Easy Cranberry Jam
Cranberry jam is easy and tasty with a bright tart flavor. It needs no added pectin or long cooking–and has just three ingredients!
I was never that much of a jam person. I think it was its resemblance to Jello, the nemesis of my youth.
But since I’m supposed to be cutting back on carbs, my opinion is starting to change. Yes, now that a slice of breakfast toast may be the carbi-est I get all day, I’m darn sure going to smear it with something tasty. Plus jams are super useful to have on hand (see below for more ideas on all their uses)!
And that’s how I decided to make my own jam. I could make a sugared version for my husband. And if all went well (spoiler alert, it did), a sugar-free version for me.
I decided to go with cranberry jam since I love the bright tart flavor. Plus I knew there had to be at least one bag hiding in my fridge or freezer!
Why You’ll Love This!
Tasty. Cranberries are healthy and flavorful all year round. Nope, not just for Christmas anymore!
Easy. Jams can be tricky to get to set and sometimes you end up with jam syrup. But cranberries are loaded with natural pectin (and don’t need added pectin, like Sure Jell) so cranberry jam is especially easy and fun!
Frugal. Use up those leftover cranberries—and don’t forget to check the freezer. If you rescue them before they go bad, that makes this almost free!
Small Batch. This is a small batch recipe, so you can store it in your refrigerator if you’re not a canner. If do like to can (or you need a lot of jam), you can double or triple the amounts, then process according to standard jam processing methods.
Makes a Great Gift. Don’t you love homemade gifts! This makes a lovely option for the holidays or any time of the year. Add a jar to a gift basket, package one with a loaf of bread or a tea towel, or just give alone. (Be sure to tell the recipient it should be refrigerated if you don’t water bath can it.)
What You’ll Need
- Fresh cranberries. These provide the fruity goodness for this jam.
- Sugar or sweetener. Balances the tartness of the cranberries.
- Water. Needed for cooking and gelling.
- No special tools are needed. Unless you are canning the jam–then you’ll need a canner.
Step by Step Directions
Chop the cranberries to a medium dice (or larger if you prefer).
Combine the chopped cranberries, sugar (or sweetener) and water in a small saucepan.
Bring to a boil on medium heat. Lower heat and simmer to about 12 minutes until the mixture is thickened and jam like. You can place a saucer in the freezer and drop ¼ teaspoon on to the dish to check the gel, but this probably isn’t needed since cranberry jam is much less exacting than other jams.
Pour into a lidded jar or other covered container, cover and place in the refrigerator to finish thickening.
Many people consider the cranberry a superfood! Its use in preventing (though not treating) urinary tract infections is well known, but there’s more!
According to WebMD , cranberries “may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. They may also: protect against liver disease, lower blood pressure, improve eyesight, improve cardiovascular health.” But they also caution you to consult a physician if you are on blood thinners or have a history of kidney stones since cranberries contain vitamin k and oxalates.
How to Serve Jam
Move over toast—there are lots of ways to use jam!
Bake it with some brie, spiff up your grilled cheese, flavor a bowl of plain yogurt or dip aebleskivers, the fun Danish pancake balls.
Add jam to a charcuterie board, glaze a roast, make oatmeal jam bars (yum!), spread it inside crepes, have afternoon tea and scones, or swirl it in muffins.
Yes, there are so many ways that jam can liven up foods! Let me know what I’ve missed in the comments!
Variations and Special Diets
Going sugar free or keto. Because you don’t need any added pectin, this is a great jam to make sugar free. I recommend a sweetener like allulose which is much less likely to crystallize than some others. I made my sugar-free batch with an allulose monkfruit blend, and did a one-for-one substitution of sweetener for sugar. When it was done, I decided I wanted it slightly sweeter so I stirred in a few extra drops of stevia while it was still hot.
When made with a zero calorie sweetener, this jam comes in at 1 net carb for a two Tablespoon serving. That could be a nice keto treat—once you figure out what to spread it on!
Flavor variations. I went very simple with this, because I love the bright tart flavor of cranberries. But it’s easy to change things up. The simplest variation is probably to add some spices like cinnamon or cardamom. If you want to keep the jewel-like color, drop in a cinnamon stick when you cook this and take it out when you take it off the heat. But you can also add powdered spices.
Another option is cranberry orange flavor. This is a popular flavor match and I’ve used it before in my cranberry orange marmalade and cranberry orange shortbread cookies. To make orange cranberry jam you can use orange juice instead of the water and add a little orange zest. Pretty sure it will be amazing. Or just add a little lime or lemon zest as a brightener.
If you experiment with add-ins, just remember this caution about canning. The original cranberry jam can be water bath canned, as well as the version with the added orange juice and zest. But if you add anything else (other than small amounts of dried spices), the jam may no longer be acidic enough to can, so store it in your refrigerator.
Store leftovers airtight in the refrigerator where this should last at least a couple of weeks. The sugar-free version may spoil more quickly–or possibly not, since it’s still very acidic.
For longer storage, jam can be frozen for 6 months to a year. Be sure to allow enough room for expansion if you do freeze it.
And just in case you’re running out of ideas, see “How to Serve Jam” for more!
Tips & FAQs
My bag of cranberries was about 3 cups, so tripling this recipe should work if you were trying to use up a full bag. I ended up making 3 1-cup batches, while trying different variations.
How do I check cranberries for freshness? Fresh cranberries are firm and red, sometimes with some white or pink, in color. Individual berries may spoil at different times, so check through them and if you find some that are soft or very dark, discard those.
Can I add more sugar? The recipe includes the amount of sugar I personally prefer, which delivers a tart, but not mouth-puckering, jam. If you are used to eating commercial jams, however, this may not be sweet enough. So don’t fell at all bad about going up to a half cup or even a bit more. It’s still less sugar than most store jams (shhhh).
Do I have to chop my cranberries first? I think that jam made with whole cranberries feels too much like cranberry sauce. So I recommend chopping them in a food processor first (I use a mini). Now some people prefer to mash them after cooking, which seems harder and messier to me. But you do you.
Can I water bath can this? Made as is, or made with orange juice and orange zest, this can be water bath canned per standard jam canning instructions. See the National Center for Home Food Preservation website for more information. And for everything you ever wanted to know about jam-making, here is a link to a free booklet from the UW extension
Note that if you do water bath can your jars, the rings should be removed after 24 hours per standard canning practices (versus my picture with ring on since it hasn’t been canned).
Jammin for Jams
- Cranberry Jam from Art of Natural Living
- Easy Apple Butter from Palatable Pastime
- Mango Jam from Jen Around the World
- Mango Pineapple Freezer Jam from That Recipe
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- 1 cup cranberries chopped (after measuring)
- 1/3 cup sugar or allulose sweetener
- 1/2 cup water
- Chop the cranberries to a medium dice (or larger if you prefer).
- Combine the chopped cranberries, sugar (or sweetener) and water in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil on medium heat. Lower heat and simmer to about 12 minutes until the mixture is thickened and jam like. You can place a saucer in the freezer and drop ¼ teaspoon on to the dish to check the gel, but this probably isn’t needed since cranberry jam is much less exacting than other jams.
- Pour into a lidded jar or other covered container, cover and place in the refrigerator to finish thickening.
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Thank you for sharing this delicious cranberry jam recipe! I have always been a fan of cranberries, and this recipe seems like a great way to enjoy their bright and tart flavor. I love that it only requires three ingredients and no added pectin, making it super easy and fun to make.
That color looks amazing!! And it has so many uses. I made something similar for my margaritas and on top of my baked brie. Love it!
I love that this is a small batch and perfect for the leftover cranberries! It is quite funny, but this email arrived in the middle of a mega-marmalade mistake. It turned out well in the end, but I wish I had waited and made this instead!
I’m giggling at “mega-marmalade mistake”! I remember making a pepper jam recipe that turned into syrup. Was very nice for dipping crab rangoon, at least!