Making Low Sugar Peach Jam

We have this peach tree at the farmstead that is KILLER!  When you bite into one of those peaches, the juice just runs down your chin, your hand, your arm…You get the picture.

Peach jam

I wanted to capture that flavor (and memory) in a jar to enjoy during the winter months. But if I used  a typical pectin-peach jam recipe, all you would taste is granulated sugar because a standard recipe calls for 7 cups of sugar. Yes 7 CUPS!

These peaches were sweet enough on their own. They didn’t need that much sugar.

But when canning with pectin, that sugar is not there for flavor. It is there to create the gel. It is like a crazy science experiment in that the sugar meshes with the pectin and the acidity of the fruit to create the firm product. If you cut back on the sugar, you get syrup and no gel.

So, you have two choices when you have this dilemma.

You can either skip the pectin and do a long cooking process to reach the “gel” stage (like candy making) OR you can use a low sugar pectin. Being short on time, I opted for option 2.

How Does Low Sugar Pectin Work?

Low sugar pectin has added calcium and that combined with the acid of the fruit will cause the gel to take place. So, if you buy a low or no sugar pectin at the store, it will work with no sugar, or  honey or even stevia and you won’t end up with a runny mess.

So with my low sugar pectin in hand, I combined my peaches with only 3 cups of sugar and ended up with a jam that tastes just like that run-down-your-chin bite of summer! (And yes, I could have reduced the sugar even more if I wanted to.)

How Jam gels

My recipe is below. And if you like low sugar jams, I also have a low sugar vanilla strawberry jam HERE.

Low Sugar Peach Jam Recipe

4 1/2 cups finely chopped (peeled) peaches (see blanching instructions below)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1 packet low/no sugar pectin (see notes below)

1/2 tsp butter (optional)

Makes 6 half-pint canning jars (or 12 of the mini 4 oz jars)

How to blanch peaches

Pealing: To peel the peaches, you need to blanch them. Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. Use a sharp knife to cut an X on one end of each peach. Drop the peaches into the boiling water (one or two at a time) for about 30-60 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out of the water and then do the next group. After blanching, the skin will easily peel right off and you can then chop and measure your fruit.

Low/No Sugar Pectin: There are several low sugar pectin’s on the market and each has their own “order of operations” when using. Be sure to read the instructions that come in your package and if it tells you to add ingredients in a different order, follow the box instructions instead of mine. For this recipe, I used Sure Jell No Sugar Needed Pectin which is commonly found in my local stores. But I also really like Pomona’s Universal Pectin because it contains no preservatives. I have to mail order that one. (But it is well worth it)

Making the Jam:

Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water and rinse. Fill a water bath canner with water and your empty jars (with lids off) and bring to a simmer. This will serve two purposes: It will heat the water for the water bath processing and will heat the jars for filling with hot jam. You are not sterilizing the jars as this is not needed when you will be processing for 10 minutes or longer. You are just heating them for filling. Be sure that the water level is high enough to cover all the jars with 2 inches of water when processing later. Place the jar lids in a sauce pan and cover with hot water until ready to use.

Place fruit and lemon juice into a large stockpot. Measure out the sugar and place into a separate bowl. Then into another smaller bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar from the measured amount and the 1 box of the sure-jell no sugar pectin. Add just the sugar/pectin mixture to the fruit (leave the remaining sugar out for now) and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat. While heating, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of butter if you wish (to reduce foaming). Stir constantly to prevent burning.

When the mixture reaches a rolling boil (one that cannot be stirred down), add remaining sugar, and the spices and continue to stir. Bring mixture back to a full rolling boil and boil for exactly 1 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.

Pull the hot jars out of the water, dumping the hot water back into the pot as you go. Then ladle the hot jam into the heated jars filling to within 1/8 inch of the top. Wipe down the rims and add lids and rings. Place jars back into the water canner and bring to a a gentle boil. Process jam for 10 minutes. Remove jars and allow to cool. Check seals and label.

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About the Author

Theresa Loe is the Co-Executive TV Producer and the On-Air Canning/Homesteading Expert for the national PBS gardening TV series, Growing A Greener World. She is a lifetime canner and a graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program. She studied both sustainable horticulture and professional culinary arts and she is a wrangler of chickens and two teenage children. (Not necessarily in that order.)

{ 31 comments… add one }

  • TeresaR October 29, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Those jams are so beautiful! I bought a jar of low sugar pectin last month but haven’t tried it yet. Maybe I’ll try it with some frozen blueberries. :)

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  • Julie October 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    I almost cried at the end of SC peach season this year. I ate a beautiful peach every day for lunch this summer, and then suddenly–they were gone. Poof. The end of peach season completely blindsided me before I could can any for a mid-winter treat. Next year, I will be ready with your scrumptious recipe in hand. Thank you!

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    • theresa October 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      Oh Julie – I so know what you mean! Our peaches seemed extra good this year too! I wonder if it was the weird weather patterns or just luck. But either way, I am glad that I was able to share my recipe with you for next year.

      ~Theresa

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  • Barbara Johnson November 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I always thought that low-sugar pectin had an artificial sugar in it, so I stayed clear! Thank you for the education on the calcium added….never knew that. I always HATED adding the 7 cups of sugar to my strawberry jam and next year, I won’t have to. Yayyyy. Only goes to prove…you are never to old to learn something new. Peace, all!!

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    • theresa November 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      Well, I suppose you should always check whichever pectin you choose to be sure. I know that Pomona’s pectin (mentioned above) is the most natural one I have found. And I agree with you! I always hated to add all that sugar too! This is so much better tasting. You just taste the fruit and not the sugar. Yum!

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  • Barbara Disbrow June 5, 2013 at 11:31 am

    I did not see how much this makes. How many jars will I need for this recipe? I also saw another recipe where the recipe was altered by exchanging one cup of sugar for one cup of brown sugar. I can’t wait to get some peaches and try this recipe!

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    • theresa July 3, 2013 at 4:29 am

      Oops! Sorry Barbara – This recipe makes six 1/2 pint jars. I will add it to the recipe now. Thanks for the heads up.

      As for brown sugar, that is a new one to me. I have never done that. I suppose it would work because brown sugar is still granulated sugar with the addition of molasses. But I have not tried that myself.

      ~Theresa

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  • kiki June 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    just made this delicious jam..my first time canning! i added one more tsp. lemon juice & one generous pinch of salt before removing from heat as it still tasted a little sweet to me. thank you for such clear directions & a recipe that’s a keeper!

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  • Sarah July 23, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Is it okay to straight-up double or triple this recipe? Does it need to be adjusted for larger quantities? Or is it best to just do small batches? (I have a ridiculous amount of peaches)

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    • theresa July 25, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      Hi Sarah,

      It is usually best NOT to double or triple a jam recipe as it does not always gel the same way. But this is especially true when using a boxed pectin. Sorry to say, it is best for you to do one batch at a time or see if you can find a recipe that uses a larger amount of peaches. :-(

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  • Angela August 8, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Sarah, Last year I made peach jam using the low sugar pectin. The peaches in the jam rose to the top of the jar. I want to make jam again. How can I prevent the fruit from rising to the top of the jar. Thanks. Angela

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    • theresa August 15, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      One way to prevent the fruit from rising it is to wait just a few minutes before pouring into the jars. The extra minutes allow the jam to firm up a bit more and hold the pieces in suspension. However, sometimes (if the jam has a looser set) it doesn’t matter and the fruit will rise to the top. The flavor is the same, so when this happens to me I just give the jam a good stir when I open it up.

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  • Jenn August 12, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Hey there! I found your recipe and tried it with some beautiful organic peaches from the farmers market today, and only ended up with three 8oz jars! Its VERY sweet, and extra gelled (I imagine because its meant for twice as much jam.) Do you have any ideas on what could have happened?

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    • theresa August 15, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Hi Jenn,

      This has happened to me before on recipes too. It has to do with how finely you chop the fruit. If you chop into finer pieces you actually use up more peaches. I suspect your “chop” was larger than my “chop”. Make a note of it and next time, chop them into very small 1/4 inch pieces or smaller. (That is the size I do.)

      Another factor can be how ripe they are. The riper fruit has more juice and makes a thinner gel. So a less ripe fruit will have a firmer gel.

      I hope the flavor was still okay!

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  • dilshad August 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    soo good recipe

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  • Sue August 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    You mentioned using steiva, is it measure for measure or do adjustments need to be made? I am diabetic and stay away from granulated sugar as much as possible.

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    • theresa August 15, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      Hi Sue-

      No it is not measure for measure. Stevia tends to be sweeter than granulated sugar. I would start out with a small amount and taste to see what you like. It tends to bring out the flavor in a different way – so you don’t need as much.

      Reply edit
  • LaVonne August 19, 2014 at 7:23 am

    If I want to use some of my peaches for making syrup for pancakes & waffles, could I use this same recipe and just use more fruit, like maybe 6 cups of chopped peaches?

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    • theresa August 19, 2014 at 7:32 am

      Hi LaVonne-

      If you want to make this recipe into a syrup, I would drop the pectin. You can add more fruit also, but it may not be necessary. Just watch the thickness as you cook. Stop cooking when it reaches the thickness you like.

      Another option is to use peaches in this plum syrup recipe I have on my other canning blog. It has more sugar though. http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/simple-plum-syrup/

      Hope that helps. Enjoy!

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  • Salma August 19, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Well, I am a Canadian so I had Bernardin Brand No Sugar Pectin but I chose your recipe over theirs and I am happy with the results. I added a star anise to 3 of the jars as an experiment and left the others plain. It tasted nice right out of the pot! I did not change the sugar amount because I know that the initial sweetness will reduce over a couple of weeks. I learned this from previous home canning experience. Thanks.

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  • Heidi Hihn September 2, 2014 at 5:41 am

    Great recipe. I made two batches last night. I enjoyed it on my English muffin this morning and it was delish!! Thanks for sharing the wonderful and easy to make recipe!

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  • Kim September 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Wish I had of read this earlier, I made a batch of peach pepper jam that just did not set. I’ve been canning since I was a kid but got out of it for a fear years (the shame!) and just hadn’t made much jam or jelly. At least, not ones where I would have a reason to use pectin or cut sugar. As a kid jam meant filling a 5 gallon stockpot with blueberries and cooking it down all day long. I will be trying Pomona’s next year, and in the meanwhile I have a bunch of delicious peach pepper sauce! All is not lost, may be a bit too thin for toast but perfect for glazes, marinades, steak and BBQ sauce… I might even pour some over ice cream.

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  • Stacy September 7, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Made it with 1 c sugar and it was delicious, tasted more like peach instead of sugar.

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  • Vanessa September 13, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    The explanation of gelling really helped me. I want to make low sugar preserves to mix with my homemade yogurt and I would have had syrup if I hadn’t read this. I ordered some Pomona pectin to try. Pricey but not really per jar. Thank you! After I use my friends peaches, I’ll be headed for blueberry and cherry. I’m excited!

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  • michelle yeaton October 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Hi!! going to try this for sure!! Love all the info. xxx

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