Homesteading Skills: Old-Fashioned Cherry Jam Recipe

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Preserve the bounty of summer fruit for your homestead with this low-sugar, pectin-free cherry jam recipe!

I love cherry season! I have so many fond memories of spending hours up in the cherry trees as a kid – eating until we were full, then coming back and eating more later that day! Cherry jam is a delicious, sweet-tart way to preserve the precious harvest, which typically only lasts a few weeks every summer. However, many modern recipes contain loads of sugar, which we all know isn’t that good for us. This low-sugar no-pectin cherry jam recipe uses traditional (but safe) canning techniques to preserve all the flavor of your delicious cherries without being overwhelmed by tons of sugar.

This old-fashioned method utilizes a longer cook time to help thicken the jam, rather than relying on added pectin. This means that your cooking time will vary depending on the type of cherries you are using, how juicy and fresh they are, etc.. If your jam isn’t gelling when you try the gel test (Step 4 below), don’t worry – just continue to cook it longer until it does – it will get there eventually! You don’t have to go super-thick with it. Just stop when it gets to the consistency you like on a chilled spoon (remember it will thicken as it cools).

This version calls for sweet cherries, but you can easily substitute sour. You may want to add a bit more sugar if using sour cherries, and they may take slightly longer to thicken up.

Old-Fashioned Low-Sugar Cherry Jam Recipe Without Pectin

Time: About 1 hour
Yield: About 3 pints/6 cups


  • 5 cups sweet cherries, pitted and chopped (you can use sour cherries instead if you have them)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups sugar (depending on how sweet your cherries are and your preference)
  • 5 tablespoons lemon juice (you can reduce this by half if using sour cherries)


  1. Wash, remove stems, and pit cherries. A cherry pitter is highly advised to make this faster and easier! An olive pitter will also work.
  2. Roughly chop up cherries. Place chopped cherries in a large stock pot. Add 1/2 cup water to cherries. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll see the cherries begin to break down and thicken.
  3. Stir in sugar and lemon juice, mixing well. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Sugar will scorch quickly if not kept moving. Boil, uncovered, till thick, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into hot sterilized jars.
  4. Note: It’s set when it sticks to the back of a chilled metal spoon. This is called sheeting. Look at the jam dripping off the edge of the spoon. It should slowly start coming off like a “sheet” of jam, not a bunch of individual drops. Cherry jam is not meant to be extremely thick. It’s a thinner jam, excellent on pancakes, waffles, toast, etc.
  5. Wipe rims with a damp towel, put on lids and bands. Submerge in hot water bath and process for 15 minutes. Take off of heat and let sit for 5 minutes before moving to a folded towel. Let sit for at least 12 hours before checking seals on jars. Then store in a cool dark place for up to a year. If any jars didn’t set, store in fridge and use within a few weeks.
  6. Make 3 pints or 6 jelly jars.
Recipe Source: MelissaKNorris.com



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