How to Make Jam

Here, a step-by-step guide complete with photos plus answers to all of your jam-related questions.

January 24, 2023
Young women preparing and canning fresh homemade strawberry jam, she pouring him into a jar


Young women preparing and canning fresh homemade strawberry jam, she pouring him into a jar

Photo by: kajakiki/Getty Images

kajakiki/Getty Images

By Alice K. Thompson for Food Network Kitchen

Alice is a contributing editor and writer for Food Network.

Making jam at home can be fun and economical, and it’s been a go-to way to preserve seasonal fruits for generations. But you can forget images of sweat-drenched jam makers toiling over steaming cauldrons: Homemade jam doesn’t have to be a production, and it doesn’t have to require special equipment. And here’s the kicker: You can cook up a batch in about 30 minutes. Read on for answers to common jam question, plus easy step-by-step recipes for diving right in.

Jams vs. Preserves: What’s the Difference?

Both jams and preserves involve cooking fruit down with sugar until it’s soft and spreadable. For jams, fruits are generally chopped or mashed for a mostly smooth, homogenous spread that’s sometimes strained to removed seeds. Preserves, however, start out with whole or large pieces of fruits and berries for a thick, chunkier product that maintains more of the shape and semblance of the fruit, typically with seeds (in the case of berries) left in. Marmalade is a type of preserve that even contains the rinds of citrus fruits.

Jelly is its own category: Here the process either starts out with strained fruit juice, or the solids are strained out after cooking for a gelatin-like texture and jewel-like appearance completely free of chunks. Grape jelly is a favorite, but apple, apricot and mint are also popular.

Can You Make Jam Without Pectin?

The answer is yes and no: While jam requires at least some pectin to gel properly, not all fruits need added pectin. Pectin is a water-soluble fiber found in most fruits in some quantity. Pectin powder or liquid is an extract sold at most larger grocery stores or online as a jam-making aid. In combination with sugar and acid, pectin powder can either add extra gelling for fruits lower in pectin or can speed the cooking of any jam by requiring less simmering for thickening.

Some popular jam fruits high in pectin include apples, citrus and cranberries, while blueberries, cherries, raspberries and strawberries are much lower in pectin. The addition of lemon juice to low-pectin fruits activates their naturally occurring pectin, and some recipes call for a mix of high- and low-pectin fruits for a jam that gels nicely without added pectin.

Bread with plum jam on grey wooden table


Bread with plum jam on grey wooden table

Photo by: 5second/Getty Images

5second/Getty Images

How Do You Make Jam Step-by-Step?

These easy instructions are for refrigerated jam. If you’d like to make canned, shelf-stable jam, you’ll have to add a few more steps as described in A Beginner’s Guide to Canning.

Step 1: Prep Your Fruit

Rinse and dry your fruit. Discard any bruised or moldy fruit, or trim off brown spots. Peel, pit and chop fruits like peaches, apples or apricots as needed. Berries like blackberries, blueberries and raspberries can be cooked whole, while strawberries should be hulled and halved or quartered.

Step 2: Combine Fruit and Sugar

Place your fruit in saucepan or pot large enough to leave several inches of space at the top. Add sugar and lemon juice as needed based on the natural sugar/acid balance of your fruit and stir and mash to break up pieces, or refrigerate it several hours so that it begins to release liquid. If your recipe calls for added pectin, check the package directions for quantities and to see if it should be added now, before the fruit is heated. Finally, place a plate in the freezer to help you test your jam later.

Step 3: Start to Simmer

Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to bubble. Adjust the heat so it’s high enough to give you a healthy bubbling but not so high the pan spits or threatens to scorch on the bottom. Cook, stirring frequently, until the fruit begins to break down and the mixture noticeably thickens. This could take 20 to 40 minutes (or more) depending on the ripeness, type and quantity of your fruit.

Step 4: Test for Doneness

Since the true "gel" of your jam won’t be apparent until it cools, you’ll need to test it by quickly cooling it to see if it’s thickened. Pull your plate out of the freezer and spoon a bit of jam onto it. Let set until chilled, then prod or swipe the jam with your finger. If it wrinkles and holds together, your jam is done. If not, wipe the plate, return it to the freezer, and continue cooking. Test again in 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 5: Cool and Store

Once your test yields a set jam, turn the heat off and let the jam cool 5 minutes. Stir the jam to distribute the fruit and ladle it into hot sterilized jars. If you wish, you may can it by following standard water-bath canning instructions. Otherwise, allow it to cool completely, cover and refrigerate.

How to Make Strawberry Jam

Strawberries are a favorite for jam making: Sweet, bright and abundant for a fairly long season, with pick-your-own options in many parts of the country. Here’s the easiest step-by-step we know for delicious strawberry jam in about 30 minutes.

Step 1: Combine Your Ingredients

Trim the berries, cut them into small pieces and weigh them; smaller batches will cook more evenly, so no more than 3 pounds is ideal. For every pound of cut berries, add 2 cups granulated sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons store-bought lemon juice. Toss to coat, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Step 2: Cook the Jam

When the berries have macerated, they will have given up much of their juice. Stir well, then cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a brisk boil. Stir frequently to avoid burning and to prevent the jam from boiling over. Boil until the jam hits the set point, 220 degrees F on an instant-read or candy thermometer, about 20 minutes. Alternatively, place a dish in the freezer ahead of time; a dollop of jam on the cold plate should wrinkle when you nudge it when it’s ready.

Step 3: Transfer to Jars

Remove from the heat and skim away any scum on the surface. Ladle the jam into sterilized hot jars. It can be canned using standard water-bath canning instructions, or just cool, seal the jars and refrigerate.

How to Store Jam

Any jam that is not canned should be stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator, or frozen for longer use. Canned jam should be stored in a cool, dark place.

How Long Does Homemade Jam Last?

According to the USDA, jam that is not canned (sometimes called “quick jam”) can be refrigerated for up to 1 month. Properly canned jam will last 1 to 2 years, and frozen jam will last up to 6 months.

Freezing Jam

Freezing is a great option for longer-term jam storage. You can simply pop your cooled, sealed jars in the freezer, or freeze the jam in airtight plastic containers or even resealable plastic bags. Just remember to leave about 3/4-inch airspace at the top of containers to allow for expansion during freezing.

Related Links:

Next Up

What Is Pectin?

We wouldn't have gummy candy - or jam without it.

What Is Tartar Sauce?

And a step-by-step guide on how to make tartar sauce.

How to Make a Meringue

A step-by-step guide to whipping up 3 kinds of meringue (and how to use each).

What’s the Difference Between Sherbet and Sorbet?

Their names are often used incorrectly.

What Is Bone Broth? Plus, How to Make It From Scratch

It has a number of nutritional benefits. And it’s surprisingly easy to make.

Broth vs. Stock: What’s the Difference?

And is there a difference in how they’re used?

What Is Fudge?

And how exactly is it different than chocolate?

What Is Aioli?

The magic of an emulsification coming together is awe-inspiring. Aioli is no exception. It’s not mayo but it comes into being with the same steps and principles.

How to Reheat Leftover Pizza

Whatever you do, skip the microwave.

More from:

Cooking School

What's New