Homemade Strawberry Jam

Adapted from Tessa Kiros | Apples for Jam | Andrews McMeel, 2007 | Makes 1 1/2 cups

Here’s the thing about making jam from scratch—it’s lovely in principle, although not often likely in reality. It’s not the act of preserving that’s hard. It’s the notion of putting up preserves that can give us pause. The sterilizing of all those jars. The worrying about the seal taking—or not. The potential of scrubbing jam splatters off the ceiling.

And so rather than go without, some of us cheat. We make a small batch of whatever flavor we fancy at that moment, then flirt with danger, keeping it close at hand in the fridge in an unsealed, unsterilized, unthinkably handy little container. The batch lasts just long enough—a few weeks, perhaps—before we grow tired of any particular flavor.

The beauty of this is that you don’t need a special recipe. Any reliable preserves can be easily adapted, as we’ve done here with the strawberry jam recipe from cookbook author Tessa Kiros. Just simmer and ladle. Recipes that make a modest amount are preferrable. As Kiros notes, “It’s incredibly easy to make. It’s not necessary to make a supply for the whole year and the whole neighborhood—although wouldn’t that be nice?” Um, in theory, perhaps.

Some of those who’d stumbled upon this surreptitious summer act dubbed it the very telling yet rather clunky “refrigerator jam.” That changed with the publication about a decade ago of a charming cookbook whose title now eludes me. It bestowed the consummate title on our little trick: Instant Gratification Jam. (Editor’s Note: If anyone has a book they suspect to be the same—a small, slender, squarish book with, I think, a blue cover—we’d be grateful if you left a comment, although please note that many other, lesser books have since stolen the title for their own purposes.) —Renee Schettler Rossi

Beyond Toast Note: This is great dolloped onto pancakes or homemade white or brown bread and can also be used to sandwich together a simple sponge cake. I love it spooned into tiny sweet tart shells with another miniature dollop of whipped cream on the top. If you like you can make this with some bits of strawberry in, but you can easily tweak it to make it all smooth.—Tessa Kiros

convert Ingredients
3 1/2 cups strawberries (try to find the small ones, which have more flavor than the large ones), rinsed and hulled
1 cup superfine sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Special Equipment: 4 ounce jelly jars (optional) or other small resealable containers

1. Quarter the strawberries or, if they are large, cut them up into smaller chunks. Place them in a non-aluminum bowl, add the sugar and lemon juice, and toss them around to distribute everything evenly. Cover and let them rest overnight in the fridge to draw out the berries’ juices.

2. The next day, drain off all the liquid from the strawberries into a large heavy-bottomed jam pan or wide saucepan. Add half of the strawberries and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the juices are thickened somewhat, about 15 minutes. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.

3. Transfer the strawberry mixture in the pan to the blender and purée until smooth or pulse if you prefer your jam quite chunky. Return the mixture to the pan, add the rest of the strawberries, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes more. To test if the jam is ready, drop a heaping teaspoonful onto a plate and slightly tilt the plate. The jam should not run off, but cling and slowly glide down. If the jam isn’t ready, put it back on the heat for a while. It should be a lovely red hue and look quite sticky.

4. Spoon the jam into small jars and refrigerate or spoon into resealable plastic containers and freeze. You need to keep it in the fridge and use it up fairly quickly.

Raspberry Jam: You can make raspberry jam like this, too. Just pass it through a fine sieve to get rid of the seeds.

Canning Tip: If you wish instead to actually can the jam, don’t let us deter you. Be sure to sterilize your jars before you have a panful of hot jam ready to put up.

1. Preheat the oven to 250°F (121°C).

2. It is always best to use several small jars, rather than one or two big ones. Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, or in the dishwasher, and rinse well in hot water. Then place the jars and the lids on a baking sheet for at least 20 minutes, or until you are ready to use them. Don’t use a dish towel to dry them. They should dry thoroughly in the oven.

3. When the jam is ready, spoon it into the warm sterilized jars and close the lids tightly. Turn the jars upside down, cover with a dish towel, and let stand until completely cool. This creates a vacuum that can be seen with the lid. Turn upright and store in a cool dark place.

Recipe © 2007 Tessa Kiros. Photo © 2007 Manos Chatzikonstantis
All rights reserved.

  1. Alexander says:

    Hmmm, no processing in a water bath?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      That’s the entire point, Alexander. We’re not pretending these will last as long as properly canned preserves. The jam is kept in the refrigerator for just a few weeks, where the chill of the fridge serves to deter any icky bacteria, just as the water-processing would do for jam destined for a room-temperature shelf for several months.

      • Susan says:

        Thank you for the recipe! But is there a way to do the water-processing of this recipe so it will last longer? WOULD the recipe need to be different for that to happen?

        • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

          You can absolutely do the traditional jarring approach with this recipe, Susan. The recipe remains exactly the same. We envy you, with ample jam to get you through the next several months…

  2. Joan says:

    This is a lot of fussing over not much jam, goes on for 2 days and takes up room in my fridge overnight…I would prefer to make freezer jam in an hour or 2, and freeze it. It tastes very fresh, especially using a low sugar pectin. I would definitely NOT “seal” the jars by turning them upside down. In my 20 years as a Master Food Preserver the most frequent complaint involved that method because they don’t seal! Either really seal them with the boiling water method, freeze them, or keep in the fridge in a jar for a shorter time. Get the current Ball Blue Book which will help with all your preserving, or go Ball’s freshpreserving.com. Don’t worry about the boiling water processing, it’s not that big a deal.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Of course you’re perfectly welcome to use the freezer tactic with this jam, Joan. The recipe itself will work any which way. We simply prefer the approach above. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, whichever your approach…

  3. marcella says:

    what if I use some pectin (or those pectin-enriched sugars) to cut down the boiling time to a few minutes? would this cut down the keeping time too?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      As with baking, preserving is a science, each recipe it’s own little science project. You could add some pectin for a thicker consistency and to cut down the cooking time somewhat (but by how much, it’s difficult to say). I haven’t heard of the addition of pectin shortening the keeping time. If you do the refrigerator jam approach, it will last only a few weeks anyways, so just keep it properly sealed and use it up quickly (not a problem, we’re told by those who have made it) and you shouldn’t have any problems.

  4. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Julie Dreyfoos] Oh, this is soooooo good, and so easy to make, that everyone is having PB&Js today in their lunches with homemade strawberry jam! This is the perfect time of year for this recipe. Sweet and delicious strawberries are all over the markets right now. You can’t use them fast enough, but with this recipe, you can cut them up and quickly have fresh homemade jam. The berries I had were really juicy, so it took a bit longer than the recipe states for the strawberries to cook down. If my next strawberries are as juicy, I may cut back on the sugar a tad, as I don’t think it will affect the flavor at all since the berries are so sweet.

  5. Julie Dreyfoos, LC Production Manager says:

    This recipe is simple to use with any of your favorite summer fruits, I used 3 1/2 pounds of peaches to a scant 3 cups of sugar, lightly pulsed the peaches in the food processor before cooking added a little lemon juice and cooked down in the same manner as above. Adjust your sugar accordingly to the sweetness of the peaches. Delicious!

  6. John From Raleigh says:

    Great recipe…I have been making jam for a few years but as I start my first batch of the season, I like to check out other recipes. I have two quick questions, why superfine sugar vs. regular and do you feel macerating the strawberries first adds extra depth to the flavor of the jam? I currently just chop them and then bring them to a boil to draw out the juices.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Many thanks, John. The superfine will simply dissolve more quickly than granulated. I dare say in the end, as long as you wait for the sugar to dissolve, it won’t make an appreciable difference. As for the macerating of the berries, we don’t honestly know, as we didn’t do a side-by-side tasting. I wonder if perhaps it’s just tradition, as I grew up sugaring berries and setting them aside until they’d given up their juices? Anyone have any thoughts?

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