in Food, Frugality, FS, Home & Garden

How to Make Your Own Small-Batch Strawberry Jam

Making your own jam doesn’t have to be a big production.

While it’s sometimes most efficient to do things in bulk with all the right gear, the small-scale option can be better if you’re just starting out and want to make jam without much initial investment. Also, for the home gardener it’s common to have only a few cups of berries ripe at any one time, rather than the 6-8 pints called for in many recipes. Small-scale jam-making also allows you to try new flavor combinations. So, if you’ve got a bowl of berries on hand, here are two recipes to inspire you to get cooking. (Although these are recipes for strawberry jam, other berry preserves use similar techniques and ingredients.)

Strawberry-orange freezer jam
For gift-giving and long-term ease of storage, jam in sealed glass jars is the best choice. But for ease of preparation, freezer jam wins hands-down.

Some people (like J.D.) prefer its flavor, too, because it tastes more like fresh fruit than cooked preserves. The dominant flavor in this jam is the strawberry, but the orange lends a nice subtle note and also stretches the berries.

Some canning recipes for call for bottled lemon juice rather than fresh. This is due to its constant level of acidity, rather than fresh lemons, in which acidity can vary. It’s not crucial for jam, which is often high in both sugar and acidity to keep it safe in storage, but can be important when canning low-acid foods like tomatoes or beans.

When making freezer jam, you can use plastic tubs with tight-fitting lids. If you plan on storing this for more than a couple of months, better plastic tubs mean better taste. I actually prefer to use glass canning jars with screw-on white plastic lids (often sold with the canning supplies). Either way, be sure to leave a little headspace for expansion as it freezes and write a “use by” date on the lid. (Freezer jam will keep for up to a year.)

Strawberry-Orange Freezer Jam

  • 11 ounce mandarin oranges, drained & crushed
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed strawberries
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 box powdered pectin

Mix together crushed fruits. Add sugar and lemon juice and mix well. Let stand 20-40 minutes.

In a saucepan, mix water and pectin thoroughly. Bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down and boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and mix pectin into fruit, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Ladle into sterilized containers, wipe rims and add lids. Let jam set overnight. Store in freezer for up to a twelve months.

Makes approximately 6 half-pints (6 cups). Source: Linda Ferrari, Canning & Preserving

At our house, we tend to make a bunch of jam in the summer and then eat it mostly in the fall and winter when we’re craving those summer fruits. When spring rolls around, I try to move any one-year-old freezer jam to the front of the freezer so it gets used soon. But if your freezer space is limited, you might opt for the following recipe for cooked jam instead.

Small batch strawberry jam
In the following hands-on video, Marge Braker demonstrates the easy steps to make a jar of cooked strawberry jam in about 20 minutes of work. This cooked version doesn’t call for added pectin to make it set up, so learning to judge when the berries are done cooking can take a bit of practice. If you misjudge it and don’t cook them long enough, you’ll end up with strawberry syrup rather than strawberry jam, but that can be a happy mistake. Jam cooked too long will be stiff and will have lost that wonderful homemade berry brightness.

I frequently make small batch cooked jams later in the summer when my caneberries are ripening gradually. It’s also handy when I want to try a new combination like gooseberry-currant or elderberry-apple that I’m not sure will be a success.

Marge Braker offers a wealth of general canning tips that every beginning canner can benefit from. If your mother never taught you, now’s your chance to learn from a pro!

Jam on!

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  1. I made the big batch jam with my grandmother and never considered other options. This is perfect for the small crops of berries we have. You are a gem for helping me make the most of what I have and truly enjoy it.

  2. Wonderful post! I was just wondering if there are types of things can you do with frozen strawberries?

    I just recently went strawberry picking at a local farm and bought too many strawberries for my needs. I froze them and plan on using a couple in fruit smoothies during the summer/fall months.

    If you drained your strawberries well, would they still be usable for your Freezer jam recipe?

  3. yay! we’re going strawberry picking next week – we were inspired by you last year and made freezer jam – maybe this year I’ll try some cooked jam too.

  4. To Melanie @#2:
    People do freeze berries to make jam with at a later time. This can be useful if you don’t want to heat up your kitchen during a heat wave, or just don’t have time to can when the fruit is ripe. But I’ve never tried it myself. I would guess that you shouldn’t drain the thawed fruit, because all that delicious juice was in the berries and the recipe will be made for that. I’d suggest starting with a small batch to see if any adjustments are needed. If the freezer jam comes out too thin, you might switch to a cooked recipe so you can evaporate off excess water to make it set better. Good luck!

  5. I have a recipe that I got from cooking light a few years ago that I use all the time to make strawberry jam. It basically involves halving strawberries (4 cups) and then mixing it with 1 cup of sugar and simmering it on medium heat for and hour, stirring every so often (I usually have to cook it a little longer or the chunks of berries in the finished product are still too large). Then you stir in two teaspoons on fresh lemon juice (actually, I usually used bottled) and pour it into a plastic container with a lid. Cool to room temp. and put it in the fridge. It lasts for up to a month. I haven’t tried to freeze it yet to see if it lasts any longer. However, it is a good way to stretch that last batch of picked strawberries just a few more weeks.

  6. when I make strawberry freezer jam, I like to use lime juice instead of lemon. It just gives a hint of exotic flavor to the jam that is a touch hard to place, and it’s fun to give to people and have them say “oh, wow, it doesn’t taste like any old strawberry jam.”

  7. I haven’t made jam in 10 years, but I am inspired! With all this hot weather in the East Coast, there will be a glut of ripe strawberries.
    I also think freezing will help preserve that just-jammed flavor.
    I like to make combinations, plum-orange, apricot/pineapple, etc., so I think I will try strawberry-kiwi, or maybe strawberry-banana.
    any suggestions?

  8. Thanks for this! I have only ever done the large batch that takes all weekend type of preserving/jam making. I’m very excited to try this.

    To Melanie who asked about using frozen. Absolutely you can. I have successfully done this many times but Kris is right, use a cook method. Otherwise your jam will not thicken properly.

    Having said that though, I have made a thin fruit preserve (not as much sugar as a jam and more fruit) That I canned for use as a dessert topping for ice cream or pound cake. yummy. 🙂

  9. I made a small batch of strawberry jam yesterday. It was a lot of fun and I felt so productive. I used a touch of fresh basil when I cooked down the berries and at the end of cooking, stirred in a spoonful of brandy into the jam. Looked and smelled pretty good.