Monday, April 16, 2012

Three-Ingredient Strawberry Jam

I think I need to confess something.

I am a jam-snob.

Let me explain how this came to be, join me as I recount how it all happened (Hint:  it involves homemade strawberry jam...and yes, there is a recipe at the end of the story).

So, I was standing in the jam aisle at the grocery store, completely mesmerized by the dazzling assortment:  dozens of different flavors, some labeled sugar-free, some with added fiber, some with no added sugar (different than the sugar-free!).  There were organic varieties and some packaged in squeeze bottles, varieties containing whole fruit pieces and some seedless, all in a bright array of rainbow colors.

(BTW what is the difference between jam, jelly, preserves, compote, marmalade and fruit butter?!?)

For as different as the varied jams and jellies seemed at first glance, they all had a few things in common - starting with the ingredient list.  They all looked a little like this:

[Fruit], High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid

Wow - that's a lot of sugar (HFCS, Corn Syrup and Sugar are ALL sources of added dietary sugars).

So, then I looked at the Sugar-Free and No-Added Sugar varieties.  Their ingredient lists were longer and full of things I couldn't pronounce, and the first ingredient was water (WTF?!):

Water (!!!), [Fruit], Polydextrose, Maltodextrin, Fruit Pectin, Locust Bean Gum, Natural Flavor (?), Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sucralose (Splenda), Calcium Chloride, Red 40

Even the varieties billing themselves as all-natural and simple 100% fruit contained some surprising ingredients:

Fruit Syrup, [Fruit], Lemon Juice Concentrate, Fruit Pectin, Red Grape Juice Concentrate added for color, Natural Flavors

It seemed to me like something so simple, so pure and lovely like preserved fruit ought to really be easy to make.  Right?!  

Well actually, YES!  And let me assure you - SO. WORTH. MAKING.  The ability to control the ingredients and the amount of sugar makes it worth it to me, the fresh and delicious taste is the icing on the cake.

Especially if you can pick your own ripe berries for $.50/quart (yes, that's what it cost us when we went picking about a month ago).  Granted, it requires a large amount of berries to yield a modest amount of preserves, so it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to make this when you have to spend $5 per pint for imported berries from South America.  BUT, it just so happens to be strawberry season on the East Coast now so go find a local U-Pick Farm (scroll down to search by state) and get picking!  Make sure to pick more berries than you think you are going to need because if you're anything like us you won't be able to stop eating them fresh, right out of your fridge.  

But do save a couple of pints for this jam.  It will fill up one pint-sized mason jar plus you will have some overflow.  Or use two smaller (re-cycled) clean glass jam jars.  You could even just use a clean plastic container.  It makes a really nice hostess gift or even perhaps a Mother's Day gift?!  My mother loved it....

Feel free to use official canning practices and store the jam in the cupboard for enjoying later.  Or it could probably be frozen too.  It will last at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator, that is, if you don't eat it all first.

I have made this jam three times already this year, it's that good.  I'll never buy grocery-store jam again.  There, I said it.  Never again.  Jam Snob.  

It is amazing on top of waffles with plain greek yogurt, sliced fresh strawberries and Artisana Cashew Butter.  

Or on toast with it's BF, peanut butter. 

Or layered in a jar with greek yogurt, fresh fruit and granola for a quick breakfast on the go.

Or stirred into a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter for PB&J Oats (a personal fave).

The best part about this jam is, you control the amount of sugar you add.  Add as little or as much as you wish, depending on your taste.  I didn't need much because I was using really sweet berries, but you can adjust the sugar as you wish.

Three-Ingredient Strawberry Jam
adapted from Apples for Jam
makes about 2 1/2 cups of jam

2 pints fresh ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered (this is about 5 cups of chopped berries)
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar (or more or less, depending on your taste preference and how sweet your berries are)
juice from 1/2 lemon (I used a very juicy lemon.  If yours is kinda dry, use the juice from the whole lemon)
optional 4th ingredient:  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Toss the chopped strawberries with the lemon juice and the sugar in a large non-reactive bowl (not aluminum).  I would recommend you start with 1/4 cup of sugar, you can always add more later if necessary.  Let the berries, juice and sugar sit 1-2 hours, or as long as overnight in the refrigerator, covered, stirring a couple of times to let the berries release their juices.

After resting, pour about 2/3 of the berries and all of the liquid into a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until thickened.

Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, mash the cooked berries very well until there are no large chunks.  (As an alternative, you could use an immersion blender to puree until smooth).  Then, add the reserved berries (and any more accumulated juice) to the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook an additional 10-15 minutes until the jam is thickened, tasting after about 5 minutes and adding additional sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired sweetness.  Stir in the vanilla extract, if using.  Cook until thick.  You will know the jam is thickened enough when you drip a small spoonful onto a plate, tilt the plate down and the jam does not run off but clings and slides down slowly.

Pour the jam into clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator.  It keeps at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator.  Conversely, you could follow proper canning procedures and store in the cupboard until ready to use.  

Here are a couple resources for small-batch home-canning.  (Full-disclosure - I have never used these guides.) 

Oh, and another tip.  If you do happen to come home from the U-Pick Farm with 12 Pounds of Strawberries, you can freeze a big giant bag of them and make this jam at a later date.  Like in January when strawberries cost $5 per pint and have to be shipped all the way from Mexico.  You will be so happy you picked 12 pounds and froze half of them.  You'll probably want to thank me - FYI, I happily accept homemade jam as a Thank You gift :-)



  1. I absolutely loved your post today! I just bought two buckets of fresh strawberries and have been pondering what to do with them. Now I have my answer. Thanks for a great recipe!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Carol! I just finished my last jar this morning (stirred into oatmeal with a dollop of PBS stirred in) so I'll be whipping up a batch this week too! Enjoy!

  2. TRUST ME.... THIS JAM IS JAMMIN' GOOD. While visiting Julia and Brian's kitchen in March, I had the extreme pleasure of enjoying this delicious jam for breakfast, served on toast along with a marvelous mushroom,cheddar jack and onion omelet and a side of crispy bacon and delicious coffee.It is "really" and truly as delicious as it looks in the photo !

  3. YUM! Saw this on Healthy Aperture and LOVE the simplicity! Such gorgeous pictures too. Feel free to link it up at my Sunlight Sunday featuring strawberries if you get the chance! (Along with any other recipes you'd like!) :)

    1. Thanks for visiting, Kaitlin. Just linked it up to your site :-)


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