I love strawberry jam, but am trying to be better about my sugar intake, and let’s face it: commercial jam is loaded with it. Actually, so is homemade jam (oh no!). It turns out that sugar preserves the fruit when canned and you need a ton to do it safely. Making strawberry jam with low sugar means you either have to eat it quickly or freeze it.
Wait, what? Making strawberry jam with low sugar means you can avoid the whole canning process? Sign me up! Just thinking about canning gives me nightmares. I see giant cauldrons of molten strawberries, a sweltering kitchen, and an exhausting day, followed by hours of cleaning strawberry splatters off of every conceivable surface, including the ceiling. (don’t ask me how it got there…it’s a nightmare! it’s everywhere!).
The fact that you can’t can low-sugar strawberry jam is great for me: I’m not lazy, I’m just making healthier jam! So I did a little experimenting with small-batch freezer jam, and guess what? It works great!
Ingredients (makes about 2 1/2 – 3 cups):
- 1 quart fresh strawberries
- Sugar (1/4 cup, or more to taste)
- 1-2 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour (see tips and tricks)
- 1-2 fresh apples (see tips and tricks)
- Potato masher or food mill
Here’s how to make low-sugar strawberry jam:
First, wash the strawberries and remove the stems:
Core and peel the apple, then cut it into small pieces (or even grate it).
Next, put the strawberries and apple pieces into a 2-3 quart pot with a lid. Add enough water to cover the bottom by about 1/4″:
Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low.
Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.
Once all of the fruit is soft, use either a potato masher or food mill to break-up the pieces of fruit and combine them to the texture you want.
Continue to cook the fruit on very low heat while adding sugar to taste. Start with 1/4 cup of sugar, stir to dissolve, and taste it. The jam should be slightly sweeter when warm than you want it to be when refrigerated.
Tip: using a spoon that has been in the freezer will cool the taste-test faster.
If your strawberry jam is not yet sweet enough, add 1 additional tablespoon of sugar, taste, and repeat until you’re satisfied.
Next, mix 1 tablespoon of tapioca starch in a small bowl with some of the hot strawberry jam and stir to combine:
Pour this mixture into the pot and stir until completely combined, making sure that the mixture does not boil.
Continue to cook on very low while stirring for about five more minutes. The strawberry jam will still be pretty liquid. Remove it from the heat and put it in the fridge to cool and set. You can eat it at any point (try it warm as a topping for ice cream!), but wait until the next morning before freezing it. Sometimes strawberry jam just needs that extra time to set fully.
Tips and tricks:
- Tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) is a flavorless firming agent that will not break when frozen. Great news for freezer jam! It will make the texture of the jam a little less jelly-like, but will ensure it stays together when thawed. In this recipe one tablespoon will hold the strawberry jam together, but it will be a little soft:Adding the second tablespoon will make it firmer, but the texture will be a little different. Not bad, just not as jelly-like as traditional jam.
- Apples have natural pectin in them, which will help set the jam. The more tart the apples, the more pectin they contain, which means the number of apples you use, the size, and the flavor will all have an impact on the strawberry jam. Don’t worry, the impact is pretty minor. I like to maintain the highest level of strawberry flavor, and I don’t mind if the jam is a little less firm, so I typically use only one apple. For firmer jam, use two.
- Try using ice cube trays to freeze individual portions of jam:
- Strawberries are acidic and will react with aluminum (including tin foil), which will change the taste a little. It’s best to avoid aluminum cookware for this project.
- It’s always better to use fresh fruit without blemishes when making jam, to avoid introducing possible bacteria from the blemishes into the jam.
- If you want a dessert or snack without added sugar, try using 4-5 apples for strawberry-applesauce. You can find easy applesauce instructions here.
- Low-sugar strawberry jam is also great mixed with yogurt, in hot cereal, as a glaze for chicken, or in homemade barbeque sauce.
Enjoy your low-sugar strawberry jam, and feel free to leave a comment, ask a question, or share your recipes using it! Who doesn’t like to try a new barbeque sauce recipe, right?