How to Make Homemade Preserves Without Pectin


cooking jam timer

Making homemade preserves is one of the easiest ways to use fresh fruits that are left over after your family has eaten their fill. You don’t even need pectin. Not only will the fruit be salvaged, but you and your family will have a delicious and healthy treat to eat long after the fresh fruit is gone.

If you are not familiar with preserves, you may be asking a number of questions at this point, like what are preserves, how do preserves differ from jelly and jam, what kind of fruits make good preserves, and how are preserves made.

The purpose of this article is to answer those questions and to give you all the information you need to start making your own preserves. We’ll even include a few recipes for some different types of fruits.

What Kind of Fruits Make Good Preserves?

The best fruits to make the most delicious preserves:

  • Are a combination of about 3/4 fully ripe fruits with the other 1/4 just slightly under-ripe, which ensures that the fruit contains the maximum amount of natural pectin, acid, and sugar.
  • Are at their peak of ripeness so that your preserves are as flavorful as you can make them.
  • Are in season because that is when they are the most flavorful,
  • Are grown locally and/or readily available to you so that you can use them within a few days of being harvested.
  • Are the fruits that your family likes.

For more complete information on choosing fruit, you could check out my article entitled “The Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Fruits to Make Jam or Jelly.” These tips would also apply when choosing fruits to make preserves or any other fruit product.

How are Preserves Different from Jelly and Jam?

The difference between preserves and any of the other fruit products is in the way the fruit is prepared and processed. Here are a couple of the more widely used products and how they differ from preserves:

  • Jelly is made by extracting the juice from the fruits and using the juice to make jelly.
  • Jam is made from either mashing the fruits or cutting them into smaller pieces to make the jam.
  • Preserves are made by either using the whole fruits, such as blackberries or figs or by cutting larger fruits such as pears and peaches into large chunks and cooking those to make preserves.

So the short answer here is that preserves differ from jelly and jam because when making preserves, you leave the fruit whole or cut it into large chunks.

How Are Preserves Made?

Preserves are made by either using the whole fruits, such as blackberries or figs or by cutting larger fruits such as pears and peaches into large chunks and adding only sugar or other sweetener and cooking until they are thickened.

If the full amount of sugar is used in making the preserves, it can be poured into glass jars, sealed, and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. If the preserves are sugar-free or made with reduced sugar or an alternative sweetener, the jam must be placed in glass jars or any container that is freezer-friendly and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

The only ingredient that is required for preserves is the fruit, although most people add sugar or an alternative sweetener. There is no need to add a thickener as the preserves are cooked until the moisture has evaporated and the fruit has thickened.

Recipes for Preserves

Fig Preserves

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon of fresh ripe figs
  • 5 cups of granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Gather all required utensils and ingredients before beginning.
  2. Wash and prepare jars.
  3. Wash the figs thoroughly and remove the stems; either leave the figs whole or cut them in half.
  4. Place the figs in a large Dutch oven and add sugar.
  5. Add just a little water, up to one cup for a gallon of figs, because the water left on the figs after washing, the melted sugar, and the natural juice that cooks out of the figs, make adding a lot of liquid unnecessary.
  6. Bring the figs to a boil, stirring often to prevent sticking and burning.
  7. Reduce heat and cook approximately 30 minutes, or until the water has evaporated, leaving the figs in a thick syrup. Stir often during this process.
  8. Pour hot figs into prepared jars, affix lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

If you add too much water, the figs will need to be cooked longer which will, in turn, overcook the figs. Overcooked figs will still taste good, but will be darker in color and somewhat dry.

This recipe will yield approximately 6 pints of fig preserves.

Strawberry Preserves

Ingredients:

  • 3 pints of ripe strawberries
  • 5 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Gather all required utensils and ingredients before beginning.
  2. Wash and prepare jars.
  3. Wash the strawberries thoroughly in cold water and remove the caps; either leave the strawberries whole or cut them in half.
  4. Place the strawberries in a container with a lid and add sugar.
  5. Place the container of strawberries and sugar in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight. This will allow the juice from the berries to mix with the sugar.
  6. Place the strawberry and sugar mixture into a Dutch oven.
  7. Bring the strawberries to a boil slowly, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon juice.
  8. Cook rapidly over medium heat until the water has all evaporated and the syrup is thickened, or about 15 minutes.
  9. Use a ladle or funnel to pour the strawberry preserves into prepared jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
  10. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
  11. Cool and store in a cool dry area with no direct sunlight until ready to use.

This recipe will yield approximately 4 half-pint jars of preserves.

Sugar-Free Peach Freezer Preserves

  • 6 cups of prepared peaches
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  1. Gather all required utensils and ingredients before beginning.
  2. Wash and prepare jars.
  3. Wash the peaches thoroughly in cold water and peel and remove pits; cut the peaches into large chunks.
  4. Place the peaches in a large Dutch oven and add approximately 1 cup of water.
  5. Bring the peaches to a boil slowly, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon juice.
  6. Cook rapidly over medium heat until the water has all evaporated and the syrup is thickened, or about 15 minutes.
  7. Use a ladle or funnel to pour the peach preserves into prepared jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Or, let cool in the cooking pot and pour into jars or other freezer-friendly containers.
  8. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. If storing in the freezer, let thaw completely in the refrigerator before using.
  9. Preserves stored in the refrigerator should be good up to 2 months and in the freezer for up to a year.

This recipe produces 5 to 6 cups of peach preserves.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Should Preserves Be Stored?

Preserves that are made with sugar and by using recommended safe canning practices can be stored in a cool dry area such as a cabinet or pantry with no direct sunlight for 2 years or more.

If they are made with reduced sugar or alternative sweetener they must be placed in glass jars or other freezer-friendly container and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 to 6 weeks or in the freezer for 1 to 2 years.

How to Prepare Jars for Canning?

Here is the proper way to prepare jars for canning:

  1. Check that your jars do not have any nicks, cracks, or rough edges around the rim that would cause them to break.
  2. Rings can be reused but be sure to use new lids as recycled lids may or may not seal properly.
  3. Wash jars, lids, and rings in hot soapy water.
  4. Place clean jars in a pan or pot with enough water to allow jars to sit in about one inch of water and bring them to a boil, allowing them to boil at least 10 minutes before using to sterilize them while you are cooking the food.
  5. Place lids in a pot of boiling water to cover, reduce heat, and leave them in the hot water until needed.

How to do a Boiling Water Bath?

Here is the boiling water bath process:

  1. Before you start cooking your preserves or other food, fill the canner half full with water, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat so that the water is simmering.
  3. Cook the preserves and pour into properly prepared jars. Wipe jar rims with a clean wet cloth and affix lids.
  4. Add rings and tighten well, but do not over tighten.
  5. Wipe jars with a clean cloth to remove any spilled fruit.
  6. Place the jars into the canning rack and lower into the simmering water.
  7. Bring water back to a full rolling boil and cook for the time designated by the recipe for the food you are canning, which would be 10 minutes for preserves.
  8. Turn off the heat and lift the canning rack to rest on the rim of the canner and carefully remove the jars of preserves onto a rack or other prepared place where they can sit undisturbed until completely cooled.

What exactly are Preserves?

The term “preserves” is used in some parts of the country and, yes, even in different parts of the world, more or less interchangeably with other fruit products such as jam, jelly, spread, chutney, butter, confit, conserve, and even marmalade.

But, in the southern part of the United States, the term “fruit preserves” refers to a fruit product similar to jam which contains either whole fruit or large chunks of fruit and sugar. The product I am familiar with does not contain a thickener such as fruit pectin nor any other ingredient except that a small amount of lemon juice is sometimes added to fruits such as blueberries because they are low in natural acid.

  • Preserves are prepared by following the standard safe canning practices and can be stored in glass jars for up to two years.
  • As with other fruit products, sugar is the ingredient that safely preserves the fruit and keeps it from spoiling for a long time if stored properly.
  • Preserves can be made with an alternative sweetener rather than sugar or by using a smaller amount of sugar and even by not using any sweetener at all, but those preserves must be kept in the refrigerator or freezer as they will not keep in jars for an extended period of time without sugar to act as a preservative.
  • As when making other fruit products, preserves are made by adding only a small amount of liquid to keep the fruit from burning while the sugar is melting and then by removing the moisture from the fruit because moisture is where bacteria grows and causes food to spoil. Moisture is removed by evaporation while the fruit is cooking.

Should I peel all fruits used to make preserves?

Most fruits like figs, cherries, and berries do not need peeling and most are left whole when making preserves.

However, fruits like peaches, apples, and pears should be peeled and cut into large chunks when making preserves.

What Kind of Pot Should I Use to Make Preserves?

As with any other fruit product, preserves must be cooked in a non-reactive pot. Failing to use a non-reactive pot to cook highly acidic foods can cause metals to leach into the food which may affect the taste of the preserves. Copper is the only exception to this rule.

The only pots that should be used to make any fruit products are stainless steel, copper, coated cast iron, and coated aluminum.

Here is a pot that meets all the above criteria that can be found on Amazon. (Click the link to see listing)

Can I Make Double Batches of Preserves?

As when making jam and jelly, it is better to make single batches of preserves.

Most recipes for preserves or any other fruit products are developed for a certain amount of volume, and if a larger amount of ingredients are used, the size pot needed and the amount of cooking time must be adjusted so that the right amount of evaporation takes place within a certain length of time.

Longer cooking time will certainly overcook the preserves, thus making the finished product darker in color and dry in texture.

How Are Preserves Served?

  • As a spread on bread, toast, or biscuits.
  • As an ingredient in marinades, salad dressings, and sauces such as curry sauce.
  • As a spread on crackers and sandwiches.
  • As an ingredient in smoothies.
  • As an ingredient in muffins and other quick bread.
  • As a filling for fruit pies and cobblers.
  • As a topping for braised meats.
  • Combined with cream cheese for a cake frosting.

Final Thoughts

Even though jam and jelly are the most popular and widely used fruit products, I recommend that you try some homemade fig or strawberry preserves. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the robust fresh fruit flavor. Because preserves contain no other ingredients except fruit and sugar, there is nothing to compete with the fruit flavor and the sugar only enhances that flavor.

If you are a jam and jelly maker and have never tried making preserves, I encourage you to at least give it a try and see what your family thinks. I personally think it is a healthy fruit product, the easiest fruit product to make, and the most flavorful!

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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