Learn all you need to know to make a fresh-tasting apricot jam with less sugar! If you’ve struggled with getting jam to set with lower amounts of sugar, read about my foolproof process.
The Best Low Sugar Method for Making Jam
Whenever I buy jam at the store, I look at the ingredient list to see if fruit or sugar is listed first. Unless you’re intentionally buying a low-sugar option, sugar is always listed first.
Luckily, making the perfect homemade jam is simple to do! I spotted beautiful apricots at our farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago, and knew my favorite jam needed to be made at home.
I wanted a vibrant apricot flavor with much less sugar than store-bought options.
I tested this recipe with and without pectin, and also with honey, maple syrup, and white sugar for reference.
This recipe is a result of the trials I ran to create the perfect process!
Apricot season is short, so grab some at your local farmers market and preserve the wonderful flavor for the whole year!
If this is your first time making homemade jam, don’t worry! As long as you follow these simple instructions, you’ll have a beautiful jam your family will love with their weekend breakfast.
You’ll LOVE this method because:
- Fresh, ripe apricots are plenty sweet, so the sweetener is used to boost the sweetness and preserve the fruit but isn’t the main ingredient.
- Honey or maple syrup both make a beautiful jam – no need to use processed white sugar!
- Pectin allows the fruit to set without overly concentrating the fruit – meaning the jam is fresh tasting with a perfectly gelled consistency.
- This simple apricot jam recipe takes about 10 minutes of hands-on time. The rest is just allowing the fruit to simmer in a pot or set in jars!
I developed this recipe on my Sharp Induction Cooktop. If you’ve struggled with delicate recipes burning to the bottom of your pans (which can happen so easily with high-sugar fruit!), this cooktop is incredible.
The simmer enhancer feature provides low, consistent heat, so the fruit doesn’t burn as it’s gently cooked.
What You’ll Need
- Fresh Apricots (wait until they are very ripe! They should feel very soft and sweet.)
- Pectin for Low Sugar Recipes (see notes for options to make apricot jam without pectin!)
- Fresh Lemon Juice (gives jam a perfect balance of sweet-tart flavor)
- Maple Syrup or Honey (sub-organic white sugar if desired)
- 8 8-ounce canning jars with new lids and screw bands (half-pint jars)
Why Sterilize Jars?
If you have jars sitting in your pantry, or even are pulling them out of a box brand new, they can have bacteria and mold spores. Once you’ve added moisture and sugar to the jam, these can grow and spoil your jam.
Sterilizing jars takes minutes!
Step 1: Wash jars thoroughly with hot soapy water to remove any stuck residue or oil.
Step 2: If you have a dishwasher or steam oven that has a sterilizing feature, pop them in while you’re preparing your fruit.
Otherwise, add a rack to the bottom of a large pot. Add water, and bring to a boil. Place jars on the rack, and boil them for 5-10 minutes. Remove them, and allow them to air dry.
Should I use Pectin?
Many cooks claim no pectin is needed for stone fruits. Pectin is naturally found in the skins of the fruit. But what is the best way?
This jam recipe was tested both with and without pectin. Both resulted in a beautiful set jam, but I prefer using pectin.
Pectin is a fiber found in fruit peels and skins. You can make pectin on your own by boiling green apples and reducing the boiling liquid to concentrate the pectin.
Apricots naturally have pectin in the skins. However, I found it’s not enough pectin to allow the jam to set without overprocessing the jam, meaning it’s a sweeter jam with more concentrated flavor. You also end up with half the amount of jam.
Pectin allows the jam to be lightly processed, so the flavor of the fruit is fresh. Even using 1/4 of the sugar typically used in jam recipes, my apricot jam with pectin set within a day of processing.
Verdict: Use pectin! It’s inexpensive and through my research, I found no reason to be concerned about this additive. Using it will improve the texture and allow the fresh fruit flavor to shine.
What Sweetener is Best to Use for Jam?
Traditionally, jam is made with white sugar. I wanted this homemade apricot jam recipe to use a natural sweetener.
If you avoid processed sugars in your kitchen like I do, it’s okay to use a natural sweetener, like honey or maple syrup!
I tested both. The honey lends a gentle honey flavor to the jam (so use a honey that you love!).
Maple syrup gives the jam a wonderful sweetness with a neutral flavor, so it’s my favorite option for apricots.
How to Make Apricot Jam
Step 1: Sterilize jars. My Sharp Stainless Steel Dishwasher has a sterilizing feature, so I use that for canning and making jam. Alternately, boil water in a large pot, and add jars for 1 minute, then remove from the boiling water and set aside to use for jam.
Step 2: Cut apricots and remove the pits. Cut larger apricots into quarters or 1/8ths. Smaller apricots can be cut into halves. Apricot skins have pectin and help the jam set, so don’t peel them.
Step 3: Add the apricots, pectin, lemon juice, and water into a large pot.
Step 4: Bring the mixture to a low simmer over medium heat. Lower the temperature to medium-low, cover with a lid, and cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
Step 5: Remove the lid, and add the maple syrup or honey (or sugar). Use a potato masher to break up the fruit, or just stir as it breaks down naturally. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. If using pectin, boil the jam for 2-3 minutes, then turn it off. Allow to sit for 10 minutes prior to filling jam jars. If not using pectin, continue boiling the jam for 5-8 minutes over medium heat, until the jam has begun to thicken.
Step 6: To ensure your jam will set, boil it until it hits 220º F. This temperature allows the sugar to dissolve. Alternately, freeze a plate prior to starting to make the jam. When it seems ready, put a spoonful on the cold plate. If it wrinkles when you touch it, it’s at the gel stage. If you tip the plate, and the jam slowly goes down the plate, it’s set. If it runs in a quick stream, it isn’t ready yet.
Step 7: Use a funnel to fill the sterilized jars with hot jam.
Step 8: Seal the jam jars with new lids and screw bands. Leave the jars of jam on the counter to cool and set. The jam should set in 1 day but can take up to 2 days to set. See notes about what to do if your jam doesn’t set.
Hear Popping Sounds?
While the jam is cooling and setting, you might hear the seals “pop”. This means the seals have popped and they aren’t forming an airtight connection with the jars.
This jam is still good! It will need to be stored in the fridge. Use these jars of jam first. Jars with airtight seals can be stored at room temperature for 1 year.
How do I make my apricot jam thicker?
If you wait 48 hours and your jam doesn’t set, try to:
Option 1: Empty jars back into a large pot, and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Allow to boil an additional 3-5 minutes before refilling the jars and re-sealing them.
Option 2: When you’re ready to use the jam, open it, and add in 1-2 teaspoons of chia seeds. Stir them, and allow the jam to sit for at least an hour to thicken. This allows you to thicken the jam as you use each jar, so you don’t have to open them and re-seal them.
How do you remove apricot skins?
If you’d prefer an apricot jam with a smoother, more “jelly-like” texture, use a vegetable peeler to remove the apricot skins prior to cooking them.
How to Store Jam
Store sealed jars of jam in a cool, dark place, like a pantry or storeroom in a garage, for up to 1 year.
If a seal has popped off you didn’t seal the jars, store them in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks.