Spring officially arrives this week, and with it comes the start of berry season here in Southern California. First to appear are red and delicious organic strawberries, followed by sweet-n-tangy raspberries, plump blueberries and one of my personal favorites – blackberries.
It’s no secret that we get a little excited about fresh berries around here. And rightly so! They’re not only absolutely delicious, but they’re chock full of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants too! That’s why they’re a favorite for enjoying in fruit salads and adding to grain-free granola, yogurt and desserts.
Of course, they also make amazing jams and preserves, which is why I’m sharing a simple method for making your own delightful honey sweetened fruit preserves using your favorite seasonal berries. A key part of this method is a little secret I learned from one of my favorite grain-free cookbooks.
The secret? Cranberries! By using a small amount of whole cranberries, you can avoid using powdered pectins to set your preserves. That’s because cranberries are high in natural pectin. So by including them in the recipe, your preserves will set-up nicely with just a little touch of fresh-squeezed lemon.
What to do with all that delicious homemade jam? Why not make these amazing jam-layered crumble cookie bars! Mmm, they are soooo gooood!
This special recipe at Deliciously Organic highlights the sweet fruity flavor of preserves sandwiched between two layers of scrumptious cookie crumble. Yes, please!
P.S. Just a friendly reminder, that I provide free monthly meal plans over at The Better Mom blog. Each week’s meal plan contains delicious family-friendly GF recipes utilizing a time-saving method to make getting a healthy dinner on the table a snap! I highly recommend you pop over to The Better Mom and download these free meal plans.
- 4 cups of your favorite fresh berries, such as raspberries, strawberries or blackberries (or use thawed frozen berries)
- 1 cup whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 to 1 1/4 cups pure honey (depending on how sweet you prefer your jam)
- 1 tbsp of fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 of a lemon)
- Please Note: If making strawberry preserves, remove the stems and quarter the strawberries before measuring out 4 cups. For raspberry or blackberry jam, simply cut the berries in half before measuring. If making blueberry jam, no need to cut them.
- In a medium saucepan over medium/medium-high heat, bring the berries and honey to a boil while stirring. Then, reduce the temperature until the mixture remains at a constant simmer. Allow berries to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once you reach the 20-minute mark, use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the cranberries against the side of the saucepan. This helps to release all of their natural pectin.
- Maintain a gentle simmer, making sure to stir the mixture frequently, so it does not scorch. While stirring, use the "back-of-spoon" method to break up any large pieces of fruit into smaller pieces. Or if you prefer a less chunky jam, thoroughly mash all of the berries.
- After 10 minutes, if the mixture is somewhat thick and no longer runny, turn off the heat. It will thicken more as it cools. If it is not thick enough, continue cooking at a gentle simmer, while stirring constantly until it thickens a bit more, then turn off the heat. (Keep in mind, preserves are looser than jellies, so once the mixture is chilled, it will be thick, but not gelatin-like.)
- Pour the fresh-squeezed lemon juice over the warm preserves, stir well and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
- Evenly distribute the cooled preserves among four 8 oz. glass jars making sure to leave about an inch of space between the top of the jam and the jar lid to accommodate for expansion. Then, cover and refrigerate or freeze. (Or you can preserve the jam by following the classic hot water bath canning method.)
- Because homemade jam/preserves do not contain any preservatives, I recommend placing one jar in the fridge to enjoy now, and freeze the three remaining jars for future use.
Recipe Variation: You can also combine berries to create delicious flavor combinations, such as my popular Jumble Berry Jam recipe.
Will Cranberries Affect the Flavor of my Jam? Yes, slightly. Cranberries will add a slightly tangy undertone, that is actually very pleasant in balancing the sweetness of the honey. This slight tartness may be more noticeable with milder fruits like strawberries, depending on your taste preferences.
If you're not a fan of cranberries, there are several things you can do if you wish to avoid their slight tart undertone ... First, I've found frozen cranberries to be less tart in flavor. Second, you can decrease the amount of cranberries to 3/4 cups and increase the berries by 1/4 cup. The jam won’t be as thick, but with milder fruits, such as strawberries, the mild tartness will be less noticeable.
In addition, if you are able to tolerate pectin (some diets restrict it), then you could opt to bypass the cranberries altogether and use a little Pomona’s Pectin instead to help thicken your jam, as I did in my homemade Peach Preserves recipe, since peaches are an especially mild fruit.
Did You Know: The words "jam" and "preserves" are often used interchangeably. However, there is a slight difference between the two. The fruit in preserves is often cut into chunks and allowed to remain somewhat whole, whereas jam is made using crushed or mashed fruit, which gives it a less chunky texture. So for this recipe, you can mash the fruit thoroughly during the cooking process to create a classic-style jam, or you can leave much of the fruit intact to create traditional preserves. Either option is delicious!
Ceara @ Ceara's Kitchen says
I came across your website searching for almond flour pancakes and love the variety of recipes you have on here 🙂 I’ve been looking for a natural way to make fruit preserves for a while and can’t wait to try your honey method! Thx! 🙂
Welcome, Ceara! So glad the Lord has led you here. It’s a joy to be able to provide recipes to help families eat healthier. Thank you for your kind encouraging words. So nice to meet you! Happy jam-making! Blessings, Kelly 🙂
Deb Harris says
I really like the idea of using honey in preserves. I do have a couple questions. I’m not really a fan of cranberries or cranberry sauces so I wonder how noticeable the cranberries are? Can these be preserved like a jam with a water bath rather than freezing? Thanks for a great site.
Hi, Deb. Great question. I am going to note this in the recipe since several have asked. With regard to your question about the cranberries. They do add a little tartness, especially with milder fruits. (Frozen cranberries are less tart.) But one thing you can do is decrease the amount to 3/4 cups of whole cranberries and increase the strawberries by 1/4 cup. The jam won’t be as thick, but with milder fruits it will be less noticeable (the slight tartness), if you use a little less cranberry.
In addition, you can bypass the cranberries altogether and use Pomona’s Pectin (http://amzn.to/1hpVqBS) instead, if you are able to tolerate pectin (some diets restrict it). This would be the easiest option to ensure absolutely no tartness or cranberry flavor for those who dislike them.
And last but certainly not least, you are SO SMART. I meant to note about using a water bath and completely forgot until I saw you note. So thank you. Yes, you can use a water bath for canning, but I always want to point people to an in-depth method that ensure safety. Here’s the link with details on safely canning fruit jams: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE%201%20Home%20Can.pdf
Thanks for your great questions! Blessings, Kelly
Happy jam-making!! Blessings, Kelly
Deb Harris says
Thanks for all the info. I’ve made jams a few times but it was years ago & I love the idea of using honey instead of sugar. Pectin is fine for me, but I might try that & also try just decreasing cranberries as you suggested. Thanks for the link. It’s been a while so I’m sure a refresher in canning will be helpful. Thanks
You’re so welcome, Deb! Enjoy! 🙂 Blessings, Kelly
So excited about this one. Our local food stop is offering 30 pounds of frozen organic strawberries right now and I’ve been waiting for an excuse to make preserves! Only thing stopping me was wondering if there was a way to make preserves without the ton of sugar. And any comments on how the cranberries affect the flavor?
Hi, Erin. Sounds like you’re going to be having lots of fun making jam! Hooray! One thing to note with frozen strawberries … it’s best to allow them to thaw and then use just the berries (not all the liquid that will form in the bottom of the bowl). Reason is, by not using all the liquid, the jam will be thicker. Save the thawed juices for smoothies. 🙂
With regard to your question about the cranberries. They do add a little tartness, especially with milder fruits. (Frozen cranberries are less tart.) But one thing you can do is decrease the amount to 3/4 cups of whole cranberries and increase the strawberries by 1/4 cup. The jam won’t be as thick, but with milder fruits it will be less noticeable (the slight tartness), if you use a little less cranberry.
Happy jam-making!! Blessings, Kelly 🙂
Wow! I am so excited about this recipe! My family loves freezer jam, but since ridding our home of refined sugars, I have been in a conundrum how to utilize honey in its place and without using packaged pectin! What a relief! Thank you!
That’s great to hear, Kathy! I’m so glad I posted this today. Thanks for your kind words. We love making homemade jam. It’s so simple, healthier and delicious! Have fun! 🙂 Blessings, Kelly
This is great, thanks! We do like things not as sweet, tho. Is there any problem with cutting the honey to a 1/2 cup, or even possible a 1/4? Thanks!
Hi, Lynda. I am fairly certain that reducing the honey in this recipe to 1/2 cup should not impact the end result, other than making it less sweet. I would start with a 1/2 cup and then, reduce it further if you still think it’s too sweet. Let us know how it turns out. Blessings, Kelly
I cannot wait to try this!! Thank you for sharing your recipe!
You are so welcome, Terri! Enjoy! 🙂 Blessings, Kelly
Dena Norton says
Using cranberries’ natural pectin – so smart! 🙂
Thanks, Dena! You are so sweet! 🙂
This looks awesome – would it work to sub maple syrup for honey? I’m not a huge fan of honey flavor…
Hi, Andrea. I haven’t tried it but I am confident it should work just fine, it just may be a little thinner because honey sets up under refrigeration a little better. And you probably already know this, but if you use a lighter, grade A syrup it will have less maple flavor. Let us know how it works out. Blessings, Kelly 🙂
Thank you for this recipe. Do you think that we can use the recipe for any fruit?
I’m thinking about peach, pumpkin……
Hi, Aude. I would imagine you could based on your taste preferences. The cranberries will cast a tangy tart flavor, which is why it works nicely with sweet berries. If the cranberry flavor is a concern, you can always use pectin instead, if your diet does not restrict it. Here’s my peach preserves recipe as an example: http://thenourishinghome.com/2012/08/perfectly-easy-peach-preserves-gf/ As far as pumpkin. I have never made pumpkin jam, but I do make pumpkin butter using a similar method to my apple butter recipe: http://thenourishinghome.com/2013/10/crockpot-apple-butter-gf-df/ Hope this helps! Blessings, Kelly 🙂
Hi Kelly. Thank you for your answer.
I’ll try something! I still have some pumpkin from last Halloween and everyone is tired of pumpkin pie, bread, soup……..
My pleasure! 🙂
This recipe looks great! I can across it via Deliciously Organic and can’t wait to try it. I have made homemade preserves before but always found them too runny. Hoping the addition of cranberries will help! Have you ever tried making a lemon preserve? My oldest daughter LOVES lemons ( especially lemon yogurt). I was hoping to make a homemade lemon preserves to add to plain Greek yogurt vs the one wallaby brand I buy (way too much sugar and the yogurt is fat free). Any ideas on how I might accomplish a lemon one? Thanks so much!!
Hi, Jennifer. Welcome to The Nourishing Home. So nice to meet you. I haven’t made lemon preserves, but I have seen two recipes on the Food in Jars site that you might want to check out. Both use pectin though, which I imagine would be necessary as I can’t see cranberries working well with the lemons 🙂 Although if pectin is an issue for you, you could try substituting with gelatin. Here are the recipes from Food in Jars … Lemon Marmalade: http://foodinjars.com/2009/04/honey-lemon-marmalade/ and Lemon Preserves: http://foodinjars.com/2014/02/honey-sweetened-meyer-lemon-jam/ Hope this helps! Blessings, Kelly 🙂
I just made this from frozen, mixed berries, which I defrosted and drained the juices. I also used 1 cup of frozen cranberries and 1 cup of honey, and 1/2 fresh lemon, squeezed. I will add a bit more honey next time (even my tart-loving husband suggested this), but it still delicious!
I will definitely be making this again and going forward.
No refined sugar and no processed pectin? I love it!
Yay! So glad you enjoyed the recipe Jenn. I love Mixed Berry Jam too and have a recipe here that is similar to this one. Happy Spring!
Hello. I have not heard of freezer jam before. I understand your recipe but I have a few questions. How long should/could it remain in the freezer. How do you use it once it’s been frozen? Is there a special way to thaw it?
Hi, SJ. Freezer jam can be kept in the fridge for about 2 weeks or so and can be frozen for 6-12 months depending on the freezer. Once frozen, simply thaw in the fridge. Here’s more information about freezer jam that you may find of value: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113079746
Enjoy! Blessings, Kelly 🙂
Thank you so much for this recipe! My kiddos like to eat PB&J almost everyday, so I have been investigating jams that doesn’t use refined sugar. I am curious if you could sub apples for the cranberries since they have pectin, as well. Would the ratio stay the same?
Hi, Kate. Yes, there are recipes that use apples instead, like my friend Carrie’s strawberry jam recipe. I would use her recipe as a base since the measurements will be a little different with apples. 🙂 http://deliciouslyorganic.net/strawberry-jam/
Thank you so much for your quick reply! You are amazing!
I’m blushing! Thank you! 🙂
This recipe is absolutely amazing! I have never made jam/jelly before, so I was pretty nervous about trying this. I thought maybe I should at least start with a sugar filled, pectin recipe. I am so glad I just went with this. It tastes so amazing. I literally could just eat it with a spoon. Thanks for sharing. Can any berry or fruit be used in this recipe? I froze the initial jars I make but would like to can the next batch. If I am reading correctly in the link you posted it said to process jellies for 5 minutes. But other recipes I have come across online say to process for 10 minutes. How long would you recommend processing them for. Thanks so much 🙂
Hi, Amber. I’m so happy you enjoyed this simple sugar-free, pectin-free recipe. Yes, you can pretty much use any berry and fruit that would taste good with cranberries. As far as canning goes, canning 10 instead of 5 won’t impact the flavor, so to be safe, I opt for about 8-10 minutes. Hope this helps! 🙂
I made this recipe with raspberries, best jam ever! Better than anything I’ve ever had from the store!
Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a kind note. I do love homemade preserves too! So fresh and delicious! 🙂
I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. Thank you for posting it. How long will the finished preserves last in the refrigerator? How long will they last in the freezer? And finally…once they are thawed from the freezer…how long will they last in the refrigerator?
Hi, LindiMoo, I follow these guidelines: http://www.pomonapectin.com/faq/how-long-does-freezer-jam-last-in-the-freezer/ Blessings, Kelly 🙂
Perfect timing to stumble across your jam recipe. I had just bought fresh cranberries and wondered what to make with them beside more cranberry sauce. So excited that I used what berries I had on hand…blueberries and red raspberries. This recipe turned out great and so yummy I’m licking the spoon right now!
Yay! So glad to help you find a yummy way to use those leftover cranberries! Thanks for taking the time to leave a kind note! 🙂
What a great recipe! I was looking for a strawberry jam made with honey and came across this one. And then I blogged about it! (http://approachingfood.com/life-of-pie-part-ii-cranberry-crackle-tart-and-pectin-free-jam/) I really like that I can make jam without refined sugar and without processed pectin. What a great idea!
Well, that’s the biggest compliment to have someone share via their blog. So thank you for the sweet shout-out. I am so happy this recipe has blessed you! Thank you for being a blessing in return! 🙂 Happy jam making!
Kristen Zannella says
Hi! wonderful recipe – cannot wait to try it! I wanted to make Strawberry champagne jam (had some in London and it was wonderful!). My question is, think I could add it this recipe, will it make it too watery and lastly will it help with the tartness of the cranberries?
Hi, Kristen. Since I haven’t tried this method, I can’t say for sure how the recipe will turn out. If you cook it longer of low heat to help much of the liquid to evaporate, then it should help the jam to be thick enough. As far as the tartness of the cranberries, I find that this small amount of cranberry doesn’t make the recipe that tart. But you can always forgo the cranberries and make jam using powdered pectin as well. I have a recipe for peach jam here that uses pectin, since the cranberries paired with the delicate flavor of peach would be too much: http://thenourishinghome.com/2012/08/perfectly-easy-peach-preserves-gf/ Wishing you delicious jam-making adventures! 🙂
Have you ever tried using agave nectar instead of honey? Have loved the results with honey, but would like to modify the recipe for a friend who can’t have honey.
I haven’t, Laura, but I’m sure it would work just fine. How kind of you to want to make some jam for a friend! 🙂
So, in step number two where you are supposed to be bringing the berries and honey to a boil, are you supposed to be adding water I assume? It never actually says that…..
No water is needed for this recipe, which is why it’s not called for. The honey and the berries are all that are required. As the berries simmer in the honey they will release their moisture. If you add water, it will create a runny preserve. 🙂
I made this once and it was SO GOOD! The second time, though, it was a little bitter. I am wondering if I cooked it too long. Is there something about cranberries or honey that causes them to get bitter if cooked too long? (I simmered it for a couple of hours to thicken it up more.) I am so sad that it is not as good – I made a double batch this time!
I’m not sure what the issue might have been, but perhaps the cranberries you used this time around were much more bitter? I’m sorry that happened, especially since you made a double batch!
Will this work with figs?
I haven’t tried combining cranberries with figs, but I don’t see why not? Let us know if you give it a try! 🙂 With blessings, Kelly