Summer is all about homemade strawberry jam, specifically low sugar no pectin strawberry jam. Like any pioneer woman, the beginning of summer marks jam and jelly season at our house. Fingers are sure to be stained with the berry of the moment and snack breaks are taken at the bush with the most ripe fruit.
The first fruit preserving of the summer for us is strawberries. My husband loves strawberry jam, it is his absolute favorite. There is nothing that tastes better than homemade jam, the stuff in the store doesn’t compare. Not only is this homemade strawberry jam recipe tasty, but it’s frugal, two of my favorite things.
If you grow your own fruit see How to Plant Strawberries, have jars (canning jars will last for decades as long as they’re not chipped), then your only cost is lids, sugar, and
pectin. Now you can eliminate the store bought commercial pectin, cutting your cost even more with this low sugar no pectin strawberry jam recipe.
I received my great-great-grandmother’s cookbook from my mother a few weeks ago and I’ve loved scouring the pages. I combined a recipe from that and another great book, In a Pickle or a Jam by Vicki Wilder, which is unfortunately out of print, but if you ever find it at a garage sale or thrift store, grab it!
I don’t know about you, but homemade jam that contains more sugar or as much sugar as it does fruit, just doesn’t sit right with me. I want my homemade strawberry jam to taste like strawberries, not a bucketful of sugar. Not only is this low sugar strawberry jam recipe healthier, it’s also much more frugal without pectin from the store and loads of sugar.
Plus, I’m all about recipes that don’t rely on store bought items. Anyone else feel they were born a century to late and should have been besties with Laura Ingall’s Wilder in Little House on the Prairie? You, too! Good, grab your apron, your Mason jars, and let’s get to jamming.
Lemon and apples are both very high in natural pectin. My grandmother never used pectin and now you don’t have to either. Surprisingly, you just get a hint of the lemon, so if you want it to be stronger, add the juice of one more lemon. Think strawberry lemonade in a jam. Oh, yes, don’t mind if I do.
Disclosure: Some of the below links are affiliate links
Classic Zester- this little beauty makes getting that pectin luscious lemon zest into your strawberry jam without the bitter pith so easy.
Stainless Steel Canner– (Safe for glass top stoves) this water bath canner won’t rust like the granite wear runs and will be your trusty side kick in the kitchen for years to come.
6 Piece Canning Set- The jar lifter is worth five times the price of this. Best part, this 6 piece set is 79% off at time of posting. I use mine with every canning project and can’t believe I ever canned without it. No more burnt fingers!
8 ounce jelly jars- These are the perfect size for jam and jelly making. I use these for pickled garlic as well. Can you ever have too many canning jars? In case you were wondering, the answer is no my friend.
8 cups firm strawberries (organic)
2 and 1/2 cups to 3 and 1/2 cups sugar, add by a 1/2 cup until the reaches desired sweetness level
3 lemons, the juice and zest (organic if possible)
Heat your water in your hot water bath canner. Sterilize jars in the dishwasher or in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Have lids in warm water, not boiling, in a small sauce pan.
Rinse and hull your strawberries. Get a large stock pot and a citrus zester or the smallest holes on your grater. Zest the peel of the lemons into your pot. Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice into pot. Cup your hand underneath as you squeeze, or you’ll have to fish out any seeds that drop in.
Stir in your sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar combines into a syrup.
Take pot off of heat and dump in strawberries. If you like your jam to have large bites of strawberries, then leave them whole. My husband doesn’t like chunky jam, so I take a potato masher and mash them up. Stir to fully coat with syrup and leave for 15 minutes.
Put pot back on medium high heat. Stirring frequently, bring strawberry jam to a boil. Once jam begins to boil, stir constantly. Note, without pectin, my berries did not foam. Woo,hoo! Stir for 6 minutes, or until jam sets. Jam has set when it sticks to the back of the spoon.
Ladle your gorgeous low sugar no pectin strawberry jam into jars, wipe rim with a damp cloth, place lid and screw band snugly (not too tight). I put one jar into the fridge to eat right away, but for preserving, place into hot water bath, be sure to use the rack, and process for 10 minutes. Take out and place on a folded over towel for 12 hours, then store in a dark cool place.
Makes six 8 ounce jelly size jars. I had a 4 ounces extra and put it in the fridge for immediate use.
Note: Always inspect your jars of jam and jelly before using. If the seal is broken, jar is leaking, off odor, off appearance, or any signs of mold, do not eat or taste it. Throw it out. Check the seal when you go to use jar, even if it sealed when you put it in the pantry. Seals can sometimes come undone over time.
Jam without added pectin (store bought pectin) isn’t quite as thick as commercial pectin jam, but it is still spreadable and shouldn’t be too runny.
Jam reaches its jelling point at 220 degrees. You can use a candy thermometer or the above guidelines for checking the gel. It’s important to frequently stir your jam as it’s cooking to avoid scorching the jam. A sturdy stock pot instead of a thin one also helps.
If your jam isn’t setting after cooking for 20 minutes you can cook for 5 minutes or/and add another 1/2 cup of sugar. Sugar helps the set of your jam and if you’re having trouble with the set after you’ve reached the ideal temperature, add a bit more sugar.
If you discover your jam is too thin or more like syrup after you’ve sealed it, you can return the jam to the pot, add more sugar, and reprocess it using new lids and clean jars.
One reader wrote in saying the lemon flavor in a batch she did that didn’t set was strong, but after re-cooking the jam until it reached its gelling point, the lemon flavor is barely detectable.
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Check out our old-fashioned jam making without pectin series Part 1
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.