This is a blog about home canning—or "putting up" as one might say where I'm from—and it will cover jams and other fruit preserves, pickles and briny things, canned vegetables (above all tomatoes) and the complement of condiments that includes relishes, sauces, salsas and those related preparations that result when you chunk bits of seasonal produce and preserve them in a syrup either piquant or sweet.

Join My Mailing List

Sign up here for recipes, discounts on my line of artisanal jams (launching soon) and updates on my book, coming from Knopf in spring 2013.

« Burnt Food Museum | Main | Strawberry Jams »

Basic Strawberry Jam: Great Fruit, Less Sugar

What's jam? What's the difference between jam and preserves? Does it matter when it tastes so good?

Well, yes it does matter—to me anyway, if only because I'm a fan of specialized vocabulary, technical lingo and jargon of all stripes. And I spent the weekend in the kitchen making three very different kinds of strawberry sweet preserves to demonstate the differences.

But we're not not gonna get into all that right now, because the evening has drained to its dregs and someone, somewhere needs a really good strawberry jam recipe right now. This BASIC STRAWBERRY JAM will leave the whole house smelling like a childhood memory, even though it uses 1/2 the sugar of a traditional farmhouse jam. It's new-and-improved old-fashioned.

Please note that because of its reduced sugar content, it may be less shelf stable over the long haul—I'll let you know in a year—and it will certainly mold more quickly once the jar has been opened. Plan to use an opened jar within ten days to two weeks. The payoff is that your jam will taste clear and direct. The old commercial said, "Tastes great, less filling." I say "Great fruit, less sugar."

These are Albion variety strawberries from Finley Farm at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The relevant detail, however, is that they were the smallest berries I could find. Avoid those giant, shiny Pamela Anderson berries that are the size of a baby's fist and as crisp as an apple. Those are made for the eyes, not the palate.


2 1/2 pounds strawberries, about 3 punts (little baskets) from the market

2 cups granulated sugar (about 14 oz)

1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice

zest from 1/4 meyer lemon

1  Quickly rinse berries. Do not soak or waterlog!

2  Strawberries require minimal prep: remove cap and quarter each berry.

3  Put trimmed berries in a bowl with lemon juice, zest and sugar, then stir.

4  Macerate for an hour, allowing the sugar to draw water from the berries.

5  Turn fruit-sugar mixture into a preserving pan and bring to a boil over high flame, stirring constantly. Once it reaches a full, rolling boil—which is to say, a boil that can't be stirred down—moderate heat just enough to prevent a boil-over. Without ceasing to stir for a moment, continue boiling until the mixture is reduced to the gell point. It should take less than 10 minutes. Once sufficiently reduced, skim and ladle into prepared half-pint jars. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


1.5 pints

3 x 8 oz

References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: Parisa Restaurant
    Pool cleaners are vacuum based cleaners which are used to completely clean up sediments and debris from the bed and water surface.
  • Response
    Response: Si1000
    I truly admire everything you website in right here, highly informative and sensible. One issue, I am running Opera on Linux and some of the content are just a little wonky. I understand it�s not a popular, but it�s nonetheless something to watch out for. Just giving you a manages.

Reader Comments (9)

Hi - new reader of your blog! Thanks for posting this recipe, I was just going to pick up some local strawberries for this weekend and have myself a strawberry jam fest. Will you perchance post the other recipes too before the weekend? I'd love to try to make a few different kinds.
But definitely low-sugar is on my list! And no pectin, I'm impressed!

May 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLena

Hi Lena -- thanks for finding Saving the Season and leaving such a nice comment. this has been a hectic week at the office so i haven't gotten those other recipes posted yet -- sorry! -- but i'll do my best to get them up before your weekend jamboree. also re: commercial pectin. while i dont' have any big idea against it, i don't think it's necessary and i never use it in my sweet preserves -- come back soon and good luck with your strawberry jam -- best, kevin

May 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterKevin West

Out berry shopping today at the Pasadena Farmers' Market and found Camarosa and Ventana strawberries (sweet and small). I stayed away from the Gaviota becasue the seller said they are "low acid", but it seems I might have to try those as well - all tasted great. $7.50 & $8.00 for 3 punts of each type. Strawberry Jam-a thon day! Thanks for your Surfas Demonstration a couple of weeks past, It always inspires.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Wow! This recipe looks great. I will be attempting my first strawberry jam this weekend and I was worried about using pectin. I prefer the sugar, fruit and lemon juice method (I think it is harder to screw up!). Your post gives me new hope. Picked our own berries at a local farm and had to pitt 'em and freeze 'em due to lack of time. Do you think freezing them will present any issues with this method?

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

This is truly a classic--my favorite fruit jam ever! But I usually just buy one from the supermarket. Haven't really thought about making one myself. But I like how this recipe's got lesser sugar. Gotta try this out then!

Shirley Grace

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShirley Grace

Hi There: I have 4 qts of Strawberries I would like to make jam with. Was wondering how long this recipe lasted canned since the sugar content is lower (which I am a fan of!)

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Listening to you this morning on NPR. Looking forward to making some strawberry jam and reading your book.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMargie

I made a batch of this with local strawberries this weekend - wondering if you can speak to the shelf life (unopened) as it has less sugar? I'd like to save a few jars and give as gifts in a few months if possible! Thanks for the recipes and inspiration..

August 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterClare

Hi Clare -- Using the above recipe, jars that are properly sealed and processed will be good for a year on the shelf, which is the standard recommended shelf-life for home-caned preserves. (What I mean by "good" is: safe and unchanged in quality.)

Now you may find that a lower sugar jam does show some color change, especially if exposed to light or heat. So, for strawberry jam, you may get a little fading and/or browning at the upper edge after six months or so. That's not dangerous, just an aesthetic thing.

Once opened, the jars should be kept in the fridge and used within a couple of weeks. Lower sugar jams are more susceptible to mold -- again, this isn't deadly dangerous, just gross -- obviously you don't want to eat jam spoiled with mold.

my best,

August 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterKevin West

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>