Home Cook It Yourself Save Calories AND Money: Make Your Own Jams and Jellies

Save Calories AND Money: Make Your Own Jams and Jellies

by Erika Nicole Kendall

One switch that I was glad that I made was going from jelly to making my own. While jelly within itself is still a minimal amount of calories, there’s no nutritional value to it because of the high fructose corn syrup and, well… the fact that there’s no actual fruit in it. Seriously, I buy grape jelly all the time and it always dawns on me that it doesn’t taste anything like any grape I’ve ever bit into.

Having said that, I set out to buy my own berries and make my own jam. Is it pricier? It depends on your options. I was already buying jelly AND fresh blueberries (my daughter likes them in her cheerios) so for me, I saved money. Make the jam with my blueberries, and give her a small dollop of it in the center of her cereal. Not only that, but because my jam is made of actual food, my body doesn’t hunger for as much of it as I can slather onto the bread like it would with some commercial jams. Win on both counts.

Oh, and to the question of can you use frozen blueberries? This should answer that:

Not only do I use frozen, but I use generic. They were $3 on sale. Total win.

What will you need? Lemon juice, berries of choice, and sugar (). I’ve made blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, apples… you name it, you can probably jam it. If you’re like me, you keep lemon juice in the house anyhow as a base for cooking (hint, hint). A $2 bottle goes a long way. As far as the sugar goes, the more organic, the better – not “sugar-in-the-raw”-organic, but organic as in organic cane sugar. I’m not going to even do this like most recipes, because it’s that simple.

Get yourself a nice saucepan. Not too much larger than your berries – you can see how much/how many I had in my pan. Pour about 1/4th of a cup of lemon juice into your skillet, and let it simmer on moderate heat. Dump your berries – assuming you have about 3-4 cups of berries – into your pot, and let it cook for about a half an hour. Keep checking on it to make sure you’re not frying your berries. Trust me, it’ll taste foul if you do.

You should see the berries juicing themselves – lots of gooey goodness oozing out and creating their own little sauce. Give it a good stir to make sure you’re not burning anything, and start mashing. You can use the back of a wooden spoon, a potato masher, the bottom of a glass, whatever – just start mashing.

You won’t get an even consistency like you might with a jar of jelly bought from the grocery because – remember – there’s no actual fruit in there. It’ll be lumpy. It might even taste tart at first because of the lemon juice, but that’s ok. You still have to add the sugar. Once your berries are good and mashed to your liking, grab your sugar and get to work.

Add the sugar 1/4th of a cup at a time, stirring and tasting after every addition. I don’t like mine too sweet, because it reminds me of “grape” jelly and makes me nauseous, so I never need more than a third of a cup of sugar. Not only that, but knowing what I’m putting in my jelly, I don’t want to have to eat those calories and then be responsible for burning those calories. (This is why picking nice flavorful berries is important. Enjoy the flavor of the fruit – don’t overdo it on the sugar.)

If you’re feeling jazzy, there are a few finishing touches you can add. I dropped a scoop of flaxseed in my raspberry jelly. I took my blackberry jam and made a nice vinaigrette with it. With my apple jam, I added cloves and nutmeg to it. Get yourself a nice jar, and pour your finished jam into it. Give it some time to cool down, then refridgerate it.. and you’re done!

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ChellBellz February 10, 2010 - 12:59 PM

Ready to try this soon. I only have regular sugar though

Erika February 10, 2010 - 1:06 PM

Give it a shot with regular sugar! When you’re ready to take the leap and have it in the budget, take the leap into organic sugar! You get less for the same price of non-organic sugar, but I tend to use less of it. I can’t say if it’s because I’m less of a sugar eater than I used to be, or because of the sugar itself… but it’s definitely worth a try. 🙂

ChellBellz February 25, 2010 - 10:12 PM

So i found some Organic Sugar. I’m going to try the Strawberry Version this weekend. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

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Baybeedaul May 23, 2010 - 8:27 PM

I just did this tonight with strawberries and it is delicious! I used brown sugar. Next time I’ll use a little less sugar, but its really tasty. Thanks so much!

Felice June 6, 2010 - 9:27 PM

Yay!! I found fresh blackberries on sale at a $1 a pack, so I stocked up in hopes of using this recipe for blackberry jam! I made homemade cranberry sauce earlier this year, and ate the leftovers on toast. Hopefully this’ll be just as easy!

Yettipom August 15, 2010 - 9:26 PM

What about using splenda when making the jam? Would that be an alternative or substitute to regular organic sugar. Also how long would this last in the fridge? Can you freeze some of the leftovers for a later date? I am soo excited to try this after my detox cleanse!

Erika August 15, 2010 - 11:15 PM

I’ve written about this before – https://blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com/healthy-eating/no-sugar-then-what-can-i-use/ & https://blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com/what-are-you-eating/the-case-against-diet-soda-and-aspartame-and-splenda-and/

It lasts a few weeks in the fridge, but if you seal your jars it can last all winter. I’ll see if I can squeeze in a post about preserving foods for the winter in jars. 🙂

JoAnna July 25, 2011 - 1:49 AM

I just made six 4oz jars of peach raspberry jam using 1 cup/6oz raspberries, 2 cups of chopped up peaches (roughly 4), juice of 3 limes, 2 pkgs no/low sugar pectin, and just over a cup of sugar. I put one jar in the refrigerator and hot water processed the others. Peaches are $.69/lbs this week so I’m making more jam in 2 days. If I had known it was this easy, I would’ve been doing this YEARS ago! And yes, not nearly as sweet nor as expensive as the mess I was buying from the store.

I wonder if I can add enough spices/citrus to make “bland” mulberries palatable since I have 4 trees loaded with ripe berries adjacent to my property…

TLS July 31, 2011 - 4:08 PM

I just made some. I cannot wait taste it. I love a good PBJ so with my homemade jam/jelly I am sure it will be delicious. I followed your brief instructions explicitly using fresh frozen and thawed strawderries and fresh white peaches. Got 2 jars out of it. I am going to look up some canning/preserving information so I can take advantage of summer’s bounty of peaches, strawberries, and blueberries so I can more of this wholesome goodness all winter. Thanks so much!

Holly August 4, 2011 - 12:24 AM

I made some with strawberries to go along with Erika’s pancake recipe. It was really easy to make and came out great, but I would like to caution everyone to be careful with the sugar! I accidentally added a touch too much. It was still great on the pancakes, but it was too sweet for me to eat on bread. Next time I’ll add sugar in smaller amounts. That being said, my friends loved this batch and took the extra spread home with them to use on their morning toast.

milaxx August 6, 2011 - 6:59 PM

Would stevia work?

Erika Nicole Kendall August 7, 2011 - 9:35 AM

It can, though I think you’d need a TON of it. Not sure.

JoAnna August 7, 2011 - 1:56 PM

Stevia is a good sugar substitute but it has a slight “minty” taste to my tongue. I do the hot water bath canning when I make my jams and use pectin to help them “jell”. There’s no/low sugar pectin, but you need to add apple or grape juice to make the jam. Some chemical reaction btw the pectin and sugar. However, I just use the regular “classic” pectin and cut the sugar in half. Try the same thing with stevia. Good luck!

kimsy October 23, 2011 - 10:47 PM

I made blackberry jam with this, and it came out well. 🙂 I think I may have used too much lemon juice, because it did come out a little thin, but that’s okay with me. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

Erika Nicole Kendall October 24, 2011 - 5:44 AM

You can always try to cook it longer! It isn’t as thick as what you might find in the grocery, but it isn’t water-runny, either.

milaxx December 26, 2011 - 12:29 PM

I know this is a repost, but I’m in a cooking mood. I’m gonna try this. Think I can make orange marmalade like this, or is that a beast of a different color?

Erika Nicole Kendall December 26, 2011 - 12:35 PM

Orange marmalade is absolutely a beast of a different color… at least, to me it is.

I’ve always liked marmalades, though, so maybe I’ll give it a shot and see what happens. I think clementines are in season right now, anyway.

milaxx December 27, 2011 - 12:27 AM

well tomorrow is food prep day and the produce market had some really nice stuff thanks to the holidays. I may give it a shot and see how it comes out.

Amanda July 8, 2012 - 8:19 PM

What kind of jars did you use? Just the regular canning ones?
Also, how much did this make? (So I know how many jars to buy!)


Erika Nicole Kendall July 9, 2012 - 11:29 AM

Regular Bell canning jars, and this made a little over 1 pint of jelly.

El January 8, 2013 - 4:48 PM

I’ve been doing this a lot. You know what’s fantastic? Blackberries, and add in a little orange juice and zest (to taste, I guess?) and basil. I actually mix the basil, orange juice, and the sugar together first to make a basil syrup, and add it to the berries. It’s pretty much the bees knees, and because I rely more on the juice to sweeten it, not boat loads of sugar, the blackberry and basil really come through.

Bill September 21, 2014 - 8:17 PM

Have you tried with Chia as a bonding agent and Honey?

Erika Nicole Kendall September 22, 2014 - 7:00 PM

I’ve tried honey, but not partnered with chia. Honey doesn’t thicken the way you’d hope it would, and while chia might thicken the batch and make it pudding like, I’d want to check out how well it’d hold up in a sealed jar. That’s one of the biggest challenges – making sure that you’re not creating something that might mold quicker than you’re anticipating.

I’m gonna have to write that one on my list! Good question!

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