I’m sitting here with a slice of sourdough toast with fresh homegrown apricot jam, and I truly couldn’t be happier! Follow along and learn how to make simple and delicious low sugar apricot jam with lemon juice. It’s perfectly tangy, plenty sweet, bright, fresh, and OH so good!
Even better, this low sugar apricot jam recipe requires only three ingredients and a very short cooking and processing time. If you don’t want to can it, you can pop it in the freezer instead. Note that our recipe calls for a passive overnight maceration process (not required but highly recommended) so please plan accordingly!
Growing up, apricot jam was my absolute favorite. So imagine my delight when we moved into our new homestead last year to find a massive apricot tree dripping with fruit! We didn’t have the chance to make jam during the chaos of the move last summer, so I was very much looking forward to this apricot season. However, I couldn’t find an existing recipe that tickled my fancy. Most recipes I saw used too much sugar, had too long a cooking time, or called for pectin. So I did a little research (you know me) and we whipped up our own… and it turned out fantastic!
3 Ingredients for Low-Sugar Apricot Jam
For the most sweet and flavorful jam, use fresh, ripe, semi-soft apricots. Homegrown, local, or otherwise recently-picked fruit is even better! In an attempt to reduce waste from our tree, we used some very ripe apricots to make our low sugar apricot jam (including some that were bruised or getting too soft to eat fresh) and the flavor was absolutely phenomenal!
However, less ripe apricots are higher in natural pectin, so using more firm apricots will yield a thicker jam if that’s what you’re after (albeit a tad less sweet). Freestone apricot varieties like Blenheim, Katy, or Autumn Glo are easiest to work with.
Our low sugar apricot jam recipe uses lemon juice as the preservative rather than pectin. That’s simply our personal preference! If you plan to can your apricot jam, please follow the recipe exactly (with the exception of adding more sugar if you desire, explained below). The called-for lemon juice-to-fruit ratio follows the National Center for Food Preservation recommendations for safe canning standards. I also suggest using organic bottled lemon juice since fresh-squeezed lemons can have a varying pH or acid content.
Though this recipe is considered a “low-sugar” apricot jam, it does use some sugar – but far less than most of the other recipes we saw online! (Even those claiming to be “low sugar”.) I find it to be the perfect balance of sweet to tart, especially after adding lemon juice. We prefer to use unrefined organic cane sugar to make jam because it offers a more complex, less sharp flavor.
A note on low sugar jams and shelf life
Sugar plays an important role in extending the shelf life of jam (in terms of quality, flavor, and color retention) while the acidic lemon juice and canning/boiling process is what preserves the jam in terms of food safety (e.g. preventing mold and bacterial growth). Most traditional jam recipes call for nearly equal parts fruit and sugar by weight (SO much sugar!) in order to make the jam shelf-stable and retain good eating quality for many, many years. Therefore, you can reduce the sugar content in a jam recipe without jeopardizing safety, though it may reduce the overall shelf life of the jam.
Because our low sugar apricot jam recipe has significantly less sugar than most, it may have a shorter shelf life – about one year (or less) rather than several years. Therefore, if you want to extend the shelf life even further, are working with firm or slightly underripe fruit, or if you simply prefer sweeter jam, you can certainly increase the amount of sugar. Up to double the sugar would still be considered “low sugar” for most jam recipes.
How lemon juice vs pectin affects jam thickness
Avoiding powdered pectin keeps this jam as simple and natural as possible, letting the fresh fruit flavor shine. Yet because we don’t use pectin (and apricots aren’t particularly high in natural pectin), this low-sugar apricot jam isn’t intensely thick or gelatinous – and that’s fine with me! It’s not “runny” by any means, and the overnight sugar maceration process helps to naturally thicken it as well, explained more to follow.
To make your jam even thicker, you can increase the cooking time to further reduce it, though keep in mind that can also detract from the flavor and color. Overcooking jam will lead to a more toasted, caramelized flavor and will also oxidize the fruit, resulting in a darker (more brown) appearance. We prefer to sacrifice some of the thickness in order to retain the brightest fresh fruit flavor and color possible!
Macerating fruit for jam
Maceration is the act of tossing fruit in sugar and letting it sit awhile, from several hours to overnight. This is the best way to reduce cooking time for jams, which helps to maximize and retain the fresh fruit flavor. When fruit is combined with sugar and left to rest, osmosis causes the fruit to break down, soften, and release juices – similar to cooking, but without the heat! This is especially helpful if your fruit isn’t already super soft and ripe. The maceration process also gives the sugar more time to interact with the natural pectin in the fruit, thereby helping to thicken jam before it hits the stovetop.
Low Sugar Apricot Jam Recipe
- 4 pounds of fresh ripe apricots
- 2 cups organic cane sugar
- ¼ cup bottled organic lemon juice
Yields: approximately half a gallon of jam (around 64 ounces, or 8 half-pint jars). The photos shown in this post are a double batch of the recipe.
- Wash the apricots with warm water, remove the pits, and chop or dice them into small pieces. I didn’t bother cutting each one individually. Instead, I just laid a bunch of fruit on the cutting board in batches and roughly chopped the whole pile. (Again, most of our fruit was very soft and ripe, so they pretty much turned into mush at this stage.)
- Add the prepared apricots to a large mixing bowl, and then stir in the sugar. Mix thoroughly to combine.
- Allow the fruit and sugar to sit for several hours, overnight, or up to 24 hours for the best results. We moved the bowl to the refrigerator overnight, and then let it sit at room temperature on the counter for several hours the following morning to warm up slightly before putting it on the stovetop.
- If you’re canning the low sugar apricot jam, I suggest getting all your canning supplies (canning pot, sterilized jars, lids, etc) ready before proceeding. If you’re new to canning, please read up on the basics here.
- In a large non-reactive pot, combine the macerated fruit with the called-for lemon juice.
- Turn the heat on high to bring the jam to a boil for a couple minutes, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir frequently, including the bottom and sides of the pot to prevent sticking or burning.
- Observe the consistency. If your jam has too many large chunks for your liking, consider blending a portion of it (which can also help it to thicken slightly). We gave our low sugar apricot jam a few whizzes with our trusty immersion blender – just to break up a few extra large pieces I missed during prep, not to make it silky smooth. I like it with fruit clumps! You could also take out a few scoops to blend in a regular blender if needed, and then return it to the pot.
- Remove from heat, and transfer the hot jam into hot sterilized canning jars with the assistance of a clean canning funnel. (See notes for freezing below)
- Fill jars nearly full, leaving ¼ inch headroom if canning and 1/2 to 3/4 inch if freezing. Use a clean damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars before adding lids.
- Add sterilized canning lids and rings. Screw on the rings to finger-tight only, not overly tight.
- Use a jar lifter to carefully transfer the jars to your pre-heated canning pot, cover with a lid, and vigorously boil. See chart below for processing times.
|Recommended process time for Apricot Jam in a boiling water canner.||Process Time at Altitudes of|
|Style of Pack||Jar Size||0 – 1,000 ft||1,001 – 6,000 ft||Above 6,000 ft|
Table from National Center for Home Food Preservation
Store the canned, sealed jam jars in a cool dark location – such as a pantry, cellar, or kitchen cabinets. For the best quality, use within one year (possibly sooner). Store open, unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within one month. Signs of spoiled jam include mold growth, off odors or taste. Discard immediately if you suspect it has spoiled.
Not up for canning? Freeze your low sugar apricot jam instead! Once the jam has finished cooking, allow it to cool slightly and then transfer it into clean jars *wide mouth* pint or half-pint jars, or other freezer-safe food storage containers. Leave at least a half-inch to an inch of head space. (Look for the “fill line” on glass jars.) Allow the jam to fully cool before freezing. For best results, rapidly cool the jars of jam in the refrigerator and then transfer them to the freezer once they’re cold. Use within 6 months for best quality.
*Note: Wide-mouth jars are considered safe for freezing. Regular mouth jars or quart jars are not, as the bend in the “shoulder” makes them prone to cracking in the freezer.
Ways to Use Low Sugar Apricot Jam
- On sourdough pancakes, which is particularly tasty with pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans or walnuts on top!
- On bread or toast. Learn how to make homemade sourdough bread here.
- With plain yogurt and granola, hemp hearts, nuts and/or seeds.
- As a glaze, topping, or filling for baked goods. Hellooo thumbprint cookies!
- On top of vanilla or coconut ice cream.
- With sweet-and-savory snacks, like with cheese on crackers or sliced baguette. I’ve even seen a few recipes for grilled cheese sandwiches with apricot jam!
- Straight out of the jar with a spoon. Lol.
And that concludes this lesson on making low sugar apricot jam.
All in all, I hope you love this simple, delicious, fruit-forward jam recipe as much as we do! Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below, and stop back by for a review once you give it a try. Also please consider spreading the love by pinning or sharing this post! Last but not least, don’t miss these other delectable recipes for summer preserves:
- Simple & Delicious Roasted Tomato Sauce
- Crunchy Refrigerator Dill Pickles Recipe
- Quick & Easy Pickled Peppers Recipe
- Preserving Apples: How to Make Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
- “The Besto Pesto”: Lemon Walnut Parmesan Pesto Recipe
Simple Low Sugar Apricot Jam with Lemon Juice (No Pectin)
- Large mixing bowl
- Large non-reactive pot
- Canning pot (water bath)
- Sterilized canning jars and lids
- Jar lifter, canning funnel, etc
- OR freezer-safe storage containers
- 4 pounds fresh ripe apricots
- 2 cups organic cane sugar
- 1/4 cup organic bottled lemon juice
- Wash, pit and chop the apricots.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine apricots and sugar. Mix well.
- Allow the fruit and sugar to sit (macerate) for several hours or overnight. Move to fridge if overnight.
- Prepare and sanitize all necessary canning equipment.
- Combine macerated fruit with lemon juice in a large non-reactive pot.
- Bring to a boil for several minutes, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently. Remove from heat.
- Transfer hot jam into hot sterilized canning jars. Fill to 1/4" head room in jar. Wipe rims and add lids (rings finger tight only).
- Process in boiling water canner per provided chart above for your elevation (e.g. 5 minutes for 0-1000 feet, 10 minutes for 1001-6000 feet – for pints or half pints)
- Store sealed jars in a cool dark location (e.g. pantry or cellar) and use within one year or sooner for best quality. Once open, store unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within one month.