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May 18, 2010 12:48 PM

How much sugar do you use in jam making?

I've made jam a few times using recipes from the USDA website, but they don't give recipes for all the fruits that are out there. Different fruits require different amounts of sugar. How do I figure out how much sugar to use if I don't have a recipe for a particular fruit? Any general rules of thumb? Or any book or resource I can refer to? I like making jams without adding pectin.

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  1. One place to begin is the Ball Canning website (or their book). They have a lot of instructions and a lot of recipes.

    There are also a lot of canning-knowledgeable posters on this board. Hopefully someone will be able to help you out with some specifics.

    8 Replies
    1. re: LNG212

      There are a lot of loquat trees in my area and they are all fruiting right now. When they turn ripe, I want to harvest them for a jam. How much sugar would I need to use? I'd like to make it without adding pectin. (If possible, I'd like to use the minimal amount of sugar necessary to make it gel and preserve it. Sometimes, jams can be too sweet, and you don't even taste the fruit anymore.)

      1. re: michaelnrdx

        The rule of thumb used to be pound for pound, i.e. equivalent weights of sugar and fruit. According to Wikipedia, loquats are similar in sugar, acid, and pectin content to apples, so that's where I'd start -- take a look at recipes for apple jelly or jam and see where you go from there.

        Good luck! :)

        1. re: michaelnrdx

          If you want to make jam without added pectin, be sure to include some underripe loquats, for they have more pectin than the perfectly ripe fruits. But you will need a fairly high proportion of sugar if you want to depend on the fruit's own natural pectin.

          1. re: janniecooks

            Don't jams with added pectin usually have more added sugar? On Alton Brown's Good Eats, he made jam with added pectin and used a large amount of sugar, so he wouldn't need to reduce the jam. It seems that, in recipes with added pectin, you add a large amount of sugar, so you achieve the 65-66% sugar concentration quickly without much reduction.

            1. re: michaelnrdx

              There are no-sugar necessary and low-sugar pectins available. When using these you can drastically reduce the sugar. I did a peach jam last year for my mother who is diabetic. I used Pomona and did not use any sugar at all. My mother loved it.

              1. re: LNG212

                I'd rather not use any pectin at all. I'm sort of a purist in that I feel that I'm cheating by using pectin. A jam without added pectin only gels successfully if you've used the right fruit and achieve the right sugar concentration by reducing it properly. It's an art, and adding pectin takes the subtlety out of it. I don't mind adding sugar to jam. I just want to add the minimal amount necessary for the jam to gel and preserve.

                1. re: michaelnrdx

                  When my loquats ripened, I found this site with recipes, one for jelly with pectin and one without pectin. The jam recipe on the site does not call for pectin, might work for you:


                  good luck, and let us know how your jam comes out.

                  1. re: michaelnrdx

                    In order for jams and jellies to set they must have pectin. Some fruits are more abundant in the natural pectin they contain and under ripe fruits have more than ripe fruits. If you search "home made pectin" you'll find lots of recipes for making your own from pectin rich fruits such as apples. Using pectin is absolutely not cheating. You're using it whether you're adding it or not. Some of the advantages to using it are not over cooking the fruit to reach gel set, thus preserving more of the fresh fruit taste, and using less sugar, also preserving the fresh fruit taste and being marginally better for you.
                    Personally, I'm a huge fan of low/no sugar pectin because it requires minimal cooking (far less than regular or no added pectin), I can add just the amount of sweetener to suit my taste, and I can play with types of sweetener, (honey, white,brown, maple). It is very flexible and allows me to play with all kinds of tweaks and additions that I might not be able to using regular or no added pectin. My goal is to let the fruit shine and too much sugar or too long a cooking time diminishes that.

        2. A lot more than I'd like to, is my answer. The amounts are crazy, I'd like to know how much I can cut back, or maybe add alcohol or something different, instead of 6 or 8 cups of sugar per small batch.

          2 Replies
          1. re: coll

            You can cut WAY back if you use (added) pectin, but otherwise it just won't set properly without all that sugar.

            1. re: MikeG

              Great, I have some so will have to experiment.

          2. I use pound for pound and only reduce if the fruit is really sweet.

            1. You can always cook the fruit down a lot more, which will give you a fruit butter (which of course does not contain butter), or close to it. At the moment I am overloaded with dried apricots and am thinking of making apricot butter. The Simon Fischer brand, which I enjoyed in NY, doesn't seem to be sold in MA. Pectin isn't an issue with fruit butter.

              Since there's a world of difference between the sweetness of barely to very ripe fruit, I'd err on the side of caution and do a lot of sampling while your jam cooks.

              1. About 50-50 (by weight) is a good place to start.

                In order for jam to be jam and preserve properly, the final product needs to be about 66 percent sugar by weight, so it's often a lot more than you would expect. Reducing the sugar may taste okay, but won't keep the same way jam does.

                2 Replies
                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                  I made jam for the first time last Fall. I am type 2 diabetic and tired of paying high prices for sugar free jam. I used Pomona Pectin to make the jam jell and used no sugar. I alternated between using no sugar at all and an artificial sweetener (Splenda). The consistency of the finished jam is well, not jam like, just concentrated fruit! It really does allow the flavour of the fruit to shine. When I next make jam I will add some apple juice to allow the jam to more resemble regular jam. All my friends love the jam I made.

                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                    Is it safe to assume that if I cook my jam and it gels properly (after testing it on a cool plate), then I have the right amount of sugar?