Millions of peaches, peaches for me… The great thing about this low sugar peach jam recipe is that you don’t need millions – just a few pounds of peaches will do! Even better, our easy low sugar peach jam is made without pectin, the bare minimum amount of added sugar, and a very short cooking and processing time – allowing those beautiful fresh fruit flavors to shine to the fullest extent possible! It’s just a tad looser than a classic pectin jam, but plenty thick and chunky for my liking.
If you don’t want to can your low-sugar peach jam, you can freeze it instead. Note that our recipe calls for a passive overnight maceration process (not required but highly recommended) so please plan accordingly!
Can you add other fruit to low sugar peach jam?
Yes! Since they’re quite similar in texture, acid, natural pectin and moisture content, you can also use any combination of peaches (yellow only), apricots, and/or yellow nectarines in this low sugar peach jam recipe. This is perfect if you’re growing your own mix of stone fruit like we are! In fact, we added a few apricots to this particular batch of peach jam.
NOTE: If you’d like to make jam with white peaches, it needs to be frozen rather than canned. White peaches are less acidic and therefore NOT recommended for safe canning.
Can you use frozen peaches to make jam?
Yes, frozen peaches can be successfully used to make low sugar peach jam too! In fact, frozen peaches are even easier to peel (once they’re partially thawed). However, if the peaches were wet or very overripe at the time of freezing, it could result in a more loose, runny finished jam. Therefore, you may need to cook and simmer the jam a tad longer to thicken it compared to working with fresh fruit.
3 Ingredients for Low Sugar Peach Jam
It’s best to make low sugar peach jam with fresh ripe yellow peaches. Recently-picked from the garden or farmer’s market is even better! Peaches that are sweet, juicy, and ripe but still slightly firm will be the easiest to peel. Freestone peaches like O’Henry, Elegant Lady, August Pride, Elberta, and Eva’s Pride (among others) will be easier to remove the pits compared to clingstone varieties.
You can also use soft overripe peaches, which will offer an extra sweet flavor. However, firm peaches that are slightly under ripe are higher in natural pectins, which helps the jam thicken nicely! So feel free to use a combination of both. Really, you can’t go wrong.
Though this recipe is considered a low sugar peach jam, it does use some sugar – but far less than other jam recipes! Even other “low sugar” jam recipes call for at least 1 part sugar for every 2 parts fruit by weight (e.g. 1 pound of sugar to 2 pounds fruit). With only 8 ounces of sugar per 2 pounds of fruit, our recipe uses half of that (1:4)! Yet 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.
Lemon Juice (instead of pectin)
Since our low sugar peach jam is made without pectin, lemon juice is the key preservative instead. That said, if you are canning your peach 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.
What is the shelf life of low sugar jam?
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 peach jam recipe has significantly less sugar than most, it may have a shorter shelf life to be considered “prime quality” – about one year instead of 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 increase the amount of sugar if you desire. Up to double the called-for sugar in our recipe would still be considered “low sugar” in the jam world.
How lemon juice vs pectin affects jam thickness
Making low sugar peach jam without pectin keeps the finished jam as simple and natural as possible. It really lets those fresh fruit flavors shine! Yet without added pectin (and because peaches aren’t particularly high in natural pectin), peach jam made with lemon juice instead isn’t intensely thick or gelatinous – but it’s NOT runny by any means. Plus, the overnight sugar maceration process helps to naturally thicken it (explained more to follow) as does blending the fruit once it’s on the stovetop. The end result is plenty thick for my liking!
How to thicken the jam further
To make your peach 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. Overcooked jam will have a more toasted, caramelized flavor. The fruit will also become more oxidized, 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 the peaches are 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 peaches aren’t already super soft and juicy. 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 Peach Jam Recipe
- Large mixing bowl
- Optional: potato masher
- Immersion blender or regular blender
- Large stock pot
- Canning supplies (if canning) – pot, canning rack, jar lifter, funnel, etc.
- Glass canning jars, lids and rings
- For freezing: Wide-mouth half pint and pint jars are also freezer-safe (not regular mouth or larger sizes). Also consider these reusable, durable BPA-free freezer containers.
- 4 pounds of ripe yellow peaches (pitted and peeled)
- 2 cups organic cane sugar (1 part sugar to 4 parts fruit by weight)
- ¼ cup bottled organic lemon juice
Yields: approximately half a gallon of jam (around 64 ounces, or 8 half-pint jars). Scale up or down as needed in the printable recipe below.
How to Peel Peaches
This low sugar peach jam recipe is best made with peeled peaches. Our ripe homegrown peach skins peel off pretty easily by hand. We simply washed the peaches well, cut them in half or quarters, peeled off the skins, and then removed the pits. However, depending on the age and variety of peach, it may be necessary to quickly blanch your peaches first to more easily peel them. Get easy step-by-step instructions to blanch and peel peaches here.
- Once your peaches are washed, peeled and pitted, cut them into small pieces. When working with extra-ripe peaches, I don’t bother cutting each one individually. Instead, I lay several halved peaches on the cutting board together and roughly chop the whole pile, then repeat with the next handful. The exact size of the pieces doesn’t matter too much because we’re going to further crush and/or blend the peaches later.
- Add the chopped peaches to a large mixing bowl, weigh them (tare or take note of the weight of the bowl first), and then stir in the sugar. Mix thoroughly to combine.
- Optional: If you happen to have a potato masher, use it to crush the peaches after mixing in the sugar. If not, that’s okay – but you’ll likely want to blend some of the jam later (see step 8).
- Allow the fruit and sugar to sit for several hours, overnight, or up to 24 hours for the best results. We usually put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight, and then pull it out to sit on the counter at room temperature for several hours the next morning – allowing the fruit and sugar mixture to warm up slightly before putting it on the stovetop.
- If you’re canning the low sugar peach jam, I suggest getting all your canning supplies ready (canning pot, sterilized jars, lids, etc) before proceeding. If you’re new to canning, please read up on the basics here.
- In a large non-reactive pot, combine the macerated peaches with the called-for lemon juice.
- Turn the heat on high to bring the jam to a bubbling 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 also helps thicken it! We gave our low sugar peach jam a few whizzes with our trusty immersion blender – just to break up a few larger firm pieces and make it more homogenous, but 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 (boiling) canning pot, cover with a lid, and vigorously boil. See chart below for processing times.
|Recommended process time for Peach 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|
|5 mins||10 mins||15 mins|
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. You can also store canned jars of low-sugar jam in the fridge to further extend their shelf life and quality, if desired and space allows.
After opening, store open, unsealed jars in the refrigerator and plan to use them within one to two months. Signs of spoiled jam include mold growth, off odors or taste. Discard immediately if you suspect it has spoiled.
How to Freeze Low Sugar Peach Jam
If you don’t feel like canning, freeze your low sugar peach jam instead! Once the jam is done cooking, allow it to cool slightly before transferring it into clean jars *wide mouth* pint jars, 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-size jars are not, as the bend in the “shoulder” makes them prone to cracking in the freezer.
Ways to Use Low Sugar Peach Jam
- On bread or toast. Learn how to make homemade sourdough bread here.
- We love to have a spoonful of jam on top of plain yogurt and granola, hemp hearts, nuts and/or seeds for breakfast.
- On sourdough pancakes, which are particularly tasty with pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans or walnuts on top!
- As a glaze, topping, or filling for baked goods. Hellooo thumbprint cookies!
- 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 peach jam!
- On top of vanilla or coconut ice cream.
- Straight out of the jar with a spoon. Ha!
Easy Low Sugar Peach Jam Without Pectin (Can or Freeze)
- 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
- Immersion blender (or blender)
- Optional: potato masher
- 4 pounds fresh ripe yellow peaches (peeled and pitted)
- 2 cups organic cane sugar
- 1/4 cup organic bottled lemon juice
- Wash, peel, pit and chop the peaches into small peices. (It may be necessary to quickly blanch the peaches to make peeling easier – see instructions in body of post).
- In a large mixing bowl, weigh the prepped peaches and then mix in sugar.
- If you have a potato masher, use it to crush the peaches further.
- 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.
- Recommended: blend a portion of the jam to increase thickness. We like to keep it fairly chunky still though!
- 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 for best quality. Once open, store unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within one to two months.
And that’s how to make fresh, delicious low sugar apricot jam without pectin!
I hope you love this bright flavorful jam as much as we do. Please let us know by leaving a comment or review below. Also feel free to ask any questions you may have. Otherwise, it’s time for me to go eat breakfast… and I know what’s on the menu! Keep on jammin’ y’all.
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