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Guest Post: Old-Fashioned Strawberry Jam (Without Pectin)

You guys, I am so excited! There are two reasons for this: First, I'm on vacation (yay!) and second, because I'm on vacation, I get to share a few amazing guest posts with you. In my absence, I've asked my sister and mom to write up a couple blogs for me so I don't have to do any work while I'm away.

This is the first post in the "family takeover" series and is written by my sister, Lisa Bertolucci. She's an incredible chef (you can check out her blog, Muffins and Things for some more amazing recipes) who never ceases to inspire me to try new things in my own kitchen. I am so grateful that she's taken the time out of her busy schedule to share some of her knowledge with us! So, without further delay, here's Lisa:

I always thought canning was way too difficult and not worth the time to learn how to do it properly. However, when I needed to make a large batch of BBQ sauce, I decided that canning would be the best way to preserve it. So, I researched and studied how to properly can food. It turned out so well that I have officially changed my mind about canning. It’s actually pretty easy, you just need to have some patience.

First, you’ll need to gather your supplies. Here’s what you’ll need:

A large stockpot that will be able to hold enough water to cover your jars by 1-2 inches

A smaller sauce pot to hold your jar lids and bands

Another large stockpot (or the size your particular recipe calls for) to cook your food

Canning jars, lids & bands (washed in hot soapy water)

Tongs or a jar lifter

Wide mouth funnel


Canning basket (to easily lower jars) or a cake cooling rack that fits into the bottom of your stockpot

Ingredients for your recipe. Today we will use:

  • 5 lbs (about 5 pints) strawberries, hulled and chopped

  • 1 ½ cups sugar

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Now, let’s talk a little bit about technique. For jams made without pectin, you will need to cook down the fruit to evaporate the liquid. That’s what thickens it instead of the pectin “jelling” the liquid. If you wanted to, you could shred some apples or use some unsweetened apple juice and add that to your fruit to act as a source of pectin (because pectin comes from apples in the first place, silly!). The amount would depend on your taste and the amount you’re cooking. But I digress… When you’re making jams without pectin, you’ll want to choose a pot that has a large diameter (think wide and short as opposed to tall and thin) so you can evaporate the liquid more quickly. Otherwise, you’ll be cooking that poor jam all day long and have a higher chance of scorching it.

When you’ve gathered all of your supplies and ingredients, you’re ready to start! Put the large pot of water on to boil and add your empty, lidless jars. Bring the pot to a boil and start a timer for 10 minutes. This will sterilize your jars and make them food-safe. If you have a sterilize setting on your dishwasher, you could use that instead and then just keep the jars hot until ready to use them – either in the hot dishwasher or in the hot water. Next, add your lids and bands to the smaller pot and keep them hot.

Jars sterilizing

It’s now time to start cooking! In your large, wide stockpot, add your hulled and roughly chopped strawberries, and then add the lemon juice and sugar. If you either don’t want to, or can’t, use sugar, you could add some honey or agave nectar as your sweetener. Add a little, taste it, and adjust from there. I like to add just enough to get the jam sweet, but not so much as to overpower the flavor of the fruit. I mean, after all, isn’t that the point of making this from fresh fruit? Now, mash up the fruit a bit with a potato masher, or even a spatula, until the pieces are to your liking. I like decent sized chunks of fruit, so I didn’t go too overboard on this part. Do keep in mind that the fruit will continue to break down as it cooks.

Mashing berries

Cook the berries over medium heat until they start to foam a little, then turn it down to maintain a simmer. Stir every few minutes to keep the jam from scorching, and continue to cook it down until it thickens and the fruit breaks down. This part took me about an hour to get to the consistency I was after. You should start checking it after about 30 minutes to make sure you don’t cook it down too much. A little trick I found in my research is to keep a small saucer in the freezer while you’re making your jam, then take a small spoonful of your fruit mix and put it on the plate. This will rapidly cool down the mixture so you can see how thick/thin it is. If it’s thick enough for your liking, you’re done cooking. If it’s still a little thin, cook it down a little longer, and do the frozen plate test again.

When your jam is almost ready, get your jars out of the water and lay out your other supplies (if you didn’t already). After your jam reaches the right consistency, pull it off the heat and start jarring.

Canning setup

Now, in the photo above, you’ll see some bright green utensils. That was a kit I found at Target that had a wide-mouth funnel, jar lifter, magnetic stick for picking up the hot lids/bands, and a scraper/head space measuring stick. These are not necessary, but make things a bit easier. You could just use tongs and a wooden kebab stick if you have them.

Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars (if the jars aren’t hot, they could break!), making sure you leave ¼ inch of headspace. Headspace is the space between the top of the jar and the jam. This is important because too much or too little headspace could prevent your jar from sealing properly.


Once all of your jars are filled, wipe the top of the jars with a clean, damp cloth to get any jam off. Then, take the hot lids and gently place them on top of the jars and screw the bands on until just finger tight. You don’t want to crank them on too tight because it could prevent the jars from sealing correctly. Just get them tight enough that no water will get in while they’re canning. Place your jars into the lowering basket, or lower them directly into your boiling water canner. Make sure the water covers the jars by 1-2 inches. Once all of your jars are in the water, and it comes back to a full boil, set a timer for 10 minutes. When your timer goes off, carefully remove the jars from the water and place them on a towel on your counter (hot jar + cold counter = cracked jars!). Here is the hard part. DON’T TOUCH THE JARS FOR 24 HOURS! Resist every urge to pick up the jars, or to press down on the top of the jars to make sure the seal took. Unless you want to mess up all of the work you did, just don’t do it. You’ll be able to hear the popping of the jars to know if they are sealing or not.

After you’ve let your jars sit for 24 hours, NOW you can press down on the top to make sure they sealed properly. If the lid doesn’t move when you press, you’re good to go! If it flexes at all, you’ll want to refrigerate that jar and use it within the next 1-2 weeks or so, or look up how to safely re-process the jar. Snug up the bands (or remove them if you’d like), label the jars with the date, and store them in a cool, dry place. They should keep for about 6 months.

Here is the full recipe that I used:


Old-Fashioned Strawberry Jam (without pectin)

  • 5 lbs (about 5 pints) strawberries, hulled and chopped

  • 1 ½ cups sugar

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a large stockpot, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn down to medium-low to maintain the simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, for 30-60 minutes, or until the desired consistency.

Place hot jam into hot jars, and then process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Let the jars rest, undisturbed, for 24 hours, then check to make sure jars sealed properly.


Finished jars

Now that you have conquered your fear of canning homemade jam, I encourage you to try this with other types of fresh fruit, like peaches or raspberries. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. So, what kind of jam are you making next week?


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