How to Can Some Jam: A Simple Method Without Pectin or (Refined) Sugar

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Jam Recipe from 100 Days of Real FoodI hope this will be my first of several posts about how to “can” and preserve fresh foods when they are in season. I am a beginner canner myself, but have always been intrigued by and interested in the whole process. So I recently took a “Canning Class” (led by Ashley Eller at Poplar Ridge Farm) and have also been reading through some other resources including the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. Prior to my class I knew absolutely nothing about canning except that I thought it sounded confusing, complicated, and like something that would take an entire day to do (not true!).

From one beginner to another, a few key points:

  • In simple terms, canning food is cooking recipes (which most of us already know how to do) and then “processing” the results by putting them in sterilized canning jars and boiling or pressure “cooking” them for a designated amount of time. It really isn’t as complicated as I originally thought. :)
  • It is important to use canning recipes from reliable sources. Especially as a beginner these are not recipes you want to modify or adapt in any way because each ingredient as well as both the length of time and temperature at which the jars are processed can be key components to ensuring food safety.
  • You must use jars that are in fact suitable for “canning” with two-piece metal lids, which does not include old washed out Ragu spaghetti sauce jars. The most widely used brands of jars for canning are Ball and Kerr, and while the jars and bands (that go around the lid) are reusable you must always use brand new lids to properly can foods. Now I know why I see those packs of lids for sale.
  • It is necessary to sterilize the jars and lids before pouring in your jam (or other recipe). You can do this in hot water (180 degrees F), or if you can time things right run the jars and lids/bands through the dishwasher so they are hot and ready right when your recipes are done.
  • According to the Ball Blue Book Guide to Canning to process high-acid foods like berries and tomatoes you simply boil them (in the jars), but you actually need to pressure can low-acid foods like asparagus, peas, and corn. So my personal plan is just to stick to the high-acid produce for a while until I really get the hang of things.
  • If you aren’t sure if your foods “canned” properly your nose and/or a quick taste test should confirm whether a jar spoiled or not when you open it.
  • You certainly can spend your entire day preparing big batches of recipes in order to preserve in-season produce when it’s fresh, but it does not have to be a huge production. In fact, I made a half recipe of the strawberry jam posted below in just over an hour…and I am a newbie.
  • Please share your canning tips in the comments below…I know some of you have been doing this for many years!

Some helpful tools to make the canning process easier:

The “need to have” canning tools…Jam Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food

  • Jars (of course!) – I personally like the versions without shoulders so they are freezer-safe as well. (Hint: if you use the jars for freezing instead of canning be sure to leave room at the top for the liquid to expand.)
  • Ball Utensil Set – This set includes a jar funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter, and bubble remover/headspace tool. I found the first three of these items to be invaluable, although I could probably live without the bubble remover/headspace tool (for now).
  • A large pot – You’ll need one big enough to hold several sealed jars that could be covered with 1 – 2 inches of water. This does not have to be a “canning” pot…any big old stockpot will do.
  • A ladle – This is necessary to get your jam (or whatever you are making) from the pot to the jar.
  • A digital or analog scale – Some recipes call for ingredients in weight measurements, but not all. I have an extremely basic analog scale and to be honest it totally does the trick.
  • Potato masher – This was a necessary tool in order to turn my cooked strawberries into yummy, mushy jam.

The “nice to have” tools…

  • Basic thermometer – To test the temperature of the water before sterilizing jars/lids.
  • Canning rack – This is to lower the jars into and out of the boiling water when you are processing them and to provide space between the bottom of the jars and the pot (you can use other things like jar bands, silverware or even a dish towel to create that space). I don’t personally have one and I survived, but I can see the value if you are going to be doing a lot of canning. Just make sure the size you buy fits your pot if you aren’t getting a set!
  • Dissolvable labels – I seriously love these things, but if you can’t justify the expense some regular old masking tape will definitely get the job done.
  • Pressure canner – As I mentioned above I don’t see myself “pressure canning” anytime soon, but if you want to preserve low-acid veggies then this is a necessary piece of equipment.

6 Easy Steps to Can Strawberry Jam

  1. Follow jam recipe (as stated below).
  2. While it’s cooking sterilize the jars and lids/bands in hot water.
  3. Ladle the completed jam into hot, freshly sterilized jars one-by-one.
  4. Add jar lid to the top while keeping the inside sterilized.
  5. Screw on the bands and add jars to boiling water for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove jars and listen for the “pop” sound to ensure jar lids have been properly sealed. It’s that simple! :)

Jam Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food


4.8 from 13 reviews

Strawberry Honey Jam (Canned)
Serves: 6 pints
Recipe from Ashley Eller with Sweetie Pie Bakery
  • 6 pounds strawberries and/or blueberries, local/organic recommended
  • 3 ¾ cup honey
  • 1 ½ unpeeled apples, grated
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Make Jam: Rinse the berries and remove any spoiled or severely blemished ones. Hull strawberries and slice in half.
  2. Add the berries, honey, grated apple, and lemon juice to a large pot over high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium and allow the mixture to continue to boil lightly for approximately 30 – 60 minutes. The berries will burst and thicken so be sure to scrape the sides of the pot and stir as you go. The longer the jam cooks the thicker the final product will be, although this recipe does not become quite as thick as typical store-bought jam.

  3. Mash the fruit with a potato masher once the fruit begins to soften. If foam forms on top of the fruit you can skim and discard if desired.
  4. Prepare Jars: Meanwhile fill the canning pot ¾ full with water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. If you don’t have your jars sterilizing in a hot dishwasher you can use this pot of water to sterilize them. Also start a small pot of boiling water to sterilize the lids separately. Be sure to wash all jar pieces in hot soapy water first.
  5. Once the water is boiling turn off the heat. Test the temperature with your thermometer and when it reaches 180 degrees F put the jars and bands in the large pot and the lids in the small pot. Leave everything in the hot water until ready for use, removing one at a time as needed.
  6. When the jam is done cooking do a taste test to make sure the thickness and flavor is to your liking. Hint from Ashley: Drop dots of jam on a cold refrigerated plate, if it seems to set up, it is done. You can also see if it coats the back of a spoon.
  7. Remove the first jar from the hot water using your jar lifter tool and shake out excess water. Don’t touch inside of the jar in order to keep it sterilized. Insert clean canning funnel and ladle the jam into the jar leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top (this is where the headspace tool can come in handy – leaving more space at the top might not give as good of a seal). If there are any air bubbles you can slide a clean knife along the inside of the jar to remove them. Using a clean rag wipe excess off the outside of the jar and rim.

  8. Using a magnetic lid lifter pull the first lid out of the hot water and set on top of the jar without touching the bottom of it. Then while only touching the outside of the band screw it onto the jar just firmly enough so it doesn’t feel wobbly on the grooves. Repeat until all jars are filled.

  9. Note (If you don’t want to actually “can” the jam): You could stop here and refrigerate jam for 3 – 4 weeks. To freeze the jam make sure you used freezer-safe jars, allow it to cool, and put in freezer for up to one year.
  10. Process the Jars: Bring large pot of water back to a boil. Using your jar lifter (or canning rack) carefully lower as many jars that will fit without overcrowding into the boiling water so they are covered by at least 1 – 2 inches of water. It is recommended that the jars do not directly touch the bottom of the pot (so hot water can flow beneath them) and some even suggest putting a dish towel on the bottom to create space. From the moment the water is boiling and the entire first batch of jars are submerged set the timer and process them for 10 minutes.

  11. When 10 minutes is over use the jar lifter to carefully remove the jars from the water. Put them on the counter and don’t move them right away. You will hear your jar lids “popping” which means they have been sealed properly. If jars aren’t sealed within 12 hours then move them to the fridge and eat within 3 – 4 weeks.
  12. Remove bands from sealed jars and with a clean, wet cloth wipe off any jam that has congealed on the outside rim of the jar. This prevents mold from forming on the band. The band can be reapplied, but don’t screw them on too tightly.
  13. Label jar and store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.

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398 comments to How to Can Some Jam: A Simple Method Without Pectin or (Refined) Sugar

  • Catina

    All my Jam is coming out runny.
    I followed the recipe.
    I have to ask the recipe say 3 3/4 cups of honey.
    Is this 3/4 cup or 3 and 3/4 cups?

  • andria

    I did use the concord grapes and it came out great! I boiled the grapes over low heat till they were very soft. The ran them through a sieve to grind up the skin and remove the seeds. Then slow boiled them down again till I had the desired thickness I wanted. At that point I sweetened the jam and made different flavors by adding lemon and cinnamon or almond or clove and simmer for last 20mins. Then filled my jars and processed them. Flavor is great and so is the thickness and it thickens even more after it is opened and stored in the fridge. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • andria

    forgot to mention sweetened some with stevia and some with honey. Stevia did just fine for me.

  • Sharon T

    If you don’t know whether a home canned item is safe or not, DO NOT just take a little taste to check!!! Botulism is a danger of improperly canned foods. If you follow the canning instructions of a current canning book (like Ball or Kerr) you should be just fine.

  • Amber

    I am starting to slowly eliminate GMO’s from our cupboards. This is a great way for me to use local products to feed my family a little healthier.

  • Katie

    Do you think I could make Pomegranate jelly with this recipe?

  • Alana

    I tried checking through the comments and didn’t see anything – I tried this recipe a couple months back (well I made a half batch) and it was delish!! But my favorite jam is Raspberry – would this work and just use 6lb of Raspberries instead of Strawberries?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Alana. No reason you couldn’t give it a try. I have not done it with raspberries but it may work. Let us know how it goes. Jill

  • Heather

    Hey! Do you have a strawberry jam recipe without the honey or is the honey necessary as the sweetener? :)

  • Molly

    Can you explain what your jam looked like during the cooking process? Was it completely liquid up until it set? Mine is all liquid except for the strawberry chunks. I read reviews of people having the same consistency. I am guessing either something went wrong or maybe your was the same and we just need to hear exactly what yours looked like. :) also – does the apple need to be grated or is any form okay? Thin slices?

  • Erin Rothie

    Thanks so much for your recipe!! I do a lot of canning and usually halve the sugar, but still hate having the refined sugar in it. I’m going to make crockpot cranberry sauce sweetened with honey. I’m excited to try it! I made my last batch with half the sugar and it gelled super well, so I think it has plenty of natural pectin in it to gel well with honey.

    Thanks for your healthy living tips!

  • Grace

    If I don’t add honey or any sweetener, will I still be able to make the jam successfully?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Grace. You can try it. Without the pectin too, I’m not sure if it will gel quite right. The sweetener I believe also acts as a preservative, so, you may not have as long of a shelf life either. Let us know how it goes. Jill

  • Tyler Pennypacker

    Hi! I was curious besides making your own jam, if you could give me suggestions on healthy store bought jellies (grape) that you purchase for sandwiches?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Tyler. Crofter’s has an organic jelly…I’m not that familiar with it though to know if it has added sugar, but, it might be worth checking out. Hope that helps. Jill

  • Vonita

    Have you heard about Tattler Canning lids? They’re reusable and BPA free.

  • Alexis

    I love that this recipe doesn’t use tons of straight up sugar, could you do it without the honey though? That may be a silly question I’ve never made jelly but would like to but don’t want to add sugar/sweetners to them. Thank you!

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Alexis. I have never tried it without any sweetener. My only hesitation is that without the honey and pectin I’m not sure it would get thick. Jill

  • Tanya

    Do you know if you can you make this with frozen fruit instead of fresh fruit?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Tanya. I have not tried it, sorry. I’m not really sure if it would work or not. I would just make sure if you choose to try it that you purchase frozen fruit with no added sugars. Jill

  • Michelle

    This was delicious! I made it with frozen strawberries straight from the freezer. It turned out perfect. It was my first jam making experience….I am so happy to have tried this recipe. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Carol

    Tried this today and love it!!! This is my first canning experience, and I thought it was super easy. I have a couple of questions. When I took jars out of boiling water after processing, I heard the pop but couldn’t tell which ones “popped”. There are 5 jars but only heard two “pops”. Is there a way other than hearing pops to tell which ones are sealed? I plan to freeze all 5, just to be safe.

    Also, when I buy organic jam at store, it typically lasts for a very long time in refrigerator after we open it (label on store bought organic jar says organic fruit, organic sugar, fruit pectin and citric acid). Why does this recipe only last 3 – 4 weeks in refrigerator after opening (whether opening from being sealed or opening from freezing)? Thanks!

    • So glad the recipe was a success. You can look at the lids to see if they are indented (which means they popped). The unsealed ones will look different. Also, the difference of the shelf life could be the amounts of the ingredients that they add. Sugar can act as a preservative (maybe they are using a higher quantity). I hope that helps.

  • Sadie

    Hi, I’m interested in making some strawberry jam without refined sugar. I’m concerned that with this much honey, that it would have a definite honey taste. Not to mention that honey is very expensive. I think my family and I would prefer the more mild taste of maple syrup, and I’m wondering if the honey could be replaced with maple syrup (same ratio), or if the amounts would have to be adjusted. Thanks!

    • pearl2006

      I made this only using 1 lb of strawberries, I used a little over a 1/2 cup of honey and it did not have any over powering honey taste. It would be worth it to just make 1 lb then if you are happy with it, then do a bigger batch. I commented below with how much I used of each ingredient if you want to give it a go.

      Tonight I also used the same recipe but used blue berries instead, came out great, added cinnamon, and ginger.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Sadie. If you do decide to exchange, the ratio typically is 1:1. Goodluck. ~Amy

      • Sadie

        I just wanted to follow-up and say that I made a small batch using honey, and it was good, but I could really taste the honey. I made another batch using maple syrup rather than honey, and it was so good! It tasted much more like “regular” jam with refined sugar. Also, as far as people with watery jam, I kept it simmering until it got to the consistency I wanted. It took a little longer with the maple syrup (over an hour), than it did with honey (about 30 minutes).

  • Abbie

    I’m curious why we want to avoid using pectin. I’ve looked and I can’t find anything on this site as to why we should not use it; I assume it’s because it is processed. I have found a few items at the store that would otherwise be acceptable but they have pectin in the ingredient list. Could you shed any light on this for me please? Thanks!

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Abbie. Commercial pectin is a processed additive but beyond that, it requires an addition of sugar to make it react. That is two strikes against pectin regarding our real food rules. Hope that answers your question. ~Amy

  • pearl2006

    My whole family loved this jam! I posted it on my facebook with a link to your site. I only made 1 lb of strawberries though, Here is how much I used.

    1 lb strawberries, 1/2 cup honey + 2 tbsp, 1/4 shredded green apple, and 1/4 tbsp lemon juice.

    I cooked it for only 30 min, and gave it a quick mash with my potato masher just to make sure everything was all broken up.

    Boy my kids loved it! And my 14 month old kept saying “MMMMMMMM” when he was eating it. lol

  • Melissa

    Can I make a small amount and save in tupperware instead of glass jars?

    • Sadie

      You can absolutely put jam in a tupperware and put in the fridge for a couple weeks instead of canning it. Or you can freeze it if you make more than you can eat in a couple weeks.

  • Rachel

    If I am making a smaller batch and don’t expect it to last more than a few weeks and do not plan on “canning” or freezing any of it, can I skip using the jars and store in an air-tight container in the fridge? Is is neccesary or is there is benefit to using the canning jars if we don’t actually plan on “canning”? Thanks so much!

    • Sadie

      Yes, you can put it in any airtight container in the fridge, and it will be fine for a week or two. Even when you “water bath” jars of jam, sometimes they don’t seal properly…you just put them in the fridge instead of the pantry, and they are fine for a couple weeks.

  • Megan

    I just recently found out about and have read 100 Days… and love it! For years I have made Strawberry Jam (ranging from 70-100 jars every year) to give as gifts throughout the year, so I am excited to find a recipe that is “sugar” free and does not use pectin. Being a long time canner I wanted to offer a few easy suggestions for anyone canning in bulk.
    - If you are processing a lot of jars you can sterilize the jars ahead of time and keep them warm in the oven while you are preparing the food (200 degree oven)
    - If you live in the Raleigh area, there is a local strawberry farm (Hunt’s on Watkin’s Road) that I love and have been picking strawberries at my entire life. It’s a great activity to do by yourself or with kids. They also have pre-picked strawberries if you want to skip the work of picking.
    - If you can pick the strawberries yourself, go for the ones that are on the edge of spoiling, the richer the red on the berry the sweeter your jam will be. (Don’t pick the ones with white still near the stem.)

    Can’t wait to try out more recipes on here!

  • [...] Jam: I can’t forget strawberry jam!  Making your own in the healthiest and most cost effective option- oh and it’s actually super easy.  You can check out a basic recipe here. [...]

  • Christle

    I have been told that the metal lids are lined with BPA, do you buy BPA free lids & if so what brand?

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