jars of jam in the freezer for up to a year. You may find you don’t need as much sugar if you’re freezing rather than canning jam. But be sure to start with clean, sterilized jars even if you’re storing them in the freezer.
This recipe is a small batch jam recipe which will make four 8 ounce jars or two 16 ounce jars. You can double the recipe as long as you have a large enough saucepan but I would not try to increase it any more as it will be hard to thicken.
Looking for more strawberry recipes? Try these favorites.
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- 3 lbs strawberries 10 cups
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Rinse and hull strawberries, cut in half and place in a large bowl. Add sugar and gently toss. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Bring water to a boil in a large canning pot. Sterilize the jars and flat lids.
- Place the strawberries and juice and sugar in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into a colander set over a large bowl to catch the juice. Pour the juice back into the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. You will have about 4 cups of liquid depending on how juicy the strawberries are. Cook this down until it is slightly thick and reduced to about 1 ½ cups, about 10 minutes.
- Add the strawberries and any juice back to the pan. Add lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently until you can hear a sizzle when you pull a wooden spoon through the mixture, about 15-20 minutes.
- If you want a smoother jam, use an immersion blender to blend the berries. If you prefer chunky, leave as is.
- Pour the jam into the sterilized jars leaving about ¼ inch at the top. Using a wet paper towel, remove any jam on the rim of the jar and place a flat lid and ring on each. The ring should be just finger-tight.
- Place the jars in boiling water, making sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove and leave undisturbed until cool. Once cooled, check to see if the lids have sealed by pressing down on the top. If it can be pushed down, it has not sealed and you should refrigerate and enjoy right away.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- If you don’t have time to let the strawberries sit overnight, you can sill have great jam, it may take a little longer to thicken.
- Try to use a mixture of berries that are very ripe and just slightly ripe.
- You can increase the sugar if your strawberries are not sweet or you like a sweeter jam.
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