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Low-Sugar Strawberry Jam

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The sun is shinning, the birds are singing and the strawberries are rolling in, spring is here!  Home canners everywhere are dusting off their canning pots and counting empty jars, because they know strawberries mark the beginning of canning season.  Preserving the garden’s bounty has a seasonal rhythm that cannot be rushed or slowed, only surrendered to.  When my friend called with 40 pounds of strawberries, I cleared my schedule so I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to jar these little jewels.  These are Japanese strawberries, cultivated here in California, and more delicate and flavorful than anything I’ve had before.  Was I going to mess them up with way too much sugar, no way!

Many standard jam recipes that rely on commercial pectin use obscene amounts of sugar to activate the gelling properties of the pectin.  Traditional recipes that don’t use pectin, also call for lots of sugar and really long cooking-times.  You can still get the fresh flavor of a quick-cook jam and use almost no sugar, if you use low-sugar/no-sugar pectin.  Pectin occurs naturally in many fruits, and is what gels, or “sets” jellies and jams (lemons are high in natural pectin).  Strawberry jam can be a little finicky because the berries are very low in natural pectin, but this recipe is pretty darn fool-proof.  And delicious, so DELICIOUS!

Low-Sugar Strawberry Jam

The lemons in this strawberry jam perk up the flavor with just the right amount of acid, it almost tastes like strawberry lemonade.  The lemons also help keep the strawberries from turning brown and mushy, which is entirely not appetizing.  You can skip the lemon zest if you want less “zing”, but do use the full amount of lemon juice to help the jam set and look pretty.

Start with some great berries!

strawberries for jam

When making jam, it’s important to work in small batches, otherwise you risk the jam not setting.  Using “less ripe” berries will make a better jam and improve the shelve life.  This low-sugar strawberry jam is quick, easy enough for beginners, and yummy enough to impress just about anyone!

Check my Home Canning Guide for Beginners to brush up on your canning skills.

Low-Sugar Strawberry Jam
Recipe type: Jam
  • 3 pounds of strawberries (about 8-9 cups chopped)
  • 3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3-4 Tbs low-sugar pectin
  1. Rinse, hull and rough chop the strawberries.
  2. Put the strawberries in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and smash with a potato masher.
  3. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest to the mashed up strawberries.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the pectin and sugar, and set aside.
  5. Put a small plate in the freezer.
  6. Bring the berries to a boil over medium-high heat.
  7. When the berries begin to boil, stir in the sugar and pectin mixture, keep stirring to completely dissolve.
  8. When the berries come to a full boil (boiling doesn't stop when you stir), set the timer for 2 minutes. This activates the pectin.
  9. Test the jam by spooning a tiny amount on to the frozen plate, then hold it sideways to see if it gels.
  10. Remove the jam from heat and let sit about 5 minutes, gently scraping the foam off the top and stirring the fruit to be evenly dispersed in the jam.
  11. Fill ½ pint jars, leaving ¼ inch head space and process 10 minutes, or according to your altitude.
  12. Yield 7-8 half-pint jars.



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