Sugar-Free Cherry Blueberry Jam

Sugar-Free Cherry Blueberry Jam

Is there really such a thing as “sugar-free” jam? With all the sugar in the fruit itself, it’s technically impossible. But you can make jam without refined sugar. All you need is fruit, fruit juice concentrate, and pectin that’s specially made for no- or low-sugar preserves, like Pomona’s. (You can also make jam with honey or a variety of other alternative sweeteners. One good resource to explore is the book Canning and Preserving Without Sugar, by Norma MacRae.)

Last week, a question about the benefits of making no-sugar-added jam arose on the Facebook page for Food in Jars. Someone wisely asked:

Isn’t refined sugar and concentrated fruit juice just about the same calorie-wise and the impact on your metabolism about the same? The sugars in concentrated fruit juice are just as potent as white sugar I would think.

I don’t have a perfect answer:

I’ve been asking myself the same question, even as I experiment with making jams without refined sugar. I see a lot of sources that say fruit juices are okay for diabetic folks as long as they are carefully monitored in an overall tally of carbs. I also know many people who are sugar-free (because they’re diabetic, pre-diabetic, or otherwise) who say they’re okay with moderate amounts of a jam that’s only fruit-juice sweetened, so I’m trying to do this for them. Still, it seems like a lot of it comes down to how much of any type of jam you eat.

If you’re interested — for any reason — in making a jam without refined sugar, I think this is a nice one. The flavor of the fruit is clear and the lemon zest gives it a nice pop. Sometimes boxed pectin does odd things to a jam’s set — making it overly firm or gelatinous — but I didn’t find that to be true here. (Blueberries seem to be very versatile and forgiving in a sugar-free setting.) True, it’s not the luscious, glossy texture you’ll get from a fully sugared preserve, but sugar-free jams shouldn’t be compared with their high-society cousins. This down-to-earth little jam knows its place and feels just fine about it.

Sugar-Free Cherry Blueberry Jam

Sugar-Free Cherry Blueberry Jam

2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and mashed (about  1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup blueberries, mashed (about 12 ounces)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 scant teaspoon Splenda (optional)
1 cup apple juice concentrate
4 teaspoons Pomona’s calcium water*
3 teaspoons Pomona’s pectin powder

* The calcium is in the Pomona’s box with the pectin powder, along with instructions about how to prepare the calcium water; it’s easy. I mix mine in advance and store it in the fridge for a few months.

1. Sterilize your jars.

2. Mash the cherries and blueberries and put them in a 6- or 8-quart nonreactive, heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, Splenda (if desired), and calcium water. (Don’t add the apple juice concentrate yet!)

3. Put the concentrated apple juice in a little saucepan and bring it to a boil. Transfer the boiling juice to a blender or VitaMix and add the pectin powder. Vent the lid and blend the pectin mixture for 1-2 minutes to thoroughly dissolve the powder.

4. Bring the fruit mixture to a boil, add the pectin solution, and cook, stirring constantly, for exactly 1 minute. Bring the mixture back to a boil and then remove it from the heat.

5. Allow the jam to cool 5-8 minutes, occasionally giving it a gentle stir. This step is important; it will minimize “fruit float” — that is, the annoying tendency for the fruit solids to separate from the liquid and float to the top of the jar during processing.

6. Pour the jam into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the rims clean before adding lids, and process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Makes 4 half-pint jars

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9 comments to Sugar-Free Cherry Blueberry Jam

  • Who can argue with blueberries and cherries? Not I, said the mouse. I mean me.

    • Shae

      Cluck, cluck! Said the little red hen. She probably said blueberries and cherries are awesome together, too.

  • That sounds really good, and I’d definitely like to make some low or no sugar jams! I’ve not used boxed pectin for the last several batches and while the cooking time is definitely increased, it’s nice not to have to slice my jam – ha!

    • Shae

      Elizabeth, I know what you mean. Both methods have their virtues, but I do like the flexibility that no-added-pectin jams allow. We can cut the sugar down a fair bit without having to turn to boxed pectin, but if we want to go all the way to fruit juice, Pomona’s is a good option.

  • Have you ever used the Pomona’s for jelly? Did you notice it made the jelly cloudy?

  • Shae

    Hi Ellen: I’ll confess, I’ve used Pomona’s for jelly only twice, and I let it go for exactly the reason you ask about. I found I got a rather heavy, cloudy set. If I want to make a low-sugar jelly, I usually use Sure-Jell. (For a regular-sugar jelly, I’ll usually make one without boxed pectin, using apples or quince.) The Sure-Jell set is a bit Jello-y, but I’ve also found it to be reliable and relatively clear. Take this all with a grain of salt (or sugar?) tho, because I make mostly jams and marmalades — not as much experience with pure jellies.

  • Glenn Gill

    re: different sugars

    You raised the question of why fruit juice would be better than refined sugar. Here’s the answer.

    There’s something called the Glycemic Index, which is a rating of how fast your gut can convert what you eat into blood sugar. Some foods process quickly, others less so. Different sugars have different Glycemic Index ratings. Processed sugars have been ‘cracked’ a bit in processing, and therefore digest quicker. If you’re a diabetic, or just trying to avoid a sugar rush, it’s better to work with fructose, which takes your digestive system a tad longer to crunch into blood sugar, and is therefore more manageable.

    To my understanding the sugars all have the roughly the same calorie content. The difference is whether those calories hit you in a massed charge, or in a steady flow. Same idea with whole wheat flour vs. white (bleached) flour. The more processed the carb is, the faster it slams into your bloodstream. For those of us who have to manage our blood sugar using our noggin instead of a pancreas, it’s a matter of controlling not just how much you eat, but also what you eat.

    • Shae

      Thanks for this contribution, Glenn. I’ve read some mixed opinions on the glycemic index, but what you say makes good sense to me.

  • [...] made within, say, six months. (I’ve posted a couple of recipes like this in the past: cherry blueberry jam and pear lemon [...]