Frugal Recipe: Homemade Low-Sugar Strawberry Jam Recipe

by Les@SpillingBuckets on June 30, 2009

On Sunday my friends and I went strawberry picking at a local farm. It was a lot of fun!

This is the first time I had gone picking for strawberries, and I didn’t really know what to expect.

When you get to the farm you check in and they weigh any containers you brought so you only pay for your weight in strawberries not buckets. You can also buy cardboard containers from their stand. Then you go to the center of the field were a guide assigns you to a row.

There’s a flag in each row that tells you where the last person left off, and so you know where to start. There were three of us so we got assigned two rows next to each other.

There were TONS of strawberries onĀ the vines! All sizes, shapes, and levels of ripeness were available. It took us about an hour but we ended up picking about 10 quarts. There was a promotion where if you picked 9 quarts you got one free, so we only paid for 9 of them – total was just over $30, which is very cheap for the quantity we got. The container in the picture is only one of five we left with stuffed to the brim with ripe berries.

When we got back to my friends apartment we immediately set about making batches of homemade jams. It was time consuming but well worth the effort. We made three batches, experimenting with the flavors and amounts of pectin. The whole process took about four hours and we ended up with about 25 jars of jam in various sizes as well as a good amount of ‘leftover’ fresh strawberries to snack on during the week.

How to make Strawberry Jam: A Low Sugar Strawberry Jam Recipe

If you look in cookbooks or online there are several strawberry jam recipes, most of which call for copious amounts of sugar. We all agreed that it would be way too sweet with that much so decided to taste as we went. There is some sugar in recipe but it is relatively low, and could be substituted for no-calorie sweetener if you are diabetic and wanted to keep it sugar free (aside from the sugar naturally in the fruit, of course) – just make sure to use no-sugar-needed pectin.

The stepsĀ involved look long and complex but they really aren’t difficult at all. To sum it up in concise way:

  1. clean
  2. cut,
  3. boil,
  4. add sugar,
  5. boil,
  6. add pectin,
  7. can,
  8. clean up,
  9. and enjoy!

Here’s the technique we used for the best of the three batches in long form:

Clean and sterilize glass canning jars. The dishwashers rinse and heated dry setting works well for this.

While the jars are cleaning wash, stem, and cut in half 4 quarts of strawberries.

Add juice and zest of 1 lemon to the berries.

Bring to a boil on medium to medium high heat, stirring constantly to prevent the strawberries from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.

When the strawberries have started to liquefy use a potato masher to smash the larger pieces. (unless you like really large chunks in your jam)

When it has just started to boil add 1 cup white sugar.

After the sugar has been stirred in and all absorbed take a small spoon and taste it – add more sugar to your preference. We tasted before and after the sugar (clean spoons of course), and you definitely need some sort of sweetener, the jam (although delicious) was very bitter without it.

After stirring in the sugar continue stirring until it has reached a boil again.

After it has been boiling for about a minute stir in the pectin. For jam with such a little amount of sugar you should use no-sugar needed pectin; we tried the regular pectin and I don’t think it’s going to fully set. (we will probably use that batch for ice cream topping or in a pie)

At this point start boiling the lids to your jars to sterilize them.

Continue stirring at a low boil for about 5 more minutes until it becomes noticeably thicker.

To test for done-ness take a clean spoon and place a small amount of jam on a plate or bowl. Wait a few seconds for it to cool and if it has started to jell (is no longer very runny liquid) you are ready to start canning. The pot wont ever reach the full consistency of jelly, but it should set when it cools.

Carefully with a wide bottom funnel begin to spoon the jam into your cleaned jars. You should fill them to the point just below where the cap will fit. This will be the point just below the rim of the funnel inside the jar. (make sure to leave some air)

Then carefully clean off any excess jam from the edges and top with a round canning lid and screw cap. You should tighten finger tight all the way so water doesn’t get in during the boiling, but you shouldn’t strain yourself to get it super tight.

Place the filled jars in a large pot of boiling water. If you have a rack it would help to keep the jars from hitting each other, but if you don’t you just need some sort of divider to prevent them from smashing.

Boil for 10 minutes at a full boil with the lid on the pot

Then carefully (with tongs is best) remove the jars and set them out to cool. You should hear ‘pops’ as the lids suction down and lock in place. Any jars that don’t pop you need to use right away because they won’t be fully sealed.

And that’s it! When you are done with your bounty split it up, taste a little of what’s left in the pan, and call it a day!

We’ve decided this was so much fun that we are going to set up a “Canning Weekend” on the last weekend of each month, and then preserve whatever is freshest and in season.