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Simple Strawberry Jam, European style

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Simple Strawberry Jam, European style ~ this easy small batch strawberry jam is made the traditional way they’ve been making jam in Europe for centuries.

Simple Strawberry Jam : a stack of jam jars

This recipe and method comes to me from my friend Elisa.  Elisa is from the Brie region of France and her family home dates from something crazy like the 1500s.  Her summer job, while she was growing up, was making jams and jellies from the fruit in the family orchards.  I know.  How cool is that.  She still goes back every summer season to help out with the huge task. Being a sly food blogger I immediately pumped her for all the information I could get on her authentic French method for making jam.

I spotted these strawberries at Sunday’s farmer’s market and they caught my eye because of their deep red color and small size.  I’m going to start off super simple and just make a straightforward strawberry jam using Elisa’s suggestions.  This is jam at its simplest.

Elisa sent me a detailed list of the jam and jelly making tips and secrets she’s learned from her grandmother, the women in her village, and her own experimentation over the years.  According to Elisa, for the most basic of all jams you technically need only 4 things: fruit, sugar, clean jars, and a scale.  The scale is essential because you need equal amounts, by weight, of the fruit and sugar.  There are lots of variations and subtle changes you can make, including using special sugars with added pectin, and different combinations of fruit and flavorings, but I’m starting out with the easiest.

Notes:  I’m pleased to say everything went smoothly.  I was especially impressed with how the simple procedure of flipping over the hot jars of jam did indeed create a seal…the tops on my jars were all concave.  The jam seemed a little loose at first, but by the next morning it was just perfect.

It puzzled me that this jam was so simple to make, and bypassed all that rigamarole with the boiling jars, sterilized tongs, etc, etc.  I wrote to Elisa to ask her about this, and here’s what she said:

I’ve never heard of anyone, either in Belgium or in France, boiling the jars after filling them. Sometimes they do it before filling them – but just as a way of cleaning them well. But most people nowadays just put them in the dishwasher. To make sure, I checked more than a dozen websites on jam making in French, and none of them mentioned boiling the jars. However, they all said to turn the jars upside down when the jam is cooling down. This creates a vacuum that allows for the conservation of the jam and prevents contamination from bacteria or molds. You know, like when you open a jar for the first time, it makes this popping sound when the vacuum is filled with air? … and the extremely high sugar content stops the proliferation of bacteria (this is why historically sugar is used for food preservation – just like salt or vinegar). AND, my biggest argument: people in France and Belgium have been doing it like this forever and we’re perfectly fine 🙂

So there you have it, straight from an expert, the European method of making jam is a lot simpler and, as Elisa says, they’ve been doing it forever.  That said, I think I’ll be using it for small batches that I intend to keep in the refrigerator and eat relatively soon.  But maybe that’s just the ugly American in me talking 😉

The scones are my LIGHT AND AIRY OAT SCONES, the perfect foil for strawberry jam.  Since my berries were so small, I left them whole, and didn’t mash the fruit too much during the cooking, so I got nice big chunks of strawberry in my jam.

Simple Strawberry Jam, European Style 3
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Simple Strawberry Jam, European style

Simple Strawberry Jam, European style ~ this easy small batch strawberry jam is made the traditional way they've been making jam in Europe for centuries.
Course fruit preserves
Cuisine French
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Yield 5 cups


  • 3 pints fresh ripe strawberries, rinsed and trimmed
  • An equal amount of sugar, by weight
  • juice of 1 lemon (this was a last minute addition after I tasted the cooking jam and it was very sweet)
  • 5 or 6 clean 1/2 pint jars


  • Cut your berries in half or quarters if they are large, or leave them whole if they are small. Weigh the prepared fruit and put it in a large kettle or soup pot. My three pints of trimmed berries weighed almost 2 pounds.
  • Weigh out an equal amount of regular sugar and pour over the berries. Stir the sugar and strawberries together, mashing some of the berries to release the juice. Cover and set aside for several hours to allow the juices to start flowing. Refrigerate in very warm weather.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for about 20 minutes, and then test the jam by spooning a small amount onto a very cold plate. If the jam gels it is ready, if it remains liquid, keep boiling, up to about 30 minutes. Mine took the full 30 minutes. If you are in doubt, keep boiling.
  • Ladle the hot jam (be very careful, it's super hot) into the jars, filling them almost full. Put the lids on and immediately turn the jars upside down.
  • When the jam has cooled, turn the jars upright and store in the refrigerator. Note: US health standards dictate that jam bottled this way should be refrigerated and eaten within a few weeks. It is not shelf stable according to American requirements.

Simple Strawberry Jam pin

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    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    September 7, 2019 at 6:26 am

    Hello, my family (Swiss and British) have been using a similar method to the one described as long as I can remember – as do most people I know here in the UK. We wash our jars well in very hot soapy water, rinse them then dry them in a cool oven until they’re ready to be filled. We use the same technique for tomato sauce and chutneys too and I’ve never had a spoiled jar. If a lid ‘pops’ just put it in the fridge and eat the contents within a week or two. I’ve had jars last for two years using this form of preservation (stored in a pantry or cupboard) but the flavours do change a little after such a long time.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    This method is intriguing to me. How long do they keep ?

    • Reply
      May 10, 2020 at 4:24 pm

      It depends on who you ask, Lee. In Europe they are comfortable keeping them on the shelf all year long. Here in the States, we recommend refrigeration and consuming within a month.

  • Reply
    Gerlinde @ Sunnycovechef
    May 5, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    My mother and I have made jam the European way for many years. However, I am careful to check that they are proberly sealed. Your jam looks wonderful.

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks Gerlinde!

  • Reply
    Lulu Abbo
    October 6, 2015 at 11:02 am

    I learned this method at cooking school in Ireland twenty five years ago. This was the more “modern” treatment, traditionally, a jelly paper was used, a round cellophane-like top, which also formed a vacuum as it cooled. Works in the cool Irish climate! Since I live in California, I use the turning over technique. ?

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 7:59 pm

      I’m glad for your confirmation that the method is indeed traditional, thanks Lulu!

  • Reply
    February 19, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Canning safely and assuring that all botulism spores are killed (which this method simply cannot do) is simple, and not that much work. Use a stovetop steam canner for fruits to avoid boiling a lot of water. Botulism can hospitalize you for months, paralyze, kill, or cause chronic disability. You can’t taste or smell it. You may be lucky and never get it. But if you do, it’s BAD.
    Please consult reputable food safety sources (like this one and use tested recipes to ensure your family’s and guests’ safety.

    • Reply
      August 13, 2015 at 5:47 pm



      • Reply
        May 10, 2020 at 4:26 pm

        Yes, this is why I recommend refrigerating and consuming within a month.

  • Reply
    January 24, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Can this method be used for other fresh fruit? I am not a fan of Strawberry Jam. If so, would the measurements of sugar and fruit choice be the same? Also, can you supply more information about the scale used in this recipe?

    • Reply
      May 10, 2020 at 4:28 pm

      This recipe is specifically for strawberries but you could use other types of fruit and berries. I would add sugar to taste. The scale is one I no longer own, but similar scales can be found on Amazon, or any kitchen supply store.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 6:37 am

    I tried this jam yesterday and the recipe did not work for me, I am wondering what I did wrong. I ended up with a hard candy, I would say it’s like a sucker, I might loose my jars trying to get it out. The instructions said to bring to a boil and continue to boil. So I left it at a hard boil the whole time, should I have reduced the heat so it was at a simmer? I also added my lemon juice at the beginning instead of the end and wondered if that was part of the problem? I would like to try this again as it seems so much easier than other jams. Thank you.

    • Reply
      July 31, 2013 at 8:03 am

      Hi Janis, it sounds like you boiled it too long. Every batch will be different, but once it thickens it is ready. You can test it by dropping a small bit on a very cold plate, and if the jam ‘gels’ as it cools, it’s ready. I boil my jam the whole time, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a ‘hard boil’. Hope this helps!

      • Reply
        July 31, 2013 at 8:17 am

        Thanks Sue, I only boiled it for the min. 20 minutes so I will assume my heat was too high. Will try it again.

        • Reply
          July 6, 2014 at 12:04 pm

          I realize this is almost a year later but I did retry this recipe and it worked perfectly the second time by reducing the heat to a simmer. I also stored the jars in the pantry (not the fridge or freezer) and they kept just fine. Looking forward to making this again in a couple of weeks when the berries are ready.

          • Sue
            July 6, 2014 at 1:04 pm

            That’s great to hear — I haven’t made a batch this year, I better get to it!

  • Reply
    Linda A. Thompson-Ditch
    June 27, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    I noticed in Yvette Van Boven’s cookbook Home Made Summer she makes jams this way, with equal parts sugar and fruit and the jars turned upside down. She says to store them in the pantry, so the seal must be fine. Can’t wait to try it!

    • Reply
      May 10, 2020 at 4:30 pm

      Again, here in the US it’s not recommended to can jam this way, so we would refrigerate and eat within a few weeks to a month.

  • Reply
    June 22, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Can this be used with any fruit or just strawberries?

    • Reply
      May 10, 2020 at 4:31 pm

      You can use other fruit, for sure.

  • Reply
    June 19, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    As other posters have commented, the concept of boiling the jars and such was a total deterrent to making jams, for me. However, this is so simply brilliant! I’m curious why the jars should be kept in the fridge though? If they’re vacuum sealed shouldn’t they be able to be stored on a shelf in the pantry? My toddler and I went strawberry picking today, am looking forward to jam later on!!

    • Reply
      May 10, 2020 at 4:32 pm

      In Europe they are confident keeping well sealed jars on the shelf, but here in the US it doesn’t meet our standards for safety. I personally choose to err on the side of caution and refrigerate/eat within a few weeks.

  • Reply
    June 15, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    I don’t boil my jars, but I do run them through the rinse and dry cycle of the dishwasher right before I use them. A whole lot less work, and they need it anyway after being stored empty.

  • Reply
    June 13, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Wonderful recipe. This is how we used to make it here, or least how my ex-mother-in-law taught me. I don’t even think we turned them upside down. But, as long as it was fruit, it was supposed to be ok without boiling. An, pectin was a shortcut.

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    May 28, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Half the reason (okay MOST of the reason) I never canned until 6 mos ago was watching my mother and grandma boil jars, vats of water, tongs..the whole thing Freaked! me out! Like all that work? even AFTER you have a “sterile” mixture of fruit/sugar/jam that’s been boiling for a half hour…yes, that’s American canning.

    Well, leave it to the French. I love them, Elisa, and this post. Life.Changer!

  • Reply
    May 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Printed this off and am making as soon as our berries arrive–not too awfully long now! Gorgeous pics. Enjoy the weekend.

  • Reply
    A Trifle Rushed
    May 18, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Super jam, I use a recipe from the back of a sugar packet in France, and the pots go in the dishwasher, I’m always amazed at the fiddle of sterilizing that I read about.

  • Reply
    May 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks for the easy recipe! (And thanks to Elisa too!) I’ve always wanted to make my own jam, but I never actively made an attempt to do it.

    BTW, those gorgeous strawberries photos are making me want to run to the market and buy out their supply! 😀

  • Reply
    The Slow Roasted Italian
    May 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Your photos are beautiful Sue! We love homemade jam and I have been ‘canning’ in boiling water for a while now. Imagine my delight when I found the “inversion method”. We have jams and apple butter that have been canned this way are perfectly delicious a year later. I don’t have more information because I can never keep it longer than that.

    I am making jam today and am so excited to eat it! Have a wonderful weekend.

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    May 17, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Simple jam is just the best – nothing else is needed.

  • Reply
    Linda A. Thompson Ditch
    May 17, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I can do this! I’ve always wanted to make jam, but the whole boiling process has kept me from starting. (Not to mention no owning a canning pot.) But this I can do! And I’ll even keep a jar for a year as an experiment. 😉 Can’t wait to read about the next one.

  • Reply
    From the Kitchen
    May 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Oh my goodness–how beautiful and simple. You can bet that I’m bookmarking this for our strawberry season in about a month.


  • Reply
    May 17, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Your jam is a perfectly beautiful dark red! I love it. I’ve used the inversion method with canning in the past and never had a problem with it. Although, I don’t recall if I stored them in the refrigerator or not. Now, I just use my grandmother’s method of pouring parafin over the top and I think that’s much simpler than the water bath.

    I can’t wait to see the recipe for peach vanilla jam. I am JEALOUS that you already have peaches available! We won’t see them for months still.

  • Reply
    May 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Hmmm that’s really interesting. I always shy away from homemade jams and things, thinking how time consuming it would be to boil the jars…all that fuss. This is amazing! Totally making this when strawberries come into season. Thanks Sue!

  • Reply
    May 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Hmmm that’s really interesting. I always shy away from homemade jams and things, thinking how time consuming it would be to boil the jars…all that fuss. This is amazing! Totally making this when strawberries come into season. Thanks Sue!

  • Reply
    May 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    This looks delicious! The lemon is indeed a good trick! I dare you to keep a jar on a shelf for one or two years – you’ll see, perfectly edible! 😉

  • Reply
    Hungry Dog
    May 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    I’ve never wanted to make jam until I read this post! I’m always deterred by the boiling step. But I could manage this! And strawberries abound right now. Your photos are so lovely, Sue!

  • Reply
    SavoringTime in the Kitchen
    May 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    I can’t wait until strawberry season here (which will be in June)! This looks so delicious – especially on a home made biscuit!

  • Reply
    Inside a British Mum's Kitchen
    May 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    There’s nothing like homemade jam – this looks so good. I love that fact that your Dad still hooks up with this old roomates!!
    I’ve heard to turning the jars around when cooling – I think making jam is very satisfying 🙂
    Mary x