Sweet and juicy strawberry cranberry jam is the perfect Christmas jam for holiday gift giving. Sweet strawberries and tart cranberries are combined with holiday spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg.
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It’s no secret that I LOVE making homemade jam. Ever since I made my first batch of Homemade Strawberry Jam, I’ve been hooked. There is something so satisfying about applying that gorgeous brightly colored spread over a slice of toast and knowing you made that. Plus, the taste just doesn’t compare to anything you could buy in a store.
I’ve been wanting to make Christmas Jam for years. What is Christmas Jam? It’s strawberry cranberry jam mixed with yummy holiday spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. I actually purchased two bags of fresh cranberries last year with the intention of making a batch and it never happened. This year I swore I would not let the opportunity pass me by again.
Ingredients and tools you will need
Because Christmas jam is so easy to make, it’s an excellent idea for gift-giving. All you need to start are a few simple ingredients, including:
- 3 cups sliced fresh or frozen strawberries – if using frozen strawberries, let them thaw first then give them a good chop.
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries – Whole fresh or frozen cranberries may be hard to find outside of the Christmas season. If you don’t think you’ll have time to make Christmas jam before the holidays are over, buy a bag now and throw the cranberries in the freezer for later.
- 1 whole vanilla bean split and seeded, pod reserved – Whole vanilla beans can be found in the spice aisle of the grocery store. I’ll go into detail how to split and seed the vanilla bean pod next.
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup BOTTLED lemon juice -Bottled lemon juice has a consistent acidity level to prevent the formation of bacteria in the jam. Fresh lemon juice does not. You need to use bottled lemon juice here.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional – This seems like a weird ingredient, doesn’t it? As the jam cooks, foam will begin to form on the top. The butter creates tension on the surface and prevents the foam from forming. The knob of butter is completely optional. You could always skim the foam from the top after the jam is finished cooking. Or you could just leave it. The foam won’t hurt you and it’s completely edible. But, it may give the jam a cloudy appearance.
- 2-1/2 cups white granulated sugar – You don’t need commercial pectin for this recipe, but you do need sugar. Sugar plays a crucial role here. It helps to sweeten the final product in addition working as a thickener, fruit preservative and inhibits mold growth.
- 3-quart stockpot
How to split and seed a vanilla bean
If you’ve never seeded a vanilla bean before, it’s not a big deal. Lay the whole bean flat on a cutting board. Slowly run the tip of a sharp knife down the center of the bean, cutting all the way through. Pull the two halves apart.
Using the blunt end of the knife, gently scrape the inside of each half. You’ll notice this black “stuff” coming up. Those are the seeds. We’re going to put those directly into the pot when we get ready to make the jam. Don’t toss the bean shell, though. We’re going to toss that in too. Just be sure to remove it later!
How to make Christmas Jam
Before I get started, like to pulse my strawberries and cranberries in a blender just to break them up in the smaller pieces. I still like to leave some good-sized pieces of fruit. Place the crushed strawberries and cranberries in a 3-quart or larger stock pot
Stir in the extracted vanilla bean seeds and the vanilla bean pod, the ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and the lemon juice.
Bring the pot to a full rolling boil over high heat. Full rolling boil means that the ingredients continue to boil even when you give it a stir. If you’re unsure what a full rolling boil should look like, watch my video at the bottom of the post. Be sure to stir the jam frequently to prevent it from sticking and scorching the bottom of the pan.
Once you have achieved a full rolling boil, gradually add the sugar to the pot. Gently place the knob of butter on top. Return the mixture to a boil. Then continue to boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Once the minute is up, remove the pan from heat. If any foam has accumulated, skim that off the top
How to tell if the Christmas Jam has set: the spoon test
The jam will be runny when it first comes off the heat. It will continue to thicken as it cools. But what if you can’t wait that long? I give you the spoon test.
Place a clean metal spoon in the freezer just before you start. If you have an ice maker, I like to stick it down in the ice bin to get it really cold. Before removing the pan from the heat, pull your ice cold spoon out and dribble a few drops of the jam onto it. You should know if your jam will be thick enough within a few seconds.
Fixing a jam that didn’t set
Homemade cranberry jam can take up for 48 hours to fully set. But a myriad of outside factors could influence the consistency. Temperature, humidity, how hot or cool your stove operates could cause your jam to yield different results.
Not all is lost, though. The jam can be saved. Simply dump the contents back into a pot and return it to a hard-rolling boil. Gradually add more sugar, ¼ -1/2 cup at a time. Continue to test the consistency with the spoon test.
How to store strawberry cranberry jam
This recipe yields approximately 32 ounces of jam total. That equates to one quart jar (though I don’t recommend storing all your jam in one huge jar. It could spoil before you ate it all), two pint jars, 2 2/3 (12-ounce) jelly jars, or eight 4-ounce jelly jars.
Opened strawberry cranberry jam should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consumed within one month.
Jam can also be frozen for up to a year. I recommend transferring the jam to a plastic, freezer safe container rather than glass just because glass can easily shatter when it’s cold. Be sure to leave 1/2-inch of clearance (headspace) between the jam and the top of the container to allow for expansion as it freezes. Jam that has been frozen should be thawed in the refrigerator. Once thawed, it may be a little more on the runny side than jam that has not been frozen.
Why not make several batches of jam while cranberries are readily available to enjoy all year long? Canning is my preferred method for storing homemade jam. The boiling water bath canning method is safe for foods with high acid, such as tomatoes, fruits, jams, jellies, pickles and other preserves. I explain everything you need to know about water bath canning over here in this post. When filling jars for canning, leave 1/4-inch of headspace and process for 10 minutes. Remove the rings and allow the jam to cool before storing the jars in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. If properly sealed, the jam will last 18 months.
Frequently asked questions
I briefly answered this question earlier, but there is always one who doesn’t bother reading the entire post. So I’ll go into a bit more detail here. The simple answer is no. Here’s why: Lemon juice prohibits the formation of bacteria, which means it will last longer. But achieving the right amount of acidity to prevent the formation of bacteria is crucial. No two fresh lemons have the same amount of acidity.
Some lemons are just more juicy and acidic than others, but you have no way of knowing that. You can be sure you’re homemade jam will be at the optimum acidity level for prevent bacterial grown and is recommended over fresh for making homemade jam.
Can this recipe be doubled?
This recipe is considered small batch, which means it only produces a few jars. One recipe should yield 32 ounces of jam. This recipe can be doubled. However, I would not recommend trying to triple or quadruple the recipe. It can affect your cooking time and prevent the jam from setting properly.
Why don’t I need to add pectin?
I use commercial pectin in most of my homemade jam recipes. It allows me to reduce the amount of sugar I include and it helps the jam to gel. Pectin is a soluble fiber that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. Some fruits and vegetables contain more pectin that others. Strawberries do not have a lot of pectin naturally, but cranberries do!
Can I use less sugar?
Through trial and error, I found that 2.5 cups of white granulated sugar was the optimum amount needed to sweeten the tart cranberries while achieving the spreadable consistency I wanted. Any less that 2.5 cups resulted in a thinner jam.
If you want to cut back on the sugar, you will need to add pectin as a thickener. According to Ball, a manufacturer of low sugar pectin, you will need to use 1 1/2 tablespoons of low or no-sugar needed pectin for every two cups of prepared fruit. I have not tested the method personally, so I can not guarantee you will achieve the same results.
Can I use artificial sweeteners?
You will need to add 1 1/2 tablespoons of low sugar pectin for every two cups of fruit. You can use Stevia, Splenda, and saccharin products as sugar substitutes when making low sugar pectin preserves. However, it’s advisable to avoid using aspartame for canning due to its tendency to become bitter under high heat. Since artificial sweeteners are sweeter than regular sugar, you should replace one cup of sugar with two tablespoons of sweetener. Keep in mind that the resulting jam may have a slightly altered texture.
Can I use vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean?
Yes, you can substitute the vanilla bean with two teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Can I use raspberries instead of strawberries?
Yes, the same amount of raspberries can be substituted for the strawberries.
Do you measure the strawberries after you cut them up? How many pounds is 3 cups?
Yes, measure the strawberries after you have sliced them. A pound and a half of strawberries should yield you close to three cups.
Can I use honey?
You will need to add 1 1/2 tablespoons of low sugar pectin for every two cups of fruit. Since honey is sweeter than sugar, I suggest using half the quantity of sugar indicated in the recipe. For instance, this recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of sugar. Therefore, you should instead use 1 1/4 cups of honey. Be prepared to extend the cooking time to achieve the desired gel consistency, and even then, your jam might still have a softer texture compared to using sugar.
Can I use brown sugar instead of white sugar?
You can substitute brown sugar for white sugar in this recipe, but be aware that it might yield a slightly altered taste and texture.
My jars didn’t seal after I canned them? Can I recan them?
After 24-hours, if your jar lids have not formed a proper seal, you can reprocess them. Begin by removing the unsealed lids from the jars and disposing of them. Then, ensure the jar rims are clean, and seal the jars with new lids and rings. Proceed to follow the canning instructions provided earlier.”
All my fruit rose to the top during canning. What do I do?
Sometimes this happens. The jam is perfectly fine to eat. Just stir the fruit back into the jam after it has been opened.
Can I use a pressure canner to can the preserves?
You can use a pressure canner to water bath can. However, you should not pressure can the preserves. The high heat will from pressure canning will break the gel and result in runny jam.
Can I just put these in jars and skip the canning process?
Not if you want to avoid getting food poisoning. The only way to prevent botulism from forming in your jam is through proper canning.
Can I use dried cranberries instead of fresh?
Yes. Use 2 1/4 cups of dried cranberries in place of fresh. Soak the dried cranberries in 1/2 cup of water or cranberry juice for about 20 minutes to plump them up.
Strawberry Cranberry Jam [Christmas Jam]
- 3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 vanilla bean split and seeded, pod reserved
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup BOTTLED lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- Pulse the strawberries and cranberries in a blender or food processor until chunky. Place the crushed berries in a 6 or 8-quart saucepan.
- Stir in vanilla bean seeds, the vanilla bean pod, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice.
- Add the butter to the top of the jam.
- Bring mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
- Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Return mixture to a boil. Continue to boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove pan from heat. Skim foam if any has accumulated.