Use up your almost over-the-hill berries for the sweetest homemade jam that cooks in just 20 minutes.
Who else finds themselves guilty of the best of healthy intentions and buys too many berries that then start to look like Yoda as they ripen faster than you can eat them? It’s okay, not to worry, there’s a remedy for that: Homemade jam.
The thing is, homemade jam is the perfect remedy for those fresh berries that are at, or have just passed the point, of being perfectly ripe for snacking. Just because they may not be picture perfect is no reason for tossing them out.
The berries may not look the same the day they went into the fridge—with a few more dimples and their skin beginning to look a bit withered—but that’s my signal that their sweetness just leveled up, making them perfectly ready for crunchy sourdough toast and this easy to make, sweet berry jam.
How to Make Homemade Jam
This easy jam makes it silly to think of getting your jam any other way. I can make it any night of the week while cooking dinner (or in the morning too) and keep in the fridge and eat until it’s gone. Or, if you’re in the canning mode, double, triple, or quadruple the recipe where I’ve shared directions for canning the jam too. It’s so fresh and so good you’ll be finding yourself making it all of the time. Unlike what you may find at the grocery store, you know exactly what’s in it.
Because I like to use more ripe berries, I use 3 parts berries to 1 part sugar in my jam, eliminating the need for a lot of added sugar. For this batch I used 6 cups berries to 2 cups sugar. If your berries are tart or underripe, you may need to add more sugar. Taste test your mix once it’s started cooking and add more sugar if needed.
The simple ingredients for berry jam include:
- your favorite combination of berries including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries (not a berry but still a favorite to add to the mix.)
- sugar: I use half the amount of sugar than other recipes I’ve seen
- lemon juice: lemon juice not only adds a brightness to the jam but also helps the pectin develop and keeps the jam from botulism if canning.
For this jam I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. The berries have natural pectin in them that thickens the jam after it cooks and cools, so there’s no need for adding extra. There is a trade-off however. The riper the berry, the less pectin they will retain so the possibility of a thinner jam is there, but they’ll also be sweeter so you’ll need less sugar.
You may be wary of using blueberries in a red berry jam, thinking they’ll change the color of the jam. But not to worry, it won’t make your jam darker. Blueberries deepen the flavor of the combination jam and add more pectin too.
As the jam and sugar cooks together, the berries will macerate and begin to break down. Smash the berries with a whisk or wooden spoon as they cook to help them break down further.
A foam will likely form on the top of the jam as it cooks. Use a fine skimmer to skim the foam off and discard.
How to Tell When Jam Is Done Cooking
Because it only thickens once it cools, guessing when jam is thick enough to stop cooking can be a big question mark.
So, use this trick to tell when jam has thickened: Set a few metal spoons or very small ceramic ramekins in the freezer when you start your cooking. Then, add a dollop to the back of one frozen spoon or ramekin and see if the jam thickens.
If it is set and doesn’t run you’re ready to go. If it’s too runny, cook and test again in 5 minute increments until the jam sets to your liking.
Why Add Lemon Juice to Jam
Besides adding brightness to the jam, adding lemon juice makes jam safe for canning by bringing the pH levels down and preventing the growth of bacteria after canning.
If canning your jam, use bottled lemon juice where the acid level will be more consistent than when using fresh lemons. If making this as a refrigerator jam, fresh lemon juice will work just fine, or you can skip the lemon juice altogether.
To make the jam smoother after its cooked, give it a whiz with an immersion blender or pulse in the blender a few times—remember to leave the round part of the blender lid off for the heat to escape, but cover loosely with a kitchen towel.
Recipes Ideas with Jam
- Slather on toast with nut butters, ricotta cheese, or cottage freeze
- Frosted Berry Hand Pies
- Strawberry And Quinoa Parfait
- Monte Cristo Waffle Sandwich
- Strawberry Cheesecake Cream Puffs
20-Minute Berry Jam
Use any mixture of berries to make this jam without any pectin. Adding lemon juice to the jam prevents botulism and is required if canning.
- 6 cups berries such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries (roughly slice the strawberries to help them break down)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons bottle lemon juice
In a large saucepan, add the berries, sugar and lemon juice. Gently stir the berry mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a soft boil on medium heat and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until the jam has thickened.
To test the thickness of the jam, at the start of cooking time place a few spoons or ceramic ramekins in the freezer for 10 minutes. Take out one spoon or ramekin and add a dollop of jam to the back of the spoon or ramekin. If it mostly sets, you're ready to go. If it's too runny, cook and tests in 5 minute increments until the jam sets on the spoon. If the jam is not set, continue to cook for 5 minute increments.
Spread on toast or sandwiches once cooled, or transfer jam to a glass jar with a fitted lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Instructions to preserve the jam:
Sterilize 4 half-pint jars and their lids. Ladle hot jam into the jars leaving about 1/4 inch between the rim and lid. Remove any air bubbles and wipe the rims clean. Seal tightly with the lids.
Process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. The sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. If a jar fails to seal, store the jam in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes 32 ounces of jam to fit 4 half-pint jars (8-ounce jar).
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