Here is a quick-and-easy berry jam recipe—just a two ingredients and an hour or two of your time! Importantly, this simple jam has that naturally delicious, flavor-packed taste that all jam lovers crave.
For this home-style recipe, you simply need equal parts of berries and sugar. Skip the fruit pectin. Though it helps jam jell, it can also dilute the natural flavor of the fruit. You may need to cook the fruit a bit longer, but it's worth that old-fashioned taste.
We used boysenberries grown by my fellow gardener Jim Lander, who runs our community garden—and taught me how to make this recipe. Jim froze these berries last season and had to make room in the freezer for this year's crop! In fact, we made this jam right in the old garden shed, with an electric kettle and single burner stove; I'd run out to the garden faucet to fill up bottles with fresh water!
I love the intense flavor of the boysenberry—which resembles a red blackberry (and is in fact a cross of several types of berries). For making this jam, any soft fruit will do, including raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, apricots, nectarines, or rhubarb.
Note: We did not process in a hot water bath as you would with a larger (or commercial) canning project. We simply placed the jars and lids in a pot with boiling hot water while we were cooking the berries. Jim has never had a safety issue in many years of jam-making. If you are concerned, however, just pop your homemade jam in the fridge.
This is a very small-batch recipe that is meant to be quick and easy—any time you have some berries on hand from the garden or market or a day of berry picking!
- The night before, defrost fresh berries if they're frozen.
- Put a small plate in the freezer to chill.
- Have clean glass jars and lids on hand. We used small jars to sell at a school fair. One pound of berries would probably make about three jars that hold 16 fluid ounces (2 cups) each.
We had about 4 pounds of berries and used almost the same amount of sugar. Here's a smaller recipe:
- 1 pound berries (about 3–1/2 cups)
- 1 pound granulated sugar (about 2 cups)
Note: You can use a third less sugar if you wish, but you need the sugar for the jam to gel.
- Put the clean berries in a large stainless steel pot. Cook at a steady boil until the berries reduce and there aren't any large lumps left.
- Weigh the sugar and add to berries in a steady stream. Keep stirring until sugar is dissolved. Tip: If you feel the bottom of the pot and it's "crunchy" with sugar, then it's not ready.
- Now bring the mixture to a rolling, bubbling boil on the highest heat. Add a thermometer, if you have one, to ensure that the temperature is as far above boiling point as possible. Some cooking thermometers have a "jam" setting.
- While the jam is cooking, sterilize the glass jars and lids in boiling water.
- Tip: To determine when the jam is ready, do the "wrinkle test." Take the cold plate out of the freezer and spoon a teaspoon of berry liquid on the plate. Push your finger against the liquid. Is it thick enough to wrinkle? If so, the cooked jam has reached a setting point.
- Remove the berry sauce from the heat. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Pour the cooked berry mix into your hot sterilized jars.
- Place the lids on the jars at once and twist them tightly. You should hear the heat cause the jar to "snap" or seal. If you don't hear the pop, definitely put the jar in the refrigerator and not in the cupboard.
- Note: USDA guidelines for food safety recommend a boiling water bath for high-acid foods. If you are going to store the jam for a longer period, it's advisable to put the jars through a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.
After making this jam, I was given 2 jars to take home! The next morning, we were ready to spread pure goodness on our morning toast. Do you think my taste tester liked the homemade jam?
Grow Your Own Berries
What could be better than growing fresh berries from your own backyard? Our new gardening magazine, the 2014 All-Seasons Garden Guide, features a full article dedicated to growing berries as well as an interesting article about unusual berries bred for small spaces and containers. Click here to look inside the beautiful Garden Guide!
Catherine, our New Media Editor, joined The Old Farmer's Almanac in 2008. She edits content on both this Web site, Almanac.com, and the companion site to The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids publication, Almanac4kids.com. She also pens the Almanac Companion enewsletters and keeps up with readers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!