Quick-and-Easy Berry Jam Recipe

September 10, 2014

Credit: Catherine Boeckmann
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Here is a quick-and-easy berry jam recipe—just 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!

Preparation

  • 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.

Ingredients

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.

Directions

  • 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?

If my foray into making jam piques your interest, go to our Canning and Pickling Library for more articles and our Pickles and Preserves Recipes page to find many great jam recipes!

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!

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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!

Comments

I am always afraid to try

By Tensie on September 27

I am always afraid to try putting anything up (as my aunts used to say) as I don't have the equipment. NOW I have no excuse! This looks so easy!!
Side note - Catherine, I shared this page to Pinterest and it was so easy!! Worked like a charm! Great website work!

Many thanks for the kind

By Catherine Boeckmann on September 29

Many thanks for the kind words and smile, Tensie. Happy to hear you found the jam recipes so easy—and appreciate the Pinterest share, too! 

How does one remove the

By Hawgowar

How does one remove the seeds? Do you puree the berries first then strain it through a fine mesh or cheesecloth or wait until cooked and do it? I have recipes requiring seedless berry jams and also relatives with false teeth who complain the seeds get under their dental plates. I'd like to try using homemade jam in those recipes instead of boughten seedless jam to avoid the extra chemicals used in commercial products.

I'd suggest trying cheese

By Catherine Boeckmann

I'd suggest trying cheese cloth. You'd want to cook the berries and sugar first, let the mixture cool so it can be handled, and then press it through a cheese cloth-lined bowl. This should catch most of the seeds, though not all. 

Totally the way my Gramma

By Theresa Oakman

Totally the way my Gramma Siemen and I used to make berry jam. We used to do the works: Pick the berries to make the batch. Any berry you have access to is good as they all process the same. The only difference is I have made this using fresh peaches. I used very ripe ones, and decreased the sugar by 1/4. Just follow the above recipe, and you can't go wrong.

Thanks, Theresa. I'll try

By Catherine Boeckmann

Thanks, Theresa. I'll try cutting the sugar by 1/4 next time! Peaches sound divine.

Is there a way to do this

By Jackie Leyton

Is there a way to do this without sugar? Will the fruit set up without sugar, can I add honey or stevia later? Thanks.

Yes, you can substitute sugar

By Almanac Staff

Yes, you can substitute sugar with Stevia or a half-and-half mix, however, you probably need to add a no-sugar pectin as an ingredient to help it set well. Only real sugars (honey, sugar, and fruit juice) give a firm set and also strong flavor (versus bland). Honey sounds like a great idea; you can use the equivalent amount. We haven't tried the recipe this way; if you do, let us know how it turns out!

I have oodles of blackberry

By Cindi Farrell

I have oodles of blackberry bushes in my back yard. I usually make wild blackberry pies every year but you've piqued my interest! When my berries are all ripened up, I'm making some wild blackberry jam with this recipe! Thank you, kindly.

Why does this not need to be

By Angela Faulk

Why does this not need to be water bath processed?

USDA guidelines are for food

By Almanac Staff

USDA guidelines are for food safety and recommend a boiling water bath for high-acid foods or pressure canning for low-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.

Jam

By LesaS

Jam

How long will it keep on the

By Mary Hinton

How long will it keep on the shelf .

We've kept our jars up to 6

By Almanac Staff

We've kept our jars up to 6 months without problem as the lids are airtight and "snap" when sealed.

However, if you don't hear that "snap" or you are concerned, just keep in fridge for 1 month. Make it and enjoy it right away!

Another way to store the jam is to freeze it in freezer bags or containers.

Are the berries being cooked

By Jackie Kraebel

Are the berries being cooked in a double boiler to avoid scorching?

Nope. The pot used in his

By Almanac Staff

Nope. The pot used in his picture is all that was used and there were no issues. We'd advise using a large, wide-based pan so that the berries will be ready faster.

That certainly looks

By Beth Fitzgerald

That certainly looks yummy....I'll have to give it a try. I've always used pectin but I think this sounds better!

Very nice article Catherine.

By Peter Courtemanche

Very nice article Catherine. If I get ambitious I may try this. Hope you and your family are enjoying your new home. Next time you come back to Peterborough, let's meet up at Harlows for a beer!

Thank you, Peter. Good to

By Catherine Boeckmann

Thank you, Peter. Good to hear from you on my blog. Go berry picking at Rosaly's farm, grab some sugar, and you're all set to make this jam recipe! I'll be back for peak foliage near Columbus Day and would love to meet up at Harlows! Take care, Catherine

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