A simple recipe for Strawberry Jam without Pectin that uses just 3 ingredients. It is also lower in sugar than traditional recipes.
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Can you make Strawberry Jam without Pectin and with less sugar?
Strawberry Jam without pectin and with less sugar? Can that be possible? Oh yes. And it is just as jammy and fruity as any other you will have tasted.
Let’s face it, there is nothing more delicious than home-made strawberry jam. It always knocks spots off the commercial supermarket brands, even the most up-market ones. Perhaps it is the psychological effect of the incredible smell of fruit and jam being prepared in the kitchen. Maybe it’s because of the love and care that we know has gone into it. But it is always special.
Not only did I make this jam with less sugar and no pectin, but I also used our wonderful local Kentish strawberries… When strawberry season arrives in late May-early June, I always feel lucky to live in the Garden of England. But wherever you live, it’s great to buy local and make the best of seasonal produce. Preserves are a perfect way to use fruits so that all the flavour is locked and ready to enjoy when the season ends.
What is Pectin and Why is it Used in Jam?
As a child I used to watch my mum make jar after jar of strawberry jam. It was an annual ritual… Bring home a boot-full of pick-your-own strawberries from the farm… spend ‘hours’ trimming and preparing them… stand in the kitchen and smell the magic that was happening on the stove.
But there was always bags of pectin thrown into the mix… So what is it and why is it used in jam?
Pectin is actually a natural substance (a polysaccharide) which is found in some fruit. Its sorcery happens when heated with sugar… causing the liquid jam to thicken and gel. However, not all fruits are equal and naturally-occurring pectin levels vary from one to another. Strawberries are one of the fruits that contain way less than is needed for jam-making and thus, many recipes call for it to be artificially added.
Pectin can of course be bought in sachets from many supermarkets. Usually made with an extract from apples (+ a little citric acid and dextrose), it will pretty much guarantee the transition of the fruit to jam, but is it really needed?
Making Strawberry Jam without Pectin
Interestingly and despite my childhood learning, I have never used pectin when making jam. But whilst some fruits will naturally gel, making strawberry jam without pectin does require a little extra understanding.
The secret however is simple… To add an additional fruit or juice that comes from the group of fruits that are very high in pectin. Most commonly, lemon and apples are used. My Mixed Berry and Apple Jam became deliciously thick when I used both, but also gave the jam a distinctly apple flavour.
To avoid affecting the strawberryness, this strawberry jam recipe uses a small amount of lemon juice to help it set. Sceptical? It may not seem like it will work (and it does take a little longer to cook) but it has the most delectable consistency. Not over-gelled, but still thick enough to dollop to perfection on scones. And if you are looking for the Best Gluten Free Scones, just click to find the one’s featured here…
What About the Sugar? Can You Really Use Less?
There’s no getting away from the fact that as a population, we eat way too much sugar. And sure, jam contains a lot. It is essential to the preservation of the fruit. But what if we can make it with less of the ‘evil stuff’?
Let’s be honest, when you break it down into simple ingredients, a jam that contains more or as much sugar as fruit really doesn’t sit well. And if it has that much sugar, can you really taste the fruit?
This recipe for strawberry jam without pectin AND with less sugar shows you it can be done… All the fruity satisfaction and pleasure, but with less guilt! There really is no magic and you won’t need a cauldron. It’s just a case of using less of the sweet stuff and having patience while it cooks.
Made This Recipe?
If you make my Strawberry Jam without Pectin (or any of my other recipes), let me know how you got on. Comment, tag me on Social Media, or send me a message. I always love seeing what you’ve been making.
For more Gluten Free Alchemist Jams and Preserves, why not head over to our Jam, Chutney, Spreads and Curd Index. And for lots of other recipes, we have a beautiful photographic Recipe Index that you can now browse too.
More Jam recipes at Gluten Free Alchemist
Strawberry Jam without Pectin (less sugar too)
- 2 to 3 jam jars
- large heavy-based saucepan
- 1 kilogram fresh strawberries trimmed, hulled & cut in half
- 375 g granulated sugar
- 60 ml lemon juice
Sterilise the Jars
- Sterilise a couple of jam jars whilst you make your jam : Wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Do not dry.
- Wash any silicone/rubber seals (from Kilner jars) separately with hot soapy water and set aside.
- Place the clean jars and their lids (but not the silicone seals from Kilner jars) into a cold oven on a baking tray and turn the oven on to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
- Leave at heated oven temperature for at least 20 minutes.
- Once the jars have sterilised, turn off the oven, but leave the jars to cool in the oven, until ready to use.
- Place all the ingredients into a large, heavy-based saucepan and gently heat, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Bring the mixture to a boil stirring frequently, breaking down the strawberries with the back of a spoon.
- Use a cooking/jam thermometer and continue to boil, stirring frequently until the liquid reduces significantly and the temperature reaches jam set point (220 F/105 C). Be patient, it will take a while. Let it boil at this temperature for a minute.
- Remove from the heat and carefully pour into the sterilised jars straight away. Top with the lids (being careful not to burn your fingers). As the jam cools, the tightly screwed lids will ‘suck in’ to create a sterile vacuum.
- Cool completely.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist
Low Sugar Strawberry Jam Without Pectin shared with :
- Over The Moon #224 with Marilyn’s Treats and Eclectic Red Barn
- Full Plate Thursday #484 with Miz Helen’s Country Cottage
- Cook Blog Share with Lost in Food
- Happiness is Homemade #322 with A Labour of Life
- Fiesta Friday #378 with Angie
- Meatless Monday with Confessions of a Mother Runner and A Whisk & Two Wands
Love this jam. Can taste the strawberries so much better than jam with more sugar. Made as recipe except brought strawberries to simmer for 10 mins and mashed with a potato masher. Will it work with raspberries?
So glad you love the jam Judith.
I’ve not tried making with raspberries, although there’s no reason it wouldn’t work with raspberries. I think their natural pectin levels are quite similar. The issue may be that because raspberries are less sweet, the jam may be very sharp. And it is likely to be quite ‘pippy’. But that may be fine for you.
Give it a try! What’s the worst that can happen? You end up with a batch of raspberry sauce?! xx
Good afternoon, I made this, 4 times, I used m6 own Apple juice as pectin, (I used my apple peels and cores from making gluten free Apple an mixed spice crumbles)
I made Strawberry and Basil, Strawberry and Rosemary, However I used Coconut sugar, so used slightly less than your recipe uses, it has an amazing Caramel flavor but not strong to take away the flavors of this amazing jam.
That sounds amazing Ali. Thanks for sharing. I’ve never tried using coconut sugar, but I can imagine the caramel notes it brings. Divine! xx
Just made a batch as written, can’t wait to try it on toast in the morning !!
Thank you 😀
Fabulous! Enjoy! and do let me know how it tastes xx
Just made this today (my first attempt at homemade jam!) using berries I picked yesterday.
Absolutely delicious! I used a mix of fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice and threw in the pulp for some extra zing.
I couldn’t get the temperature above 214 F but the softer consistency is exactly as I like it. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Thanks for sharing.
You’re so welcome Lorel. It’s how I like it too…
So happy you liked the recipe xx
What is the size of a single serving?
That’s a good question and probably my answer is not very scientific. I worked it out according to the average jar size and how much I (generously) spread on toast. So it’s probably just over a tablespoon.
I hope that helps. xx
Hi Kate! Jam is soooo sweet, all you can taste is sugar :/ I used to make a lot then switched to marmalade for the tartness, and damson jam. Now I have started using honey instead of sugar and feel better about eating it but it’s still a bit sweet…
I have been chopping apples all week from our cooking apple tree, filled the freezer but cannot bear to let any go to waste so I’ve also made apple juice ‘pectin’. Instead of adding apples to the jam which affects the taste I’ve used 1/5 the weight in pectin juice (the water strained off boiled apples) and it set very quickly.
Your recipe has a very nice ratio of sugar, I was all ready to pat myself on the back for ‘only’ using 800g and you’ve gone and done half that!
Scaled up my recipe was:
250g (yeah I weighed it!) liquid apple pectin juice stuff (you can reduce the pectin first if you don’t want to add so much extra liquid to the batch)
I made 1 jar just to test the gelling and it set too thick after 10 minutes. It’s a bit late in the year now but if I see any more strawberries reduced to a good price I want to try again using the amount of sugar you did and see if the pectin still works and not need a long time boiling.
Have you heard of ‘no sugar’ pectins? I just came across them today but very sceptical
Thank you Gemma
I have certainly added apple to jam for pectin in the past but not tried using ‘apple juice pectin’. That’s a brilliant tip. Thank you. I will certainly try it with lower sugar jams, which can be tricky to set.
I actually prefer jam which is not heavily set and this particular recipe is a looser version. But I know some people have been frustrated that it hasn’t set ultra firm, so maybe this is the answer.
If you find the magic ratio, please let me know.
Noreen smith says
I read the earlier comment asking how well this jam keeps well the first lot of jam I made didn’t last long enough to worry about that!! Just making my second batch this afternoon 😊 late in the season but family and friends raved about your receipe so doubling up the ingredients today to keep everyone happy!just a quick point yes it does take slightly longer to reach setting point but be patient and it will be fine 😊 thanks again for a great receipe 👏👌
Thank you so much Noreen. You’re welcome.
I am so glad you liked the jam. If it’s been devoured, then that’s a good thing.
To be honest, not quite reaching ‘set point’ doesn’t seem to make that much difference as long as it’s as close as it can be. I actually prefer slightly looser jam… It spreads more easily and you can stir it into natural yoghurt and top rice pudding with it without having to heat… xx
I think you need to consider that the reason you have to boil for so long , is to achieve a higher sugar percentage to enable the liquid to increase to 105 degrees C
You jam is not the percentage of sugar it started with All that time of boiling resulted in loss of water , the molten sugar enables you to increase the temperature. You can’t get above 100 degrees and especially to 105 to achieve the gelling Temperature for pectin without a threshold percentage of sugar. Your recipe needs more boiling to evaporate to a higher sugar percentage . . You can’t change the laws of physics ( as Scottie on Star Trek always said) .Your jam is a ‘regular’ sugar percentage after all that boiling , and to say it is lower is inaccurate . If you do have a slightly sloppy jam then you can escape a few percentage points in sugar content as you don’t make the higher jam making temperature but you won’t have as high gelling as a result . Of course it takes pectin sugar acid and temp to make it all happen as well but you can’t do any of this without the gelling temperature and that is dependent on sugar percentage
Thanks for your comment Jane.
I’m certainly not trying to challenge the laws of science. And to be honest, I have made this jam without quite reaching ‘jam point’ in the past and it has still been a gorgeous spreading consistency, fruity and not as sweet as many jams I have tasted. While the ‘laws of jam’ may dictate a ‘set point’, jam which is not super-firm can be at least as delicious.
I made this recipe twice this week and it worked out great! In the second batch I did add 3 apples (for natural pectin) and that helped with the consistency. Although the original recipe was a bit more liquid I didn’t mind that one bit.
For those not sure when consistency is right: freeze a small plate and once you think the jam may be ready, put a teaspoon on the frozen plate and leave it in the freezer for 2 minutes. Once you take out, run your finger through the jam – if you are left with a clear path that doesn’t fold into itself with the jam – the jam is ready and the consistency will be fine once cooled off. If the “finger path“ gets covered with the jam (even partially) you should continue to cook until enough liquid evaporates to make it more solid. I hope it helps.
Thank you for the feedback. I thought about adding apple to the recipe for the pectin when I made the jam, but I really didn’t want an apple taste which had been the result when I had done this previously. And I wasn’t aiming for a really thick jam either. But I appreciate that some people want a thicker jam, so thank you. That’s helpful.
I have offered the ‘cold plate’ test in other recipes on the blog, but will amend the recipe now to make clear what people can expect and that this too is an option.
Thanks again xx
Since it is lower in sugar will it keep well? Should I preserve it in water bath?
It kept fine for me… but then the recipe didn’t make a huge amount, so it didn’t hang around long enough to test over a longer season. It may of course depend on where you live too? If you live in a hotter climate, there may be more of an issue? x
Just tried this. Although I had it at a full rolling boil for what seemed like an age according to my thermometer it never went above 100 degrees C. The volume reduced by at least half so I’ve bottled it and it seems sticky enough that it will set but I don’t feel like it has any fruit texture now. Should it still have that? Does look like yours though so fingers crossed! Thank you for posting your recipe.
Hi Rachel. Thanks for your comment.
Not sure what to advise… I know that it passed the ‘wrinkle test’ here and just about reached temperature, but I think because it has less sugar, it may be a little more temperature-fickle. It isn’t a chunky jam and isn’t ultra stiff either, but it should be rich with flavour, not totally sugar-sickly and with a nice ‘soft’ gooey texture… Does that make sense?
Let me know how it turned out when you opened the jar! x
It my recipe, but yours seemed to have it right – no pectin, lowered sugar. Thanks for the Degrees C, as a production catering cook, it made things a lot easier to scale up/down.
scale values that I used
1k of strawberry picked yesterday
3/8 k sugar
60 ml fresh squeezed lemon juice
Total amount of hulled berries 3.667 k
For some reason, even at the highest levels of my gas stove 32 BTU burner, I was not able to push the Temp above 100 C, consequently the jam looks al little runny. The fruit flavour is good, but the lemon juice is too present. That is an easy correction.
Ok. Thank you Peter.
It’s not meant to be an ultra firm jam. The lemon is important to help the jam set, but you could use lime, and alternative citrus or even apple (although apple will change the texture more) instead.
Marilyn Lesniak says
Congratulations! Your post was my feature pick at #OverTheMoon this week. Each Hostess displays their own features so be sure to visit me on Sunday evening and to see your feature! I invite you to leave more links to be shared and commented upon. Please don’t forget to add your link numbers or post title so we can be sure to visit!
Fantastic. Thanks Marilyn. Have a great week! I’ll be over to link again shortly x