The Best Way to Make Jam Is Also the Fastest and Easiest

updated Aug 23, 2019
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Credit: Peter Colin Murray/Kitchn

Here’s an irony: All the best fruit for making jam comes into season at the very moment you can’t imagine standing over a hot stove. And jam-making can often involve hours in front of the stove. To beat the heat, many a hard-core jam maker will rise early or stay up until the wee hours.

So what’s a casual jam-maker — one who needs to be bright and fresh for work in the morning — to do? Make small batches! 

Use the formula below to make a small batch of jam with 1 1/2 pounds of fruit. For reference, here's what 1 pound of peaches looks like. Not a lot, and it's easy and quick to cut up.

Small batches have a multitude of benefits. You only need about 1 1/2 pounds of fruit to get started, so it takes no time to prep. You can break up the work, letting the fruit and sugar macerate for up to 48 hours before you cook the jam. And if you cook it down in a low, wide skillet or frying pan, it’s done in a blink. And, because the yield is so small, there’s no need to mess around with pots of boiling water. These batches can go straight to the fridge, since you’ll eat it all in a matter of weeks anyway. 

An Easy Formula for Small-Batch Jam with Any Fruit

I suggest you commit this formula to memory:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of fruit
  • 12 ounces of sugar or honey
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Once you have it by heart, you’ll be able to make fresh jam at any time of the year, with either fresh or frozen fruit, no recipe needed. And trust me: This skill will make you the undisputed star of your next family vacation.

Equipment for a Small Batch of Jam

In addition to those ingredients, you just need a bowl, a scale, a stainless frying pan or skillet (something in the neighborhood of 12 inches works best), and a sturdy heatproof spoon or spatula. (If you’re working with deeply colored fruit, don’t use your favorite wooden spoon, because it will be stained forever.)

How to Cook a Small Batch of Fruit Jam

Start by measuring out your fruit. Rinse, hull, pit, peel and chop as necessary, then mix with the sweetener. I do this by putting the prepped fruit in a bowl, setting it on my scale, and then measuring the sugar or honey directly into the fruit by weight. It makes for less waste.

Give it a good stir and let it sit until the fruit is nice and juicy. Then pour the mixture into your frying pan and turn the heat up to high. The goal is to bring it to a boil as quickly as possible. The low, wide shape of the pan helps water to cook out of the fruit more quickly, and if you stir regularly, you’ll be left with gorgeous, spreadable jam in just about 15 minutes of cooking.

How Do You Know the Jam Is Done?

You know it’s done when you can pull the spoon through the jam and the space you’ve cleared doesn’t fill up immediately. So easy! And all in under 30 minutes. All that’s left is to snap a picture for Instagram and bragging rights.

How to Store a Small Batch of Jam

When you’re done with your jam you can either simply refrigerate it for several weeks or can it for shelf-stable storage, using these instructions:

Credit: Peter Colin Murray/Kitchn

Get the Recipe for Small Batch Plum Jam

Ready to get started? Try making a small batch of spiced plum jam with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

More Small Batch Recipes to Try

Once you feel comfortable with the basics of fruit jam, start experimenting with spices to add interest and depth to your tiny batches. Try adding a few drops of vanilla extract, a bit of cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne for heat, a cardamom pod, or even a drizzle of liqueur at the end. All those flavors pair well with various fruits, and add interest. Or try one of these other small batch recipes.

Plus… the Best Biscuits for Your Jam)

And once you have that jam in hand, well, it’s time to make biscuits!

(Image Credit: Peter Colin Murray/Kitchn)

Weeknight Preserving is your beginner’s guide to preserving the best of the season even if you have a small kitchen or a couple hours on a weeknight. We asked Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars for a true beginner’s guide to preserving, from pickles to jams to freezing to fermenting. You (yes you!) can make a pickle or a jam to be proud of this summer. Share your preserving triumphs with us by tagging #thekitchn on Instagram.

Wondering what to do with the pickles you’ve made? Check out Marisa’s latest book, The Food in Jars Kitchen. It contains over 100 recipes to help you cook, bake, transform, and share your homemade preserves!

Follow Marisa on Facebook, Instagram, and by visiting her website Food in Jars.