Why It Works
- The absence of white sugar will produce a softer-set jam.
- You can add some no-sugar needed pectin for a slightly firmer-set preserve.
- Cardamom, cinnamon, and vanilla bean give the fresh fruit an added boost of flavor.
If you have any experience canning fruit, you've probably heard the line that you need sugar in your jam if you don't want it to go bad. And not just a little sugar. A LOT. I often feel a twinge of guilt as I stir in pound after pound of refined white sugar into my beautiful fruit.
Then I met Jen Cordaro, the magical jam-maker at Jenny's Jars. She shared some of her white sugar-free strawberry jam, and it was one of the best things I've tried in a while. She also shared a few tips for making fruit juice-sweetened jams.
- Practice, practice, practice! Write down what you did so you can either replicate it if it comes out right or find your mistake if it didn't.
- Remember, when making jams without white sugar, it will not gel the same. Don't expect a hard-set jam.
- If you want your jam to gel, add no-sugar needed pectin. It still won't be like a traditional jam, but it will be pretty close. A little heavy on the pectin is better than too light, if you want a more traditional set.
Want to try it out for yourself? Give this spiced vanilla pear jam recipe courtesy of Jen Cordaro a go.
6 pounds Bartlett pears, very ripe
2 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 lemon
16 ounces all-natural, no sugar added, juice concentrate of your choice, thawed
2 cups water
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional, for a very vanilla flavor)
1 package + 20% of another package no-sugar pectin (optional)
Sterilize jars and lids. Place a small plate in the freezer so you can test the jam for proper thickness later.
Peel, core, and chop pears finely. You can also purée them in a food processor, depending on the texture you want your jam to have. In a large bowl, combine pears and lemon juice. Toss until pears are well coated with lemon juice.
In a non-reactive pot, add juice concentrate and water. Use a butter knife to scrape the tiny beans from the inside of the vanilla pod, and toss the beans and empty pod into the pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Discard vanilla pod.
Add pears, cinnamon, cardamom, and optional vanilla extract to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often to ensure the fruit does not stick or burn to the bottom of the pot. When mixture thickens, after about 45-50 minutes, test for doneness by spreading 1/2 teaspoon of cooked fruit on the cold plate and place it back in the freezer. Wait 30 seconds, then run your finger through the fruit. It should be thick enough to not run all over the plate, but remember that jams made without sweetener will not gel the same as standard jams. Here, the jam should just stick to the plate without being runny.
Optional: If you prefer a more gelled jam, add 1 package plus 20% of another package of no-sugar pectin once jam is done. Use a whisk to mix the jam to ensure there are no clumps of pectin. Return the jam to a boil and stir constantly for exactly 1 minute, then remove from heat.
Ladle the jam into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headroom, and process the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
This jam does not set into a hard gel. The texture will be more like a preserve or fruit butter. If you'd like it to be more gelled, add low/no-sugar pectin.
Eight (8-ounce) sterilized mason jars with lids, water bath
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 6g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||25%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|