Blueberry jam is bursting with berry flavor, and it’s easy to make at home (no pectin required).
There’s no quicker way to bottle up summer in a jar than a quick and easy homemade blueberry jam. The whole process takes just 30 minutes start to finish, and comes together with just three simple ingredients.
Every year I pack my freezer with homegrown blueberries, and once it’s bursting to the brim, we pack away flats of blueberry jam into our pantry. Though this recipe for blueberry jam is perfect for canning, it also works well as a small batch refrigerator or freezer jam.
Blueberries are generally considered a “low pectin fruit” and most blueberry jam recipes add boxed or liquid pectin. Though I’ve made blueberry jam with pectin in the past, the amount of sugar required is astronomical when using traditional pectin. Low sugar pectin is an option, but I’m never entirely happy with the consistency. Most of the time it comes out more like jello in a jar rather than a smooth homemade blueberry jam.
But is added commercial pectin really necessary? Couldn’t I boost the pectin already present in blueberries by adding a bit of high pectin lemon juice instead?
The answer? Yes!
Making blueberry jam is incredibly simple, and you can easily make it with or without pectin. I’m going to take you through both processes, which are very similar, and let you choose how you’ll make your own blueberry preserves.
How to Make Blueberry Jam
Making blueberry jam is pretty straightforward, especially if you’ve made other jams in the past.
Pick over the blueberries, removing any stems, leaves, and debris. Make sure the fruit is ripe, and that you don’t have any green berries (or overripe moldy berries). Good blueberry jam starts with high-quality fruit, so don’t skimp.
Add the blueberries to a pot, along with the lemon juice, and cook over low heat until the blueberries begin to pop and release their juices. Starting slow is important since there’s minimal liquid in the pot early on and you don’t want the fruit to scorch.
Within a few minutes, the blueberries will be releasing juice and you can turn the heat up to medium-high, gently mashing the berries to encourage them to fall apart a bit. After about 5-8 minutes you should have a blueberry soup, and you’re ready to add sugar.
Add the sugar and continue to cook the blueberry jam until it reaches gel stage. With my blueberries, this took about 20 minutes (total start to finish) at medium-high heat.
Test for gel stage on a plate that’s been placed in the freezer. The jam should gel quickly as it comes in contact with the cold plate. You can also use an instant-read thermometer to test for gel stage (220 F at sea level). If you’re above sea level, the finish temperature of jam drops by 1 degree for every 500 feet in elevation. (For example, I’m at 1000 feet in elevation so I finish my jams at 218 F.
You may need to turn the heat down towards the end to prevent scorching, but be sure to continue to cook until the jam thickens into a smooth spreadable blueberry jam.
Troubleshooting Blueberry Jam
Did something go wrong when you were making blueberry jam? Here are a few reasons why:
- Jam Didn’t Thicken ~ If your blueberry jam didn’t gel, there’s a number of things that could be at play. In pectin based recipes, be sure you’ve added enough sugar for traditional pectin or that you’ve followed the directions to the letter (adding sugar in the wrong order will result in syrup rather than jam). For the no pectin variation, be sure that you added lemon juice to boost the pectin content and then be patient when you’re cooking. Continue cooking the jam until it’s thickened, even if you need to turn down the temperature towards the end to prevent scorching.
- Jam is Bitter ~ Depending on the variety, blueberry skins can sometimes be bitter. Try making blueberry jelly instead, or choose very ripe fruit. Also, be sure you’ve avoided adding lemon pith if you’re using fresh lemon juice. Burned jam can also be bitter, so stir frequently and watch for scorching.
- Jam is Sour ~ Try adding more sugar if you’re using a low sugar recipe. Otherwise, be sure your fruit is completely ripe and that you haven’t included any green fruit.
Canning Blueberry Jam
While you can make blueberry jam as a simple freezer jam, or just place the jars in the refrigerator, canning blueberry jam is incredibly simple.
We live in a solar-powered home here in Vermont, so I always try to conserve limited freezer space by canning whatever I’m able. Blueberry jam cans up beautifully in just minutes in a water bath canner and then you’ll have a shelf-stable jam just waiting in your pantry.
To can blueberry jam at home, simply prepare a water bath canner before you start making your jam. Prepare the jam as usual, but then fill clean canning jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
Seal with 2 part canning lids and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the canner for an additional 5 minutes before removing them to cool on a towel on the counter. (This extra 5 minutes is important to prevent siphoning from the rapid temperature change, which I learned all too well when canning apple pie filling.)
Once cool, check seals and store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator for immediate use. Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry, and should maintain quality for 12-18 months.
More Ways to Use Blueberries
Homemade blueberry jam is amazing, but when you’ve really got a bumper crop, try these other easy ways to preserve blueberries:
- Freezing Blueberries
- Canning Whole Blueberries
- Canning Blueberry Pie Filling
- Dehydrating Blueberries
This simple blueberry jam is easy to make at home with just 3 ingredients, no pectin required!
- 4 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 2 cups cane sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
- Place blueberries and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed jam pot and gently bring to a simmer over low heat. Mash the blueberries to help them release their juices.
- Once the blueberries have released their juices, increase heat to medium-high, and add sugar.
- Cook the jam until it reaches gel stage, about 20 minutes. Test for gelling on a plate that's been in the freezer, or use an instant-read thermometer (220 degrees F at sea level).
- Pour finished jam into prepared jars, seal with 2 part lids. Store in the refrigerator or water bath can for a shelf-stable blueberry jam.
Canning Instructions (Optional)
To can the blueberry jam, fill clean canning jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal with 2 part lids and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow the jars to set in the canner for an additional 5 minutes (prevents siphoning) before removing them to cool on a towel on the counter.
Check seals after 24 hours and store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator for immediate use. Sealed jars should maintain quality in the pantry for 12-18 months.
Feel free to reduce the sugar by half (to 1 cup), but know that it will mean a lower total yield and longer cook time. Cane sugar gels the easiest, but honey or maple will also work.
Blueberries are acidic enough to can without lemon juice, and it's added for both flavor and added pectin. Canned or fresh lemon juice will both work.
Canning is optional, but the jam must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer if it's not properly water bath canned. Refrigerate after opening either way.
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