How to Make Sugar-Free Jam or Preserves

Quick, Simple Methods That Do No Require Pectin

Home-made raspberry jam
Gregoria Gregoriou Crowe/Getty Images

There is nothing quite like homemade jam. When you make it yourself, it tastes so much more like the fruit it came from rather than the overly sweet confections you find at the grocery store. If you've always wanted to make your own jams or preserves but were daunted by the process, there are a few easy methods you can try. Most involve boiling without a thickener or boiling with a gelatin thickener.

Making jams and preserves without sugar can be a bit tricky since sugar not only acts as a preservative but provides the finished product with its characteristic "jammy" mouthfeel. Sugar-free jam will contain less carbohydrates than regular jam because it is made without sugar.

Some people who are monitoring their carbohydrates may prefer sugar-free jam for this reason, however, keep in mind that sugar free jam is not carbohydrate free jam. All jam will contain some carbohydrates because it is made with fruit. With a little practice and the right choice of fruit, making a sugar-free jam is not only easy, it may become part of a new family tradition.

Best Fruits for Jam-Making

Of all of the fruits you can use, berries are probably the best for a lower-carb jam. They are naturally lower in carbohydrates and sugar than other fruits and contain pectin, a water-soluble fiber that makes jellies and gives jams their consistency. Some fruits contain higher levels of pectin than others. Higher pectin containing fruits work better in boiling methods of making jam

You can make jam without pectin, but you will need sugar. You can make your jams lower in sugar by using less sugar. Strawberries and blackberries have among the lowest carbohydrates overall. The latter contains 9.6 grams of carb and 5.3 grams of fiber. Raspberries are also an excellent choice, with 14.7 grams of carb and 8 grams of fiber per cup.

Boiling Method

The simplest method of jam-making is boiling. This works best with blackberries or raspberries since they have a higher percentage of pectin. Boiling helps release the pectin and evaporate some of the excess water to give the jam a more spoonable texture. To make a boiled jam:

  1. Place two cups of berries in a non-reactive, non-aluminum pan and crush them lightly.
  2. Add a cup and a half of water and two tablespoons of lemon juice.
  3. Add an artificial sweetener like liquid Splenda which doesn't have the aftertaste or extra carbs of the powdered form. Two tablespoons should be more than enough.
  4. Bring to a boil and cook on a high heat for five minutes, stirring as necessary.
  5. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Skim off any foam as it cooks. The jam will be ready when the bubbles get bigger and the liquid has the consistency of cream of wheat.

Two cups of berries will yield roughly a half cup of jam. If you want to make larger quantities, simply multiply the recipe. Increase the cooking times by 25% for every two additional cups of fruit you use. The jam will not be as thick as your typical preserve but will hold together nicely when chilled.

Since you won't have any sugar in your jam to act as a preservative, you will need to store your jam (boiled or gelatin-based) in the refrigerator. Freeze any leftovers you don't plan to eat within a couple of weeks. Sugar-free jams you find in stores have chemical preservatives to extend their shelf life.

Gelatin Method

This is the best method for strawberry jam since strawberries are full of water and have little pectin. You can choose unflavored powdered gelatin, which is simple to use but has a slight aftertaste, or leaf gelatin, which is flavorless but a bit more costly. For this recipe, you need either a 0.25-gram packet of gelatin (two tablespoons) or three gelatin leaves. Each requires a little advance preparation.

  • Packet gelatins need to be bloomed. Blooming involves sprinkling the gelatin powder over water and allowing it set into a solid mass before cooking.
  • Leaf gelatin needs to be soaked. Soaking softens the leaves and makes them easier to dissolve when cooking.

Both methods prevent gelatinous lumps from forming in your jam. These are not unpleasant to taste but may result in a runnier jam. To make a gelatin-based jam:

  1. Add two cups of water to a non-reactive, non-aluminum pan.
  2. If you are using powdered gelatin, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and allow to sit for five minutes until solid. If you are using leaf gelatin, add to a separate bowl of warm water and allow to sit for 10 minutes, completely submerged.
  3. Heat the pan over a medium heat until the liquid comes to at a slight simmer. If you're using leaf gelatin, remove it from the water, give it a little squeeze, and add to the simmering liquid.
  4. Add two cups of coarsely chopped strawberries, two tablespoons of liquid Splenda, and a teaspoon of lemon juice.
  5. Increase the heat to high and boil for three minutes.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and lightly boil for another five to 10 minutes. Skim off any foam as it cooks. The jam is done when the bubbles are thick and the jam is consolidated and smooth.

Two cups of strawberries cooked in this way will yield about one cup of jam. You can double or triple the recipe to make a larger batch, increasing the cooking time by 25% for every two additional cups of fruit you use.

How to Use Pectin

Sugar-free pectins, like Sure-Jell, can give your jams and preserves more body. These may be especially useful when making strawberry jam since strawberries have relatively little pectin. As you get used to making jams at home, you can experiment with pectin and see how it affects the finished product.

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Article Sources
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  2. Blackberries, raw. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2020.