New to making jam? This quick and easy homemade Small Batch Strawberry Jam without pectin is the perfect recipe for beginners and only makes one 6-ounce jar. Spread it on toast for breakfast or use it in dessert recipes.
June in PA means one thing – strawberry season!
Every June, my dad and I go pick our own strawberries, coming home with at least 5 pounds worth. And every June, I have my go-to strawberry recipes I make, including this Small Batch Strawberry Jam without pectin.
I’ve been making this quick no pectin strawberry jam for several years now and wanted to share it. This recipe is ideal for those new to jam making and canning because it’s an easy process without using pectin.
All you have to do is boil everything together in a skillet for about 10-15 minutes. I’ll even show you a cool trick (literally) on how to know when your jam is done.
Most jam recipes make tons and tons of jars to keep and give away, but if you’re like me with a small household (literally just me!), who wants to deal with storing and giving away all of that jam?
That’s why my easy strawberry jam recipe makes one small 6-ounce jar. That’s it. Enough to last you all week for breakfast or to use in a recipe calling for jam as an ingredient.
Before you keep reading, I want to make clear: Although I talk about canning the jam, you don’t HAVE to can it. It makes such a small batch, you can make it normally then store in the fridge for a few weeks.
The canning process is there because sometimes you may want to store a jar of fresh fruit to enjoy later in the winter.
Whether you enjoy your homemade strawberry jam now while berries are still ripe or in the winter when summer produce is long gone, you’re only three ingredients away from pure bliss.
How to can strawberry jam
This was my first recipe where I learned how to can jam.
It can be a scary concept because there are possibilities of cross-contamination and jars not sealing properly, leading to possible food-borne illnesses.
You need to sterilize anything that comes in contact with the inside of the jar (lids, jar, tongs, funnel).
However, don’t let that scare you! It’s no different than making sure you don’t cross contaminate raw meat with cooked foods and surfaces.
Although there is fancy equipment, I used a big pot of boiling water and kitchen tongs. I don’t can often enough to justify buying dedicated equipment (not to mention finding the room for everything).
If at any point you doubt the canning process, refrigerate your finished product.
Do I have to can my strawberry jam?
Since this small batch recipe only makes one 6 ounce jar, you honestly don’t have to can. Canning is only necessary if you don’t plan on eating the jam right away.
If you have no desire to can, make the strawberry jam as directed and store in a heat-proof container. Let cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge.
Once opened, it’ll last about 2-4 weeks in the fridge. You’ll have to use your best judgment after 2 weeks. If it seems a little off, don’t use it.
What is pectin?
As you read more and more about how to make jam, you’ll come across an ingredient called pectin. Pectin is a thickening agent often used in jams and jellies so they set up properly after cooling.
You can often buy pectin in the canning section of a store, but it’s mostly only used when making jam.
However, I don’t want to buy an ingredient I’d only use a few times a year. Luckily for us, pectin occurs naturally within certain fruits.
How to make jam without pectin
Strawberries have natural pectin in them, especially when they’re slightly underripe and a little green around the stems.
That means you don’t need to add pectin. Just make sure you add a few not-quite-ripe berries, about 2-3 big ones should do.
If you don’t have any underripe berries, you can still boil down your jam until thickened. It may not be as thick, but it should still be spreadable for toast.
Why do you put lemon juice into strawberry jam?
Canning is a bit of a science, mostly to help keep harmful bacteria from growing.
Keep the proportion of the ingredients as I have written. Even if the berries are a little sweet, you need the sugar to ensure the jam thickens. It’s more than a sweetener; the sugar is a preservative.
When the strawberries are cooked, they release water. The sugar bonds with the water and helps prevent the growth of microorganisms.
The acid from the lemon juice also helps with the gelling process. Plus it helps brighten the jam so it’s not too sweet and complements the strawberries.
How to know when your jam is done
Your jam is done when it has thickened enough. However, you won’t know this until it has finished cooling. At that point, it’s too late to fix it.
That’s why I use the frozen plate technique. Because the plate is frozen, it’ll instantly cool down the jam so you can determine how thick it is.
Before you start, place a small plate in the freezer. When you’re ready to test your jam, take the plate out and add a small spoonful to the plate.
Next, tilt your plate. If the jam slides too fast, it needs more time. If it slides slowly, it’s done. However, if it doesn’t move at all, you may have overcooked it.
If your jam needs to cook longer, be careful not to overcook it. Even a minute too long can be the difference between done and overdone. It’s best to check too often than not enough.
Where to buy canning jars
Now before you run out and spend your paycheck on jars, check your local flea markets and thrift stores first. I’ve gotten jars anywhere from 25 cents to $1.00 each.
Jars can be reused indefinitely, as long as there are no cracks. However, you do have to replace the lids every so often. I highly recommend if you buy used jars, throw away all of the lids and buy new ones.
What to do with homemade strawberry jam
In addition to spreading it on toast for breakfast, you can use strawberry jam in recipes, such as Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars, Raspberry Crumb Bars, and Honey Blueberry Oatmeal Bars (substitute strawberry for those last two).
More Small Batch Jam Recipes
Have other summer fruits you want to turn into jam? Check out these other easy small batch jam recipes:
- 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Place a small dish in the freezer to use for testing the jam.
- In a large deep skillet, add strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring often. Once boiling, cook until it thickens, about 10 minutes.
- When it seems thick enough, take your plate out of the freezer. Put a small spoonful of the jam onto the plate and let sit for 30 seconds. Tilt it. If it slides too fast, keep cooking in 1-2 minute increments. If it moves slow, it is done.
- Transfer to a heat-proof container. Cool to room temperature. If not canning, use within 2 weeks. Once opened, store in the refrigerator.
Canning Instructions (Optional)
- Place a clean 6-8 ounce glass mason jar and lid pieces into a large pot of boiling water deep enough for the jar to be completely submerged in water. Once the water is boiling, leave the jar in there until ready to use.
- Remove the jar and lids from water and drain out all of the water from the jar. Keep the water boiling.
- Transfer the finished jam to the jar. Wipe excess jam off the rim so it will seal properly. Add the lid. You may want to use an oven mitt so you can hold the jar still.
- Place sealed jar back into the boiling water and boil for 15 minutes. Make sure it is submerged in the water. Remove from the water and let dry on a heat-resistant surface for 18-24 hours.
- Once cool, press down on the lid. If it stays down, it is sealed. If it pops back up, put in the refrigerator and use within two weeks.
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