Sweet and juicy strawberry cranberry jam is the perfect Christmas jam for holiday gift giving. Sweet strawberries and tart cranberries are with holiday spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg.
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.
Gathering Your Ingredients
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, many of which you might already have in your cabinets. You’re going to start with three cups of diced strawberries and three cups of whole cranberries.
Using frozen vs. fresh fruit
Typically, I make all my homemade jam during the spring and summer months when fresh fruit is at its peak. Therefore, I use fresh if I can. Unfortunately, cranberries don’t hit the market in my area until late October/early November. Locally-grown strawberries have been long gone for months by then. And while fresh strawberries are available at the grocery store, they usually look a pale and mealy this time of year. If you’re making strawberry cranberry jam in the fall or winter, I recommend using frozen fruit.
Fresh cranberries freeze beautifully. If you have your heart set on using fresh strawberries, buy a few bags of fresh cranberries now and toss them in the freezer until next spring.
Why you should use bottled lemon juice
I get this question all the time on ever single one of my homemade jam recipes. Can you use freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of bottled? 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. Bottled lemon juice has a consistent acidity level. 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.
Why you don’t need pectin for strawberry cranberry jam
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!
The role sugar plays in jam making
You don’t need commercial pectin, but you do need sugar. Sugar plays a crucial role here. Sure, it helps to sweeten the final product. But in addition to pectin, sugar also works as a thickener, preserves the beautiful bold color of the fruit and inhibits mold growth.
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.
Other spices I included
I added ground cinnamon, a dash of ground nutmeg and a whole vanilla bean that I split and seeded. The addition of the spices gave the Christmas jam a cozy, warm flavor that’s perfect for the season. Other spices you could include would be ground cloves or star anise.
How to seed a vanilla bean
If you’ve never seeded a vanilla bean before, it’s not a big deal. I happened to have one left over from when I made my recipe for Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Bourbon and Vanilla. Whole vanilla beans can be found in the spice aisle of the grocery store
To seed a vanilla bean, simply 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 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 6 or 8-quart saucepan.
Stir in the extracted vanilla seeds and the vanilla bean pod, ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg and ¼ cup of lemon juice.
What’s the purpose of a knob of butter?
Next, place one tablespoon of unsalted butter on the top. It 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.
What is a full rolling boil?
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. I’ve included a short little video so you can see what a full rolling boil looks like. Be sure to sitr 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. Return mixture to a boil. Then continue to boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Once the minute is up, remove the pan from heat. Skim foam off the top if any has accumulated.
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
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.
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.
How to Store Strawberry Cranberry Jam
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.
How to Can Your Jam
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.
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.