Low Sugar Strawberry Vanilla Jam

June 4, 2015(updated on August 30, 2021)

cluster of strawberry vanilla jam

Last Friday, I stopped in to Reading Terminal Market to see Annelies and pick up a few things. While there, I wandered by the Fair Food Farmstand and commented on the gorgeous, fragrant strawberries. In response, the operations manager Anne, offered to sell me a flat of seconds*. Cheap.

berry seconds

I am unable to resist fruit bargains and so ended up walking the eight blocks home hugging a flat of berries. I found that people responded to the berries in much the same way they do when I’ve found myself carrying a new baby through a grocery store. They smile at your parcel and murmur under their breath, “Baby! (Berries!).”

hulled strawberries

I made it home, berries intact, and set my load down near the air conditioner to cool (there was no space in the fridge). There they sat until later that evening. When I finally started disassembling the flat, I discovered that these were true seconds and needed careful culling.

discarded strawberry bits

I put on a podcast and sidled up to the sink. I hulled and sliced, ruthlessly eliminating all the bits that moldy, slimy, or had started to smelly boozy. In the end, I had enough berries for some slow cooker strawberry butter (a batch of this, sweetened with cane sugar instead of maple) and a batch of low sugar strawberry vanilla jam.

strawberry puree in slow cooker

I pureed the berries for the butter and set them up on low in my ancient four quart cooker to reduce overnight. I put the rest of the berries into a large bowl and pummeled them with a potato masher until I had about nine cups of pulp. That went into a eight quart pot with 2 cups of cane sugar and 2 split and scraped vanilla beans.

cooking strawberry jam

Now, had my refrigerator not been packed to the gills, I would have put the sugared berry mash in there and kept it cold overnight. However, there was no space in the inn, so I cheated a little. I brought it to a rolling boil for a couple minutes and then turned off the heat. I covered the pot, shoved it to the back burner, and left it there overnight.

steamy strawberry jam

Food safety experts might ding me for this practice, but the quick boil kills off the worst of the bacteria and the sugar acts as a preservative (plus, it was a relatively cool night. I don’t do this during the true heat of summer).

It was entirely fine when came back to it the next morning, and so I pulled the pot back to my most powerful burner, added 1 tablespoon of calcium water and the juice of 2 small lemons, and brought it back to a boil.

strawberry jam overhead

I boiled the fruit for 25 minutes (or so), until it had reduced by about half, was thickening up a little, and the worst of the foaming had subsided. I stirred 1 tablespoon of Pomona’s Pectin into 1/2 cup cane sugar and whisked it into the jam in a thin, steady stream so that the pectin didn’t clump.

pint of strawberry vanilla jam

Two more minutes of rapid boiling and it was done. The batch made 4 1/2 pints and I processed them in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. The finished is sweet, but the primary flavor is strawberry. It’s a very good one for stirring into plain yogurt because it doesn’t overpower the pleasing tartness of the yogurt.

empty berry boxes

And remember, you can always treat this recipe as a template. You can add different flavors (strawberries with a little cinnamon and nutmeg is always nice). You can also slice the batch in half if 4 1/2 pints of a single flavor is more than you want in your pantry.

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Low Sugar Strawberry Vanilla Jam


  • 9 to 10 cups strawberry pulp
  • 2 1/2 cups cane sugar divided
  • 2 vanilla beans split and scraped
  • 2 small lemons juiced
  • 1 tablespoon calcium water
  • 1 tablespoon Pomona's Pectin


  • Prepare a boiling water bath canner and enough jars to hold 4 1/2 pints.
  • In a low, wide, non-reactive pot, combine the berry pulp, 2 cups sugar, vanilla bean seeds and pods, lemon juice, and calcium water.
  • Set pot over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook at a vigorous boil for 20 to 25 minutes, until the volume has reduced by approximately half and the foaming has subsided.
  • Stir pectin into the remaining sugar and stream it into the cooking jar, using a whisk to stir to help prevent clumps.
  • Return the contents of the pot to an active boil and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
  • Funnel the jam into the prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

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65 thoughts on "Low Sugar Strawberry Vanilla Jam"

    1. Me too! There’s no such thing where I live. Even U-Pick is $3.75 a quart!! Expensive, but really tasty. I love the idea of the combination of strawberry/vanilla jam. Such a shame, I’ve never actually made real jam before! Will have to make this with my girlies. And I better get to the store to get a real vanilla bean. Love those!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing =)

    1. It is part of the pomona’s pectin system. When you buy a box, it comes with two packets. The smaller one contains calcium powder. You mix it with water to make the calcium water. It is necessary for the pectin to work.

      1. I had the same question….Interesting…I haven’t seen Pomona’s pectin in Canada…I’ve only used pectin once and it was liquid. I’ll have to see what’s available here.

  • Why do you cook your berries for 20 to 25 minutes? The Pomona’s package does not say to boil your berries for that long.

    1. I don’t like the outcome of the jam when you follow the pomona’s pectin instructions. In my opinion, this technique leads to a better outcome.

      1. Just made strawberry jam with Pomona’s last night. I like that you reduce it by half! Too much foam to skim using Pomona’s directions. Picked more berries today, will use your technique tonight. Thanks!

  • Ooh, I’d love some strawberry seconds, but I don’t think I need a whole flat this year. Do you think she’d sell smaller quantities?

  • Vanilla beans are too expensive for me right now ! But I do have some good quality vanilla extract. Can I substitute ? How much vanilla extract?
    And cane sugar, can I replace that with plain old granulated sugar?

    1. If you have a trader joe’s or Costco near you, that’s the best deal for vanilla beans. Grocery stores like Safeway charges $11 for one bean! I do t remember the exact price at Trader Joes but I know I got 2 beans for under $5.

    2. If you go to Amazon.com you can get a steal on vanilla beans! I got about 43 last summer for around $20. If you cant use that many then maybe you know some people that can go in on the deal with you.

  • Looks lovely, and I’m happy to see you’re using Pomona Pectin! I want to start using that exclusively. Can you tell me, does this have a softer set that jam made with other commercial pectins?

  • Lovely jam with beautiful color. I wonder about the head space you are leaving in your jars? Don’t you need a 1/4″ In order to allow the needed vacuum to get a good seal?

    1. Unfortunately not. Vanilla extract is alcohol based and so the flavor boils right out. Vanilla paste is the only adequate substitute.

  • so i just made this and my jam separated. i read some where to flip the jars an hour after removing them from the water canner; the fruit and the “juice” will mix. Does that sound okay to you? Any recommendations for avoiding the jam fruit separation? THANKS

    1. It’s fine to flip them, but if you leave them like that for too long, the jam will settle up again the lid and often stays that way, which is a visual bummer. It’s better to gently shake the jars as they cool.

      1. I made it again and let it cook longer…no separation!! Prettiest jam ever; not to mention tasty:)

  • Looks divine. I’ve only made strawberry jam once, usually when I get a zillion cheap strawbs I freeze them to make sorbet or coulis later in the year. Which reminds me, I have a bag in the freezer leftover 🙂

  • I noticed that you have different sizes of jars in your photos. Is it okay to put 4 oz. and 8 oz. jars in the canner at the same time?

    1. Faith – this shouldn’t be a problem. I do it all the time with a hot water bath canning process. Just so long as there’s 1+ inch of water over the tallest jar.

  • I am wondering about the strawberry butter. You said you put the berries in your slow cooker on low overnight but you never went back to it. Is there a recipe for the strawberry butter somewhere else on your site?
    Also, I have a general question. I have your book “Preserving by the Pint” and I love it. However there are lots of recipes in other books I have that I would like to try (mostly for jams and jellies). However, they make large batches. I know you can’t double a recipe, but can you halve one? If so, would you need to make any other adjustments to the recipe?

  • Marisa, what’s the best way to freeze the berries if you can’t cook them down right away? With or without sugar syrup?

    1. If you’re just going to freeze them for a short time, doing it without sugar is fine. But if you’re not going to get to them for a month or two, sugaring them is going to lead to a much higher quality berry. I tend to use about 1/2 cup of sugar per quart of berries.

      1. Marissa,

        Won’t sugaring the berries draw out moisture and make them even mushier when thawed? I freeze them whole on a sheet pan and need to freeze about 20 more quarts. Ut’s embarrassing how many berries we have this year. Delicious, but embarrassing.

  • I bought a bunch of super-ripe berries yesterday from a farm stand in New Jersey and made a batch of Strawberry Vanilla jam. It hasn’t firmed up yet, it’s quite liquidy – do you think the berries were too ripe? They seemed to release a lot of liquid after I mixed them with the sugar. I made the same recipe last weekend with great results. Thanks!

    1. It could be that they were too ripe. It’s also possible that they were picked just after the recent rain, which can increase the water content and make it harder to get the berries to set up. Still, give it a little more time. Jam sometimes takes up to a week to fully set up.

      1. Thanks! It’s absolutely delicious either way – if it doesn’t set, I have some fabulous strawberry vanilla sauce.

  • I made the small batch Strawberry Vanilla jam last night; my 1st attempt @ canning. Marvelous experience!
    I used very ripe berries and actually they set fine. Maybe a little too much. Its a little thick which isn’t a bad thing. Great on toast. Is this from overcooking?

  • I’m going strawberry picking this weekend. How much do I need in order to get the amount of pulp needed for this recipe?

    1. Four to five pounds should more than do it. But like I said, I didn’t measure by weight or quart, so I can’t offer more detail than that.

  • Thank you for this recipe. I’ve made two batches this year and it’s just delicious. I made a second batch for gifts, but I’m already considering just hording it (not really, but also yes I am)

  • If I were to use a low sugar powdered pectin instead of Pomona’s (its what I have on hand), would the quantity be the same, and just leave out the calcium water, or am I better off finding a recipe that specifically calls for low sugar pectin? Thank you!

  • This is an insanely good recipe! Made it last night and it’s an instant must make during canning season recipe.

  • I made your jam yesterday and it turned out nicely . If I make it again I will cook the jam for about 15 instead of the 20 minutes , because I like my jam more runny. Thank you for the delicious recipe and all the good tips.

  • Since this recipe uses Pomona’s, is it an exception to the “never double” rule? 4 half pints didn’t last me last year, it ‘s so good!

    1. Pomona’s does give you more wiggle room as far as doubling goes, though I always find that the quality of the finished jam is better when I cook multiple smaller batches rather than one large batch.

  • Hi! If I made this in a small batch like your small batch strawberry vanilla jam, could I omit the pectin and have an okay set? I don’t have Pomona’s and would love to make some jam soon that is low sugar.

  • I made this today just as written and it may be the best jam I’ve made yet! It made exactly 4 1/2 pints. Considering a county fair entry…

    Thank you Marisa!

  • Do you think the sugar to berry ratio here would more or less work for other berries as well? This strawberry jam turned out dynamite and I’m looking to recreate the magic with blackberries or blueberries. (I don’t see low sugar recipes for either those on your site, so forgive me if I’ve overlooked one already existing)

  • Hi, I have the same question as Sara K. –
    I have powdered low-sugar pectin (e.g., Ball Realfruit Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin); can this be used instead of Pamona’s? Would the amount be the same, or would it need to be a little more to account for not using calcium water?

    Thank you!

    1. I haven’t tested this recipe with any other pectin, so I really can’t speak to how it would work with a different product. You would need far more pectin, as Pomona’s is far more concentrated.