Kiwi jam is a special wintertime treat, with a tropical taste to bring smiles during the colder months of the year. While kiwis seem like tropical fruit, they’re actually just grown in warmer temperate regions like California and Italy. Kiwis ripen from October to May, making them the perfect fruit for winter canning.
When I think of kiwi, I think of other fruits like mango, pineapple, and passionfruit. Tropical flavors that come from warm equatorial regions an ocean away. Kiwis are a bit different though, and they don’t have to come from far away places. Standard grocery store kiwis are hardy from zones 7 through 9, which means they can grow in the American west, south and mid-Atlantic region.
There’s also a species of hardy kiwi that we grow right here in Vermont that’s hardy from zones 4 through 8. The fruit are a good bit smaller, but the vines are so vigorous they border on invasive.
In college, I spent 3 months studying in Italy and I was a plant nerd even then. Still, I was surprised when on a long walk through the Italian countryside, I came across kiwi vines growing in fields. Tangling over arbors, I saw hundreds of pounds of fruit dangling just out of reach beyond a fence. I was visiting in the winter months, which is when kiwis ripen, and I made a special point of visiting the farmer’s market that week for the freshest kiwi’s I’d ever tasted.
Regardless of the variety, be it standard kiwis from warmer climates, or hardy kiwis in the Northeast, they’re quite perishable. Preserving kiwis can be tricky, but my favorite way is in a simple homemade kiwi jam.
Kiwi Jam without Added Pectin
While there are plenty of recipes for kiwi jam that include pectin (and astronomical amounts of sugar), neither are really necessary. A tiny bit of lemon juice adds enough pectin to bring this jam together without commercial pectin, and the citrus brings out the tropical flavor notes in the kiwi fruit.
Kiwis are full of natural pectin, and there’s absolutely no need to add storebought powdered pectin to a kiwi jam recipe. Food 52 actually suggests using kiwis as a pectin source for other jams, simply adding a single kiwi to jam recipes to help them gel. They use them to thicken up strawberry jams, since strawberries are naturally low pectin fruits.
“Packed with natural pectin, it will make any jam gel. Kiwi’s flavor is subtle, slightly tart and not at all intrusive. […] Your jam will hold together beautifully, tasting of strawberries and sunshine and nothing more.”
While just adding one to a strawberry jam won’t give you much kiwi flavor, substituting about half the fruit for kiwi will give you a really lovely strawberry kiwi jam. This time though, I’m not thickening other jams, I’m hoping to can up the tasty tropical flavor of kiwi all on its own.
How to Make Kiwi Jam
Start by peeling and coarsely chopping the kiwi fruit. Add sugar and citrus juice, and then bring the pot to a boil on the stove. Mash the kiwis with a potato masher or the back of a spoon until they reach the consistency you like. (It’s fine to leave it chunky if that’s your preference.)
Kiwi jam takes about 10-15 minutes to reach gel stage. You can test for gel stage by placing a spoonful of jam on a plate that’s been in the freezer, or you can use a kitchen thermometer. Gel stage is at 220 degrees F, (or slightly less at high altitudes). If you’re at higher altitude, know that it’s 8 degrees above the boiling point of water at your altitude. If you’re unsure, bring a small pot to a boil and check the temperature with a thermometer, then add 8 degrees to find gel stage where you live.
Once the jam reaches gel stage, it can either be stored in the refrigerator for immediate consumption, freezer for about 6-8 months, or canned for long term shelf stable storage (or gift-giving).
Canning Kiwi Jam
Kiwis have a pH between 3.1 and 3.9, making them a high acid fruit. Anything with a pH below 4.6 is safe for water bath canning without added acidity (or sugar). You could can the whole kiwis (peeled) in water if you wanted to, without any sugar or lemon, though I wouldn’t recommend it for flavor.
This kiwi jam recipe includes lemon juice, both for flavor and added pectin. Lemon juice is high in pectin and will help the jam set. It also brings out the tropical flavor of the kiwis and helps to round out the jam. Lime juice would also be lovely, and I often use it for a unique flavor profile. I add lime instead of lemon to my persimmon jam, which melds surprisingly well with those soft orange fruits.
To water bath can kiwi jam, simply fill canning jars (quarter pint, half-pint or pint), leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Kiwi jam can be thick, so be sure to de-bubble the jars to remove extra air and then adjust headspace as necessary.
Seal the canning jars with 2 part canning lids and process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and leave the jars in there an extra 5 minutes before removing. Thick jams like this kiwi jam can siphon if removed quickly, and the temperature shock going from boiling water to open-air is a major cause of siphoning. I learned this when I was canning apple pie filling, and since then I make sure all my thicker jams stay in the water with the heat off for an extra 5 minutes, and I haven’t had a siphoning issue since.
Once the jars are completely cool, check the seals. Store any unsealed jars in the fridge for immediate consumption, and place sealed jars in the pantry for long term storage. Kiwi jam should maintain quality for 12-18 months if canned, though so long as the jars are sealed, it should be safe to eat for even longer. Refrigerate after opening.
Using Kiwi Jam
Kiwi jam has a really lovely tropical flavor, and it’s a bit like pineapple and banana. True, it’s a seedy jam, but those seeds are so tiny they’re actually like poppy seeds in there, and they actually give it a really unique texture.
My kids love it, just like they also love the other tropical jams we make, like mango jam and guava jam. Try using it to make kiwi crumb bars or substitute it in place of the kiwi curd in these kiwi thumbprint cookies.
Or simply do as we do, and enjoy tropical toast all winter long…while looking out the window at a few feet of snow…
- 4 pounds kiwis, peeled and chopped
- 4 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (or lime juice)
- Peel and chop kiwis, and place them in a deep saucepan with sugar and citrus juice. Jam bubbles during cooking, be sure you have enough headspace to avoid overflows.
- Cook the kiwi jam for about 10-15 minutes, until it reaches gel stage. Test for it on a plate placed in the freezer, or with a kitchen thermometer (220 degrees F).
- Ladle the finished kiwi jam into jars, leaving a small 1/4 inch headspace. De-bubble the jars, adjust headspace and then cap with 2 part lids.
- For a fridge or freezer jam, allow the jars to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator or freezer.
- If canning, process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the jars in the water for an additional 5 minutes before removing them to cool. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator, and place the sealed jars in the pantry. Sealed jars should last 12-18 months without losing quality.
This kiwi jam recipe can be made as a freezer jam or as a recipe for canning. If storing in the freezer, be sure to use straight-sided freezer approved jars. If canning, use only canning approved jars and be sure that you're familiar with the basics of water bath canning.
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More Winter Canning Recipes
Want to keep that canning kitchen going this winter? I have hundreds of canning recipes, but here are a few to get you started:
- Cranberry Sauce (Jellied or Whole Berry)
- Apple Butter
- Pear Jam
- Canning Potatoes (Pressure Canning)
- Canning Turkey (Pressure Canning)
- Canning Bone Broth (Pressure Canning)