How to Make Jam Without Adding Sugar (Using Honey, Stevia, Splenda, Agave or Fruit Juice) - Easily! With Step-by-step Photos, Recipe, Directions, Ingredients and Costs
This month's notes: August 2015: Strawberries and blueberries each have a very brief season; don't miss them: See your state's crop availability calendar for more specific dates of upcoming crops. And see our guide to local fruit and vegetable festivals, such as strawberry festivals and blueberry festivals. Organic farms are identified in green! Also make your own ice cream - see How to make ice cream and ice cream making equipment and manuals. Have fun, eat healthier and better tasting, and save money by picking your own locally grown fruit and vegetables, and then using our easy canning and freezing directions
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Can I Make Jam or Jelly Without Added Sugar?If you are diabetic, sugar-restricted or have other reasons to avoid refined sugars, you can make sugar-free jam using natural sweeteners (honey, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, etc.) or Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) or Stevia instead of sugar; but only if you use one of the following:
- Sure Jell Fruit-Jell No-Sugar needed pectin (in the pink boxes),
- Ball / Jarden No-Sugar needed pectin or
- Pomona Universal Pectin.
Click on the links for more information (no obligation, the links open new windows, just close them or minimize them to return here)
But I'll warn you that if you don't add ANY sugar the jam will be a bit more bland, the color will be darker and it generally is a bit more runny. It seems to work best to use a 50-50 mix of Sugar and Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) or fruit juice and Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda). For the regular recipe (with sugar) click here!
But you can make no-sugar and overcome some of the issues: A visitor, who is a diabetic, writes "For flavor, I add in lime or lemon juice in, depending on the fruit. Blackberries, blueberries do well with lime, most other fruit does okay with lemon. You can also add cinnamon to some pit fruit, which gives it a nice flavor, too. You can also add some fresh lemon zest in to add to the flavor. I usually only add about 1-2 cups Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference). My experience is that as long as the fruit is fresh, well-washed, and well-cooked, that it'll keep, just like other jams. "
Here's how to do it, in 10 easy steps and completely illustrated. These directions work equally well for strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, peach, fig, loganberry, boysenberry, blueberry or mixed berry jam. Any variations will be spelled out in the directions inside the pectin.
- Fruit - preferably fresh, but frozen (without syrup works, too)
- No-sugar needed Pectin - 1 package (box usually) or if you get it in bulk, 8 Tablespoons, see the directions below for specifics - (it's a natural product, made from apples and available at grocery stores (season - spring through late summer) and local "big box" stores. It usually goes for about $2.00 to $2.50 per box. You'll get best results with no-sugar needed pectin, whether you choose to add sugar or not! If you can't get no-sugar needed pectin, use low-sugar pectin. See here for more information about how to choose the type of pectin to use.
- Lemon Juice - 1/4 cup of lemon juice per 5 - 6 cup batch of jam
- Sweetener - see step 5
- At least 1 large pot; I prefer 16 to 20 quart Teflon lined pots for easy cleanup.
- Large spoons and ladles
- 1 Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at big box stores and grocery stores.). Note: we sell canners and supplies here, too - at excellent prices - and it helps support this web site!
- Ball jars (Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger, Safeway carry them, as do some big box stores - about $8 per dozen quart jars including the lids and rings)
- Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
- Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.
- Jar funnel ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) or order it as part of the kit with the jar grabber.
- Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)- Big box stores and
grocery stores sometimes carry them; and it is available online - see
this page. It's a tremendously useful to put jars in the canner
and take the hot jars out (without scalding yourself!). The kit sold
below has everything you need, and at a pretty good price:
- Foley Food Mill ($25) - not necessary; useful if you want to remove seeds (from blackberries) or make applesauce.
- Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at big box stores or it comes in the kit at left)
This example shows you how to make either Strawberry jam or Strawberry - Raspberry - Blackberry Jam - also called Triple Berry Jam (my favorite, and everyone I give a jar to, says it has become their favorite, too!) But you can use this recipe to make any type of jam; where there is a difference, I will point it out! The yield from this recipe is about 8 eight-ounce jars (which is the same as 4 and a half pints).
Step 1 - Pick the berries! (or buy them already picked)
It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones!
At right is a picture I took of wild blackberries - they are plentiful in late June throughout Georgia. I usually look in rural north Georgia.
I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy - but that does take some space and time.
As mentioned in the Ingredients section; you may use frozen berries (those without syrup or added sugar); which is especially useful if you want to make some jam in December to give away at Christmas!
Above and at left are strawberries and blackberries that I picked at a pick-your-own farm. If you want to pick your own, here is a list and links to the pick your own farms.
Step 2 - Wash the jars and lids
Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
NOTE: If unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes. However, since this additional processing can result in a poor set (runny jam), it’s better to sanitize the jars.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.
Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam.
Step 3 - How much fruit?
Jam can ONLY be made in rather small batches - about 6 cups at a time - like the directions on the pectin say, DO NOT increase the recipes or the jam won't "set" (jell, thicken). It takes about 8 to 10 cups of raw, unprepared berries per batch to make 6 cups of mushed up, prepared berries. For triple berry jam, I use 4 cups of mushed (slightly crushed) strawberries, 1 cup of raspberries and 1 cup of blackberries.
Step 4 -Wash and hull the fruit!
I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in plain cold water.
With strawberries you must remove the hulls. With other berries, just pick off any stems and leaves, large seeds, stems, etc..
Then you just mush them up a bit - not completely crushed, but mostly. Most people seem to like large chunks of fruit but crushing them releases the natural pectin so it can thicken. You'll need about 6 cups, mushed up.
If you want seedless jam, you may need to run the crushed berries through a Foley food mill (at right). They cost about $30.
It works well for blackberries, not so well for raspberries, and no one tries to remove strawberry seeds (they're so small). I suppose you could train monkeys to pick them out, but they'd probably form a trade labor union. But I digress..
Note to make jellies:
The only difference between a jam and a jelly, is jellies are filtered to remove solids, using only the juice. So if you want to make jelly, right now is the time to get out your jelly strainer, and run the fruit through it:
Step 5 - Measure out the sweetener
Depending upon which type of jam you're making (strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, apricot, peach, grape, etc.) you will need to use a different amount of sweetener (sugar, fruit juice, and or Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda)), jam and pectin - to taste. Strawberries are obviously more naturally sweet than blackberries.
You'll need to use the No-sugar pectin, in order to get a good set with less (or no) sugar.
Mix the dry pectin with about 1/4 cup of the sweetener mix and keep this separate from the rest of the sweetener.
- No sugar - 4 cups Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference) or an equivalent amount of Stevia to taste
- Low sugar - 2 cups Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference) and 2 cups of sugar
- Fruit juice - 3 cups of fruit juice, 1 cup Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference). Best results come from using the same juice as the fruit jam you are making.
- Fruit juice concentrate - 2 cups of concentrate - Concentrate gives better results than regular juice; especially if you choose a concentrate of the same type as the fruit jam you are making.-
- Honey - 2 cups of honey and 2 cups of fruit juice
- Other combinations: Of course, you can use of combinations of fruit juice, honey, sugar and/or Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda). It will be trial and error to find out what works best for you, as I haven't tested all possible combinations. But remember, you will need some amount of real sugars (fructose, glucose, sucrose; found in honey, sugar and fruit juice) in order to get a good "set" and flavor.
Step 6 - Mix the berries with the pectin and lemon juice and cook to a full boil
Stir the pectin and lemon juice into the berries and put the mix in a big pot on the stove over medium to high heat (stir often enough to prevent burning). It should take about 5 to 10 minutes to get it to a full boil (the kind that cannot be stirred away).
Notes about pectin: I usually add about 25% - 30% more pectin (just open another pack and add a little) or else the jam is runnier than I like. With a little practice, you'll find out exactly how much pectin to get the thickness you like.
Is your jam too runny? Pectin enables you to turn out perfectly set jam
every time. Made from natural apples, there are also natural no-sugar
pectins that allow you to reduce the sugar you add by half or even eliminate
Get them all here at the best prices on the internet!
Step 7 - Get the jars and lids sanitizing
The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle; you don't really have to sanitize the jars - the boiling water bath sanitizes everything; but you DO want to get the jars as clean as you can first. I get the dishwasher going while I'm preparing everything else, so it's done by the time I'm ready to fill the jars.
Lids: put the lids into a pan of hot water for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean the lids.
Need lids, rings and replacement jars?
Step 8 - Add the remaining sweetener and bring to a boil
When the berry-pectin mix has reached a full boil, add the rest of the sweetener (as specified in step 5) and then bring it back to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute.
Step 9 - Testing for "jell" (thickness)
I keep a metal tablespoon sitting in a glass of ice water, then take a half spoonful of the mix and let it cool to room temperature on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency I like, then I know the jam is ready. If not, I mix in a little more pectin (about 1/s to 1/2 of another package) and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute.
Step 10 - Let stand for 5 minutes and stir completely.
Why? Otherwise, the fruit will often float to the top of the jar. This isn't a particular problem; you can always stir the jars later when you open them; but some people get fussy about everything being "just so", so I've included this step! Skipping this step won't affect the quality of the jam at all.
Step 11 - Fill the jars and put the lid and rings on
Fill them to within ¼-inch of the top, wipe any spilled jam off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them. Then put them into the boiling water canner!
This is where the jar tongs come in really handy!
Step 12 - Process the jars in the boiling water bath
Note: Although you will hear some people say they don't even boil the filled jars; they just ladle it hot into hot jars, put the lids and rings on and invert them, that is a terrible idea. Putting the jars in the boiling water bath REALLY helps to reduce spoilage! To me, it makes little sense to put all the working into making the jam and then not to process the jars to be sure they don't spoil!
Keep the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Keep the water boiling. In general, boil them for 5 minutes. I say "in general" because you have to process (boil) them longer at higher altitudes than sea level, or if you use larger jars, or if you did not sanitize the jars and lids right before using them. The directions inside every box of pectin will tell you exactly. The directions on the pectin tend to be pretty conservative. Clemson University says you only need to process them for 5 minutes. I usually hedge my bets and start pulling them out after 7 minutes, and the last jars were probably in for 10. I rarely have a jar spoil, so it must work.
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
Once cooled, they're ready to store. find they last about 18 months. After that, the get darker in color and start to get runny. They still seem safe to eat, but the flavor is bland. So eat them in the first 12 to 18 months after you prepare them!
From left to right:
- Jar lifting tongs
to pick up hot jars
- Lid lifter
- to remove lids from the pot
of boiling water (sterilizing )
- disposable - you may only
use them once
- holds the lids on the jar until after
the jars cool - then you don't need them
- Canning jar funnel
- to fill the jars
You can get all of the tools in a kit here:
Home Canning Kits
This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also a simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if you want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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Canning & Preserving for Dummies
The Ball Blue Book of Preserving
This is THE book on canning! My grandmother used this book when I was a child. It tells you in simple instructions how to can almost anything; complete with recipes for jam, jellies, pickles, sauces, canning vegetables, meats, etc. If it can be canned, this book likely tells you how! Click on the link below for more information and / or to buy (no obligation to buy)
Summary - Cost of Making Homemade Jam - makes 8 jars, 8 oz each**
|Item||Quantity||Cost in 2009||Source||Subtotal|
|Berries (strawberries)||1 gallon||$11.00/gallon||Pick your own||$10.00|
|Canning jars (8 oz size), includes lids and rings||8 jars||$7.50/dozen||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$5.00|
|Sweetener - see step 4||6 cups||$2.50||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$2.50|
|Pectin (no-sugar, low sugar or regular, dry)||1 and a third boxes *||$1.50 per box||
Sure-Jell No-Sugar needed pectin
or about $2.44 per jar
|* pectin use varies - blackberry
jam needs very little, raspberry a little more, strawberry the most.
** - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars! Many products are sold in jars that will take the lids and rings for canning. For example, Classico Spaghetti sauce is in quart sized jars that work with Ball and Kerr lids and rings- some authorities do not recommend these, saying they are more prone to break, and while I have found that is true of mayonnaise jars, I have found the Classico spaghetti jars to be pretty sturdy.
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- Why should cooked jelly be made in small
If a larger quantity of juice is used, it will be necessary to boil it longer thus causing loss of flavor, darkening of jelly, and toughening of jelly. It really doesn't work. Trust me; I've tried many times!
- Can I use frozen berries instead of fresh?
Yep! Raspberries can be particularly hard to find fresh and are expensive! Frozen berries work just fine, and measure the same. Just be sure to get the loose, frozen whole fruit; not those that have been mushed up or frozen in a sugar syrup!
- Should jelly be boiled slowly or rapidly?
It should be boiled rapidly since long, slow boiling destroys the pectin in the fruit juice.
- What do I do if there's mold on my jellied
Discard jams and jellies with mold on them. The mold could be producing a mycotoxin (poisonous substance that can make you sick). USDA and microbiologists recommend against scooping out the mold and using the remaining jam or jelly.
- Why did my jellied fruit product ferment,
and what do I do?
Jellied fruit products may ferment because of yeast growth. This can occur if the product is improperly processed and sealed, or if the sugar content is low. Fermented fruit products have a disagreeable taste. Discard them.
- What happens if my jam or jelly doesn't gel?
Remaking cooked runny jam or jelly instructions can be found on this page
[General picking tips and a guide to each fruit and vegetable] [How much do I need to pick? (Yields - how much raw makes how much cooked or frozen)] [Selecting the right varieties to pick] [All about apple varieties - which to pick and why!] [Picking tips for Vegetables] [ Strawberry picking tips] [ Blueberries picking tips]
Illustrated Canning, Freezing, Jam Instructions and Recipes
[ All About Home Canning, Freezing and Making Jams, Pickles, Sauces, etc. ] [FAQs - Answers to common questions and problems] [Recommended books about home canning, jam making, drying and preserving!] [Free canning publications to download and print]