Small Batch Strawberry Jam | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal
Sweets,  Jams & Preserves

Small Batch Strawberry Jam

My grandmother made the best small batch strawberry jam. Her secret? Keep it simple. Strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and a little patience are all you need.

If there is one food flavor that can instantly transport me back to childhood it is the taste of strawberry jam. Specifically my grandmother’s small batch strawberry jam. The minute that bright, zingy, wine-colored food hits my tongue I am at my grandmother’s kitchen table watching her make coffee while my grandfather reads the newspaper. The good news about being the adults now? We are the ones who get to make the memories for the next generation.

There was no time of day that was bad for jam and bread at my grandmother’s house. It could be a breakfast treat, a lunch treat, an afternoon snack, or even a dinner if the eater was being particularly fussy that day.

This was also true across the street at Nana Maxwell’s — my non-biological but equally important 2nd grandmother — who always served tea and coffee at 10am. And often, if there were kids around, jam on toast. Because who wanted tea or coffee, anyway?

Small Batch Strawberry Jam | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal
Small Batch Strawberry Jam | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal

Creating a modern (old-school) recipe for homemade strawberry jam

I do not have my grandmother’s recipe for her small batch strawberry jam, but I know that it always tasted better than the stuff you could buy in the supermarket. It wasn’t thick or congealed; it barely held together as you spooned it out of the jar. Chunks of berries were surrounded by the thickest of syrups that threatened to run off of your toast if you spread it too thickly. Instead of being cloying it was just sweet enough that you could eat it straight out of the jar. And the flavor was fresh and bright, almost as though the berries had been picked that day.

I’ve spent years trying to recreate the texture and flavor of my grandmother’s strawberry jam, and while there is something — just something — not quite the same when I make it today I’ve come as close as I’ll ever get.

I’ve tried all the internet suggestions that you can add to your jam, and in the end jettisoned them all in favor of what I remember seeing on my grandmother’s kitchen counter: strawberries, lemons, and sugar. After all, why would I add unnecessary ingredients to the mix when she didn’t?

Small Batch Strawberry Jam | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal
Small Batch Strawberry Jam | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal

Tips on what to include in your homemade strawberry jam

You’ll only need three ingredients, and while jam is never going to be a health food you can feel confident that unlike commercial jams and jellies this batch will be free of corn syrup and additives.

  • Good quality strawberries. I like to use organic ones, if possible.
  • Fresh lemon juice.
  • Sugar. And here you absolutely must use regular old white sugar. There is no getting around this, so don’t even try.

How long will my homemade jam last for?

Both sugar and lemon juice are natural preservatives and they are added to the strawberries at a high enough proportion to keep the (sealed) jam safe for an entire year. Every time I make jam I write the month and the year on the jar and make sure to use the jam within that year. It’s a happy coincidence that my small batch strawberry jam makes just enough jars to get our little household through an entire year!

Jam Jars With Label | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal
Jam Jars With Labels | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal

What equipment will I need to make jam?

Ok you will need a few specific items to make my small batch strawberry jam (or any jam, really). But you probably already have most of them sitting around in your kitchen.

  • A large stock pot. The pot will need to have a good fitting lid and be large enough to cover the jars with at least one inch of water.
  • A trivet. You will need to place this in the bottom of your pot so that the jars don’t make contact with the bottom of the pot. Jam jars that touch the bottom of the pot can explode (boom!), and you don’t want that.
  • A wooden spoon. Always, always, always stir your jam with a wooden spoon. That mix is going to get HOT and you don’t want to be holding onto hot metal while you stir.
  • Jam jars. These are easy to source both online and in local shops. Please make sure that the jars you are using are in good condition and don’t have any chips near the top where the lid will need to seal.
  • Lids and bands. The metal bands for jam jars are reusable. Lids are not. Let me say that again: the lids are not reusable. They are one-and-done. That’s because the thin layer of rubber on the bottom can only be guaranteed for one processing time.
  • A pair of jam jar tongs. Your grandmother had a pair, and when you see them you’ll think “So that’s what those were used for…” Truth be told you can lift the jars out of their water bath with regular tongs, but tongs made specifically for jars make the job so much easier.

Looking for other small batch jam inspiration?

If you’re looking for more small batch jam related inspiration you might enjoy one of these other recipes I’ve created!

Small Batch Strawberry Jam | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal
Small Batch Strawberry Jam | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal

Tag or follow me Instagram @jamandbreadofficial (I love seeing when other people make one of my recipes!) and please consider leaving me a review below if you make my small batch strawberry jam. As a new blogger, these things can really help me out!

I sincerely hope you love my recipe, and that you are ON BOARD with making my small batch strawberry jam a staple of your summer routine. 

For even more recipe ideas you can follow me on Pinterest!

Enjoy! 😀🍓👍🏻

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Small Batch Strawberry Jam | Jam & Bread | Matthew Smedal

Small Batch Strawberry Jam

  • Author: Matthew Smedal
  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 Hour
  • Total Time: 24 Hours
  • Yield: Four to Five 8-ounce (250ml) Jars of Jam
  • Category: Jams & Jellies
  • Method: Boiled
  • Cuisine: French


My grandmother made the best small batch strawberry jam. Her secret? Keep it simple. Strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and a little patience are all you need.


  • 4 healthy pounds of strawberries (2 kilograms)
  • 3 cups  of sugar (600 grams)
  • 1/4 cup  lemon juice (60 milliliters)
  • Four or five 8-ounce canning jars, with lids and bands (250 milliliter jars)

special equipment needed:

  • jam jars
  • lids and bands
  • a heat-proof trivet
  • jam jar tongs


  1. Wash and hull the strawberries and place them in a large pot, dutch oven, or unlined copper jam pot, if you have one. Your pot will need to be sizable: 5 quarts (5 liters) minimum to comfortably hold all the fruit. Add the sugar and toss to combine. Let the fruit macerate, tossing occasionally for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. While the fruit does its thing, place a jam rack or heat-proof trivet into another large pot. This pot will need to be large enough to hold all the jam jars and cover them with water by at least 1 inch (2cm). Make sure you use a pot with a well-fitting lid as you’ll need to cover it later. Fill the pot with water and turn the heat to high.
  3. Wash your jars with warm soapy water and place them into the pot with the water, making sure they sit on the rack/trivet and not the bottom of the pot (because you don’t want them going Boom!). Let the water come to a boil and boil the jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Reduce the heat to medium low and keep the jars nice and hot.
  4. Wash your lids and bands with warm, soapy water, dry them, and place them somewhere sterile. You DO NOT need to keep the lids and bands hot or wet. I know this is heresy for some old-school canner-types, but I’m not making this up! Some things do change with time, and this is one of them. See here for the manufacturer’s directions if you are uneasy about this.
  5. Moving on. Place a small plate into your freezer. More on this later.
  6. Put the pot with the macerating fruit onto the stove and turn the burner on high, letter the berries come to a boil. Stir frequently so that the sugar and berries don’t scorch. Once the fruit is boiling reduce the heat to medium and, stirring constantly, cook. The berries will release their juices, begin to break down, and eventually the entire mixture will become a bit thicker. This will take a while — up to 45 minutes because, let’s be honest, you’ve got a lot of strawberries in there — so prep a podcast and a glass of wine for yourself because you’re going to be at the stove for a minute. 🍷
  7. While this is happening you will notice that some pond-scum stars to develop on the surface (I don’t know what it’s actually called, this is just my term). Strawberries do this to you and it’s frustrating, but you’ll want to remove it. It’s harmless, it just won’t taste very good and if you leave it you’ll get rubbery streaks of pond-scum in your jam and you don’t want that. So take a big spoon and skim the surface. This is super annoying and will take you a minute, but you will eventually win out. There is only so much pond-scum the berries will give you.
  8. Once the mixture has become thick and jam-like, turn the heat off, and place a quarter-sized amount of jam onto your frozen plate. Put the plate back into the freezer for five minutes, and sip your wine. Take the plate out of the freezer and run your finger through the jam. If the jam holds its shape and doesn’t fill in the gap you created you are good to go. If the juices run into the gap cook the jam a bit longer, repeating this process until the jam holds its shape.
  9. Add the lemon juice to the jam and cook (constantly stirring) for 3-5 more minutes, until the jam has returned to its previous jam-like consistency. Turn the heat off.
  10. Using tongs, remove the jars from the hot water and place them on a clean towel. Ladle your jam into the jars (use a wide-mouthed plastic funnel, if you have one), leaving 1/4-inch (.5cm) of headroom at the top of each jar. Use a plastic knife and run it down the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles that have formed. Wipe the rims of the jars completely clean with a damp paper towel, place the lids onto the jars, and screw the bands on finger tight. Don’t Wonder Woman the bands. Finger tight, OK?
  11. If you have a small amount of extra jam place it into an extra jar and pop it straight into the fridge. YUM.
  12. Place the jars back into the pot with the rack/trivet and raise the heat to bring the water to a full rolling boil. Once the water is boiling vigorously, put the lid on the pot and process for 15 minutes. This is great time to clean everything else up.
  13. After the 15 minutes are up turn the burner off, remove the lid and let the jars rest for 5 minutes. This begins the cool-down phrase and helps reduce thermal shock to the glass WHICH IS VERY IMPORTANT because those jars are REALLY hot. Remove the jars — without tipping or tilting them — from the water bath and place them on a towel somewhere where they can sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Any water on top will eventually evaporate, so don’t worry about when you see it puddling there. You will hear a pleasant “popping” sound as the jars sit. This means they have sealed correctly.
  14. After 12 hours, check the seal on each jar by looking at the lid: they should be slightly sunken-in. You can run your fingers over the lids, too, and feel this dip. Screw the bands on nice and tight now, label the jars, and set the expiration date for 12 months from today. Any jars that didn’t seal correctly go straight into the fridge (they should all seal correctly), the rest get stored someplace relatively cool and dark.


If you have jars that didn’t seal and you would like to try again you can reheat the jam, sterilize the jars and repeat the process. You CANNOT reuse the same lids. Those are one-time use only. Jars and bands can be reused until they break down. Lids have to be replaced.

Keywords: strawberry jam, small batch strawberry jam, jam

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