Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Make Organic Low Sugar Strawberry Jam and Fruit Topping

Emily Saetern shows me her father's strawberry farm in Sebastopol, California.

A flat of strawberries. Enough for jam and much more!

Healthy jam on whole grain toast.

Use as a healthy fruit topping on your favorite ice cream.
Save the tops in the freezer and use in your morning smoothie.

My Search for Healthy Jam
I’m not sure when or why I started making jam, but whenever I see ripe fruit, I feel compelled to mash it up and put it in cute little jars. The funny thing is I almost never eat it because it’s full of sugar. I’ve tried “low sugar” recipes but they still had tons of sugar. Sure-Jell’s “low sugar” recipe brags that it’s 25% less sugar their regular pectin product. But for every 6 cups of strawberries, they call for a whopping 4 cups of sugar. And this is the LOW sugar recipe. Their normal recipes actually call for MORE sugar than fruit! In my frustration, I have opted over the past several years to freeze my excess fruit from my trees and use it in my morning smoothies. But I never lost my desire to make a healthy jam. (Those little jars are just so darn cute!)

So you can only imagine my excitement when I discovered Pomona’s Universal Pectin that allows you to make actual “low sugar” or even “no sugar” jam with the proper consistency and that tastes more like fruit than candy!

The secret of their pectin is that it depends on calcium to set the jam, not sugar. So you can make jam with a small amount of sugar, or use honey, fructose, maple syrup, fruit juice concentrate, agave nectar or stevia. Since this was my very first attempt using Pomona, I opted to use organic cane sugar (1 1/2 cups for 8 cups of mashed fruit), about a quarter of what is called for in Sure-Jell’s “low sugar” recipe. I will try to make it with Stevia next time but for now, I will tell you that this strawberry jam came out terrific. It’s light, fresh and tastes like actual fruit! The only problem is that you will want to eat it with a spoon right out of the jar. And, it’s only 12 calories per tablespoon.

Strawberries are in season here in Sonoma and you see them featured in every grocery store. My favorite place to buy strawberries is at Lao Saetern’s strawberry stand about 1 mile east of Sebastopol on highway 12. They are grown without pesticides and are the most delicate tasting strawberries I’ve ever eaten. We went there the other day to buy a flat (12 pints) of strawberries and Lao’s daughter Emily was nice enough to show me the farm. We walked down a long dirt road to find acres and acres of fresh, enormous strawberries—as far as the eye could see. If you are ever in Sebastopol, this stop is a must. Many of the strawberries are picked that hour or even while you wait. And, the prices are very good, especially for pesticide free strawberries.

Use this fresh jam on toast, waffles or pancakes or as a topping for ice cream.


Organic Low Sugar Strawberry Jam and Fruit Topping (makes 9 cups)
8 cups of mashed organic strawberries
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
1 package Pomona’s Universal Pectin (contains pectin and calcium powder)

The following recipe is from the Pomono package:

Before starting, make calcium water:
1. Put 1/2 t white calcium powder and 1/2 cup water in a small, clear jar with lid.
2. Store in refrigerator between uses. Lasts a number of months – discard if settled white powder discolors.
3. Shake well before using.

Instructions for low sugar strawberry jam:
1. Wash and rinse jars; let stand in hot water. Bring lids and rings to boil; turn down heat and let stand in hot water.
2. Prepare strawberries. Remove hulls and stems and mash. (I save the tops and put them in a freezer bag for use in my morning smoothies). Measure 8 cups of mashed strawberries and put into a pan.
3. Add 4 teaspoons of calcium water into the pan and stir well.
4. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix 1 ½ cups of organic sugar with 4 teaspoons of pectin.
5. Bring fruit to boil. Add pectin-sugar mixture; stir vigorously 1 to 2 minutes while cooking to dissolve pectin. Return to boil and remove from heat.
6. Fill jars to 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims clean. Screw on 2 piece lids and put filled jars in boiling water to cover. Boil 10 minutes (add 1 minute more for every 1,000 feet above sea level). Remove from water and let jars cool. As they cool, the seals-lids should be sucked down (you’ll hear them pop). Lasts about 3 weeks once opened.

Per tablespoon of jam: 12 calories, .1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, .1 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates and .3 g of fiber.


poser said...

mmmmmm - that looks good!

please make extra! I'll be down in a few days...!

Joanne said...

8 jars left but you better hurry!

Cloud said...

Definitely trying this with next year's harvest! I too dislike adding what seems like pounds and pounds of sugar to my fresh, organic strawberries. I feel the sugar ruins my harvest.

Amy said...

Thank you very much for posting this! I have a bumper crop of strawberries this year and wanted to make low-sugar or no sugar jam. It's a crime to pour 6 cups of refined sugar on top of such beautiful berries.

Anyway the jam turned out perfect and I plan on making another round before strawberry season is over.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone made it without the sugar altogether? I have sugar sensitive kids and need to find a basic straw. jam recipe without sugar of any kind. I'm also trying to keep it organic and stay away from chemicals so JELL-O is out for us as well. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

I also use Pomona's universal pectin to make a no sugar jam but it does use apple juice concentrate. Not sure if your child can tolerate that. If so, check out the July 2, 2009 post on "How to make organic sugar free apricot jam". Replace 6 cups of mashed apricots with strawberries and reduce 6 teaspoons of pectin powder to 4 teaspoons and reduce 8 teaspoons of calcium water to only 4teaspoons. It will make 8 cups of jam.

Unknown said...

Is it possible to make the jam with agar?

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Hi Joshua,
I've never used agar for jam but judging how it gels when I've tried it in the past for a jello type dessert, I'd think that it might come out too stiff. If you've never used Pomona universal pectin, you should try it. Out of all things I've used for jam and jelly, this is the best.

Kim said...

When you use the pectin with calcium why do you say 1/2tsp of calcium and 4tsp of pectin. It's the same thing right??? Pectin and calcium comes together mixed.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Hi Kim,
The calcium and pectin come in separate packets in the Pomona box. You use the calcium to make calcium water which is mixed with the fruit. The pectin is mixed with the sugar.
I hope this helps,

Kim said...

the pectin I have is mixed with calcium and pectin can I use this and how???

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Did you buy Pomona Universal pectin? Did it come mixed or did you mix it?

Anonymous said...

I made your strawberry jam recipe yesterday and it turned out great. Thanks for sharing it! :)


Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Hi Amber,
Glad it came out great! And you can eat all you want without worrying about OD'ing on sugar!

KootenayBorn said...


I made some honey strawberry jam last year with this pectin, and this year i think im going to try sucanant and then maybe some apple juice concentrate for some too.

I was wondering if you have a generic substitution for the apple juice concentrate for sugar method. I have seen you post alternative recipes, but I am just wondering if there is a general rule. 1/4 of concentrate per 1/2 of sugar, or something along those lines.

I know in the pamphlet is says similar sweetness value so I am assuming there is a general rule for it??

Thanks so much!!

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

I haven't developed a ratio of how much apple juice concentrate would be equivalent to sugar. From a calorie standpoint, a 6 oz can of concentrate is 350 calories. A half cup of sugar is 387 calories. But how we perceive sweetness isn't always proportional to calories.
I've made apricot jam using the "all fruit" method using a ratio of 3 cups of mashed fruit to 1 cup of apple juice concentrate according to the Pomona directions. They don't give a range to use and I've never tried using less or more than the one cup called for. The process is also different since you have to use a blender to combine the juice and the pectin. I much prefer the sugar method (you can use Sucanat) from a taste and simplicity point of view and I always use the smallest amount called for which is 1/2 cup sugar to 4 cups of mashed fruit.
You can see the process for the all fruit method in my post on apricot jam at

Rachat de credit said...

Thanks a lot it is a wonderful help, now to make organic sugar strawberry jam and fruit topping is without a doubt easy with your information. Thank you

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

You are very welcome!

wickedqueenofmean said...

What a wonderful idea. Have you ever used xylitol to make your jams? Its natural not artificial and taste wonderfully like sugar! I can't wait to try this product. Thanks for sharing!

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

No, I've never tried xylitol. Let me know how it turns out.
Good luck!

Tamara Henderson said...

I've never attempted to make my own jam before but this sounds awesome. Did you use the whole flat to get 8 cups of mashed fruit?

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Hi Tamara,
No, I think it took about 6 or 7 pints. It depends on how full the pints are and how much you slice off the top to clean them but the rule of thumb is 1 pint equals about 1.25 to 1.5 cups mashed fruit.

LisaCinFL said...

I just found your site while searching for a sugar-free way to make jam from fresh fruit. It sounds wonderful, but I was wondering if I could replace the raw sugar with fructose. If so, would it be a one-to-one replacement? Thanks so much.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Hi Lisa,
Yes you can substitute fructose for raw sugar. Dry fructose can be substituted one for one. May taste a bit sweeter but since I use the minimum amount of sweetener in the recipe, that's probably ok. If you are using liquid fructose (as in HFCS) you would use 1/2 cup to each 4C of fruit (follow the honey recipe that comes in the package).
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

where do yoou get this pectin? im excited to try this recipe

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Try your local health food store or hardware store in the canning section. Or, go to their website or buy it on amazon

Val said...

You can make jam with no sugar and using apples instead of pectin:
5 tart apples, peeled, cored, chopped
12 cups strawberries, halved, hulled
2 cans (12oz) undiluted fozen unsweetened grape juice concentrate, thawed.
Bring to boil stirring constantly, reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until thickened (45 min). Test for gel stage and can as normal.
I made blueberry jam (10 cups blueberries) last year with the white grape raspberry unsweetened juice and it is amazing.
Good luck

Anonymous said...

Where did you get your jars? They are SUPER cute, and I can't find any like them anywhere!


Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Sorry I'm publishing this so late. I just saw your comment today even though it came in weeks ago.

I bought these cute jars in a local hardware store in San Jose California several years ago. You can find the small ones online on Amazon but they don't have the cute white tops.
Hardware stores are the best place to find canning jars and supplies.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I can use Sure Jell with organic sugar. If not, where can I find Pomona universal pectin? Is the price the same as Sure Jell?

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Sure jell requires much too much sugar, even the low sugar kind.
To find Pomona, try a local health food store or just buy it on the internet. Go to the Pomona website to order. You can even get it on Amazon. When comparing the price, please note that you can use a box of Pomona for several batches where Sure jell is good for just one.
Good luck!

naturalsweetenerstore said...

mmmmmm yummy Strawberry Jam, i like it very much. and the fruit Topping concept too good

buy coconut palm sugar

Anonymous said...

Finally, I found a recipe for what must be sublime strawberry jam! Question: If one does not require the canning procedure to store jam at room temperature, I would think from other research that this jam can go into clean glass jars/metal lids without all the work canning entails. Over the winter, I saved three 18 ounce glass jars for jam-making...guess where the jars came from? legendary fruit preserves!! Please tell me I can fill these room temperature jars with this incredible strawberry jam recipe and refrigerate (three weeks) and/or freeze (up to one year). I look forward to hearing from you with fingers crossed! ~Trish (Green Valley, AZ)

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Hi Trisher,
The recipe I show here requires the canning process, however, the instructions that come with the Pomona jam does show a recipe for freezer jam which lasts in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks. Not sure how long it will last in the freezer.
You can check out their recipes on their website at
Good luck!

Nanny Adventures said...

Where do you find this Pectin? I am located in upstate new york and would love to try this recipe! Have been looking to make jam with less sugar or an alternate sugar, such as coconut sugar.
berries are in season right now

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

It is carried in some health food stores but the easiest way might be to buy it online. It is carried in many online stores such as, Williams-Sonoma, amazon, and others (just google and sources will be shown). Also, if you go to the pomona website, they will tell you how to contact them to find a local store - go to:
Good luck, their product is great!

Unknown said...

Hour many half pint cans per batch? Today was the last day for my local organic strawberry farmer, and I got a great deal. ..42 pints of organic strawberries for $25!! I will be making jam for the year this week.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Hi Annie,
Sounds like you got a wonderful deal on Strawberries! This recipe (with 8 cups of mashed fruit) makes about 9 cups of jam. So if your jars are half pints, it will make 9 of them or 4 1/2 one pint jars.

Unknown said...

Hi Joanne,
thank you for this wonderful recipe,
in our farm we have been making jam with brown sugar, but we would like to use panela instead, which from what i understand is also called sucanat.

Do you know if it preserves the same, once it's been sealed and hot bathed?

We sell our jam locally and would like it to last at least a year..

Thank so much for you reply,
this blog is great. :)
best wishes,

of Shan Ren Farms

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Hi Sarah,
I believe the shelf life is more dependent on the acidity of the fruit, not necessarily the sugar. I make jam with very little sugar and it keeps fine as long as I'm using high acid fruit or lower acid fruit with lemon juice.
I have used sucanat in the past and the only issue I have with it is that it is a bit harder to dissolve. Occasionally I'll open up a jar of jam and bite on a hard crystal. Perhaps you can throw the sugar in a Vitamix first to grind it into finer crystals first. Or at least be sure it is well dissolved in your hot fruit.
Good luck!

Jules said...

Where do you suggest getting the calcium? I'm confused about that part. Thanks!

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Pomona comes with two packets. One is the calcium and the other is the pectin.