Microwave berry jam: All the flavor, none of the fuss

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Homemade strawberry jam.

Nice goal; but what does it take to get there?

Canning jars, rings and seals, funnels, paraffin, jar lifters, sterilizing…?

OUCH. The thought of all that gear and all those steps puts a knot in my stomach.

Let’s just cut to the chase here: Berries. Sugar. Lemon juice. A microwave.

And 10 minutes later: jam!

Are you ready to A) Make jam for the first time; or B) Let go of your long-held belief that jam and preserves are best cooked in a pot atop the stove, spooned into clean, sterilized jars, simmered in a water bath, and stored on a dark shelf to be dug out sometime in December, when snow is flying and you want a taste of summer?

If the answer is either A) or B), keep reading.

Now admittedly, jam is NOT difficult to make the traditional way, for those of you who’ve got the gear and mastered the fairly simple steps.

But for those of us without a big pot, a jar rack, tongs, a funnel, and the know-how to figure out what “sheeting off a spoon” is supposed to mean, or where the heck in the supermarket they keep the pectin – this simple simple SIMPLE (and did I say fast?) refrigerator jam is utterly satisfying – both the process, and the product.

Let’s make Microwave Berry Jam.

First, select a microwave-safe bowl. A LARGE microwave-safe bowl. To be safe, the berry mixture shouldn’t fill more than a third of the bowl. You’ll see why in a minute.

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Place the following in your selected bowl:

2 cups (10 ounces) berries, sliced if large
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, to taste
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Stir to combine thoroughly; the berries will release some of their juice.

I’m using strawberries here, and have chopped them fairly fine in a food processor; that’s why they look so juicy. Feel free to leave them in larger chunks, if you like. Most berries (raspberries, blueberries, black raspberries) can be used whole.

Set the bowl on a plate, to catch any potential spill-overs. Place the berries in the microwave, and cook for 5 minutes.

High power? Low power? Sorry, my microwave doesn’t have high and low settings, so I just set it at 5:00. You may have to experiment once to figure out what works best in your microwave.

Remove the bowl from the microwave (it’ll be steamy; watch out), stir the berries, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the microwave (bottom left, above), and stir gently but thoroughly (bottom right).

If the mixture hasn’t become sauce-like and slightly syrupy, cook for an additional 5 minutes. The key is the very slightly syrupy texture you’ll observe; glistening, and just starting to thicken. If the liquid still looks simply watery/juicy, continue to cook in 2-minute increments.

Now, don’t panic – you’re not cooking these berries until they thicken. They’ll still be very pourable (not at all jam-like) after 10 minutes. But trust me, the jam will thicken as it cools.

Stir one more time to combine any liquid, and refrigerate. Chill for several hours (preferably overnight) before serving.

This amount of berries yields 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup jam, depending on how small the berries or how finely you chop them.

Now, for those of you used to simmering up a big pot of preserves, that may not seem like much; in our household, with both of us eating toast and jam every morning, that’s about 5 days’ worth of jam.

But this particular jam is SO easy to make, it’s no problem stirring together another batch (using different berry/fruit combinations) whenever we run out.

Still, can you double the recipe for a larger gathering?

Sure. You’ll need to double the cooking time, as well.

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Now, let’s get back to why it’s important to choose a large enough bowl. That’s about 1/2 cup of jam in the bottom, which is what the berries boiled down to. But look how far up the bowl the liquid reached, as the mixture bubbled in the microwave.

Better to be safe than sorry – no matter what bowl you use, set it on a plate to catch any potential overflow.

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Toast, anyone?

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Berry/fruit combinations are delicious, as well. I tried equal parts mango and strawberry, and it worked fine. Experiment; you’ll soon discover your own favorite fruits, or fruit/berry combinations.

Whatever fruit(s) you choose, weigh out 10 ounces (about 2 cups) of washed, trimmed fruit and/or berries, and go from there.

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Yes, the mango-strawberry was a big hit around the breakfast table.

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As was blueberry.

Speaking of blueberries, fresh ones aren’t always available, and they can be quite pricy. So, can you use frozen berries?

Sure. You’ll probably need to cook them for 15 minutes rather than 10, due to their excess liquid.

Tip: To make a berry or fruit sauce, simply serve the jam hot out of the microwave, rather than waiting for it to chill/thicken. Blueberry sauce is wonderful atop pancakes or waffles.

Finally, can you seal the hot jam in jars and store it at room temperature, as you would jam made the usual way?

Don’t know, and I don’t dare hazard a guess – the pectin, the specific sugar level, the sterilizing – not going there! But veteran jam makers, feel free to add your 2¢ by commenting below; your feedback will inform us all.

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Microwave Berry Jam.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. "Paul from Ohio"

    Are YOU KIDDING ME? That’s all it takes? Somebody here LOVES CHERRY Jam – I’m supposing I can do this same same, but with cherries, right?

    Don’t see why not, Paul – go for it! :) PJH

    Reply
  2. "daisy in nj"

    I’m making strawberry jam today – the old fashioned way, water bath canning and all. But this method sure does look easy and effective for quick, small, on-the-fly batches of jam. Funny how your posts are always so timely! Thanks for teaching this old jammer a new trick.

    One question: when processing jam in the microwave, as long as you use a sufficiently large bowl, are you spared those nasty splatters that can wind up on the roof of the microwave oven?

    All of us “oldsters” can learn new tricks, can’t we Daisy? The REAL trick is remembering them! :) Actually, I didn’t have any issue with splattering; the berries did more of a constant rolling boil than a splattery one, thankfully… Give it a try; I’d guess a paper towel set on top would contain any splatters if they start to happen. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  3. "Linsey Woolsey"

    Thank you for the perfect timing once again! I’ve been wanting to make some jam and learn how to can for a while now, but have been so totally overwhelmed by the process. I’ve been studying freezer jams since they seem to look easier, but now I’m going to try this! Blueberries are in season and starting to be everywhere now, so I guess I’m starting with that… Thank you again!

    I’m betting you’re going to love your blueberry jam. Once you get the process down, experiment with adding a little spice – a touch of cinnamon, for instance. Or combining blueberries and raspberries. Have fun! PJH

    Reply
  4. madeleine

    I can’t wait to try this! Would this work with rhubarb, or with a rhubarb/berry combination?

    I don’t see why not, Madeleine. Since rhubarb is ultra-juicy, you might have to cook it longer, and I think it’ll pretty much dissolve rather than remain in chunks. But that’s what rhubarb usually does anyway. Let us know how it comes out – PJH

    Reply
  5. Colleen

    Just in time since we are getting 5 quarts of strawberries from our CSA today.

    Colleen, give it a try – I think you’ll be surprised how good it is. Especially since you can kind of tweak the sugar to your own taste. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  6. brookbradley1

    Sounds awesome! I’m trying it right now. How long will this keep in the refrigerator?
    It should be just fine for 2 weeks in the fridge, if it lasts that long! ~ MJ

    Reply
  7. Heather

    I make freezer jam and it is way easy too. It tastes so fresh. My family loves strawberry and raspberry. We have a large chest freezer so I’m able to make enough for a whole year.
    Oh, that sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing. ~ MJ

    Reply
  8. CK

    Could this be done on the stovetop instead of the microwave?

    I don’t see why not; simmer gently until the mixture becomes a bit syrupy, then refrigerate. Just watch closely, to make sure it simmers gently and doesn’t burn; that’s why I prefer the microwave, there’s very little chance of scorching. Let us know how it comes out, OK? PJH

    Reply
  9. Mary Ellen/WhiskTogether.wordpress.com

    My favorite of all time is strawberry lemon marmalade. I heat the lemon peel on the stove top with a little bit of water until soft, then add it to the strawberry mixture. Heavenly. Though I did this the old fashioned way, I don’t see why it couldn’t be used in the microwave.
    That does sound heavenly Mary Ellen!~ MJ

    Reply
  10. Maureen

    Can you make with Splenda or a Stevia sugar free replacement?

    Haven’t tested either of those, Maureen, but I’d guess probably you could? I’m just not sure how much of a role the real sugar plays in thickening. Your jam might not be as smooth, but you won’t know till you try it, right? Start with half a recipe (1 cup chopped berries), see how it goes. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
    1. Tony Cruz

      I’m a pharmacist: there is a reason that sugar is used / because it stops growth of any bacteria.. I guess if in 5 days if used refrigerated that it would be just as good but not long term
      Cheers
      Tony
      I can’t wait to make this my question can it be frozen??

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Absolutely…you just get to enjoy it that much longer! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  11. enjhagen

    Sounds wonderful! Local strawberries are the best right now. do you think you could use splenda instead of sugar?

    Hmmm, not sure. I’d hazard an educated guess and say yes, though. Give it a try and let us know how it comes out, OK? PJH

    Reply
  12. Tina

    Guess this wouldn’t work without the microwave, huh? Looks so divinely easy and I would love to try, but we don’t use a microwave in our house. Bummer.

    You can always boil till syrupy in a saucepan over a burner, Tina – just be careful it doesn’t burn (which is why I use the microwave – I’ve burned jam before, and it’s not pretty…) PJH

    Reply
  13. Becki W

    For a sugar free version, maybe you could use Stevia or whatever no calorie sweetener to taste and add unflavored gelatin to thicken. I think it is worth a try.
    Sounds like a pretty reasonable way to go. I’d wager that Splenda probably has a jam recipe on their site, they have some great ideas there. ~ MJ

    Reply
  14. jtee4short

    Fantastic! I can never finish one of those giant containers they put strawberries in nowadays before some of them become unappetizing. Remember when strawberries used to be sold in pints? I haven’t seen them that way in a long time! I gotta get to the store and buy some more strawberries; I’m going to make jam!

    Some of mine -always- go bad, but you’re right. This is a good way to use them up before then!-Jon

    Reply
  15. Mel

    This was my first time making the jam in the microwave. At first I just followed the link from the site and followed the directions. I wasn’t sure it was done. So after a few hours of it being thin (in the fridge) I realized there was a link to the blog. I followed it and used the photos to help judge the cooking time. I reheated it in the microwave, used the photos as a guide, and this morning we had the BEST homemade strawberry-raspberry jam ever. The kids, my husband, and I love it. We cannot wait to try making other flavors. Thanks for the fantastic recipe. A definite keeper.

    I always go by consistency instead of time with microwave recipes! Not all ‘waves are created equal! Glad you were able to fix it and get a jam you and your family love! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  16. Mary Ellen/WhiskTogether.wordpress.com

    For sugar replacement people: when making mine, I replace half of the sugar with Splenda. But I never replace more than that. Stevia seems more potent and would not work with a 1:1 ratio like Splenda. I wouldn’t completely take it out though and replace it – the sugar develops flavor, texture, and performs an important function with fruit: since fruit is mostly water, the sugar draws and binds to the water (since sugar is hygroscopic) – this bind is so tight that it prevents micro-organisms to grow.

    Here is what I did. This was early on when I was first starting food photography, just warning ya ;-)
    http://whisktogether.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/strawberry-lemon-marmalade/

    Mary Ellen: thank you so much for this information! For folks working with sugar replacers, it is so nice to know what works/what doesn’t. I will put this word of caution out there though: bacteria still can be present in jams/jellies even in very low concentrations, so it is best to keep them refrigerated after making them, consuming your jam/jelly within 2-3 weeks from the day it is cooked. Yes, the hygroscopic nature of sugar does prevent them due to the very low moisture level available to the bacteria, but it doesn’t eliminate them. Better to be safe than not! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  17. mjsq1133

    How long will this last in the fridge? I suppose you could stick it in the freezer as well? Thanks :-)

    Given the high-sugar content of jam (as long as you keep the sugar content to what we suggest in the recipe), will give you a refrigerator shelf-life of your jam for 3-4 weeks–but keep it in the fridge! If you properly can the jam, then you can keep it on the shelf for up to a year unopenend (but be sure it’s cool, dry, and out of light). Once you pop the top, then you will want to store the jam/jelly in the fridge and enjoy it within that 3-4 week time frame.If you freeze it, then you will want to enjoy it within 6-8 months. Kim@KAF

    Reply
  18. enjhagen

    I tried this with a mxiture of berries – strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and mostly blueberries. I used a little less than 1/3 cup of Splenda. After the two 5 minute times in the microwave, it still needad a litlle more time. I set it for another 5 minutes, as suggested. It was a little thick after that so I would cut that down to maybe 2-3 minutes. It also has a bit of texture to it…very nice. Bottom line, it tastes great! Can’t wait to use it in morning on my homemade hi-fiber English Muffins (KA sourdough recipe)!
    All the best of summer’s berries all in one. It sounds delightful! ~ MJ

    Reply
  19. Karen_Noll

    I had 16 oz. of strawberries just begging to be used, so I tried this today. Whizzed about half in the mini food processor, sliced the rest, used about 1/2 cup of sugar and slightly more lemon juice than what was specified in the recipe. The jam took more time in the microwave, of course, but after the first 10 minutes, I just kept nuking in small increments until it looked right — kind of like the cranberry sauce I make for Thanksgiving. Essence of strawberry heaven! Now I know why people do this kind of thing. Will definitely be experimenting with some other fruits……I think peach/cinnamon/ginger is calling my name. Thanks, as always, for a great foolproof recipe.

    Yum!

    Karen

    It will always take more time when you cut up the fruit into smaller and smaller bits. As more cell walls get broken down, they release their liquid, thus creating a thinner consistency. Yet, as you found out, with some persistence and patience, you can still cook the jam down until you get the right consistency! That peach creation sounds divine! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  20. Louise Persson

    This recipe is the best!! I’ve made lots of jam over the years, and this is the most flavorful, and easiest, yet. I made strawberry blueberry. Yummmm! Thank you!

    So glad you enjoyed it, Louise – I especially like that you use way less sugar than jam prepared the standard way. It really allows the flavor of the fruit to shine through. Thanks for adding your feedback here – PJH

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Mary – PJ would rather not cook this on the stove but says it can be done. Just watch for scorching. We do not claim to be canning experts but processing as you normally would in a water bath would be the way to go if you want to store your finished product in your pantry. Elisabeth@KAF

  21. Debra

    Been a while since I checked your blog, but funny, yesterday I made strawberry jam/preserves from scratch. I have been experimenting with other sugar alternatives, and I used light rice syrup, which has a different sugar index than sugar, I used one package of pectin and it came out great! Loved your recipe and all the groundwork you do to make it easier on us at home! Keep up the grand work!

    Reply
  22. Donna Jo

    I tried this with a batch of blackberries (which turned out just a tad runny, but still tasty), a batch of peaches (not so runny, but I should have chopped them a little finer, still pretty tasty) and a batch of blueberries (just right).

    Thanks for your recipe and for the reader comments.

    Reply
  23. Jill

    Been reading this with interest. I’ve made loads of small amounts of jam this way, usually with “precious” fruit – blackberries, strawberries, peaches etc. Cooking in UK, some fruits give smaller harvests! Always keeps well without any other effort than a cool dark place. I’ve never used waterbath since college (50 years ago!). Try spicy apple chutney, apples peeled cored & chopped small, sultanas, vinegar & pickiling spices tied up in hankerchief (clean!) or muslin, with brown molasses sugar. Steep overnight in big bowl & then cook on meduim till thick. Any variation on a relish or chutney recipe will do. Rhubarb, tomato, beetroot,etc. Great with cold meats or whatever you fancy. Or, put a dollop in a casserole or stew towards end of cooking. Really lifts flavours.
    Have fun & play with whatever you have!

    Reply
  24. Becka

    My husband planted a fig tree and the first several years the crop was pretty small. I found a great recipe for Spiced Orange Fig Jam made in the microwave which was the perfect solution at the Simply Recipes blog. Elise says her mother makes all kinds of jams in the microwave. It’s great for small amounts of fruit or for small families. Here’s the link if you would like to check it out:

    http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/spicy_fig_orange_microwave_jam/

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks so much, Becka – that jam sounds wonderful. Now I have another recipe to add to my microwave collection! :) PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Debbie, it might have to go a bit longer in the microwave, but I don’t see why not… Good luck! PJH

  25. "Nsc10443@mac.com"

    Oh my Goodness, this Microwave Jam is so=o=o good and so easy. I never did like to make jelly or jam because it always seemed to be such a messy process. Seems like I would have more jelly in my kitchen than in the jars. I have made this 3 times in two weeks. No mess except for one large bowl and my Cuisanart bowl. Last batch I used 5 cups of chopped strawberries and only 1 scant cup sugar with 2 T. lemon juice. It was fantastic with a slice of fresh home baked bread, toasted. I’m just jealous of those of you who have access to fresh cherries. In Louisiana, we seldom get cherries, though we do have wonderful strawberries. Blueberries will be ready soon, though. yummy.

    Reply
  26. Teresa F.

    How terrific! We only eat jam occasionally. But this is a great way to make just a little with the best fruit. I’m guessing it would work for plums, too? I love plum jam! The mango strawberry is a great idea that I will have to try.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Plums should be just fine Teresa. How about a plum ginger for the fall? Mmmmmm ~ MJ

  27. Sam

    I am an experienced old-fashioned type canner. Yes, you can do this the old way, but you will need to increase the sugar to *at least* half the amount of sugar as berries, i.e., 1 cup of sugar to 2 cups of MASHED berries. An equal amount of sugar to berries is a better bet for safety and to guarantee a good set. You do not need pectin. The lemon juice is fine as is, and you can leave out the salt. Cook until it sheets off a spoon and passes the “cold saucer” test.
    http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/jam_without_pectin.html

    Reply

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