Strawberry Rhubarb Jam – Low Sugar, No Pectin

Jul 13, 2020 | Farmhouse Food

Strawberry rhubarb jam has a beautiful sweetness from the berries that is balanced perfectly with the rich tart flavour of rhubarb.

There is nothing like homemade jam spread on a warm piece of fresh bread in the mornings. Although jam is delicious it can often be too sweet, but the rhubarb in this low sugar recipe complements the strawberry flavour for a delicious tasting jam!

Strawberries and rhubarb are a classic combination. They have complementary flavours and are ripe for the picking in the same season. This year I was not able to pick as many strawberries as I hoped so I decided to try adding rhubarb to my jam to spread my berries further. 

In past years I have used low sugar, no pectin jam recipes and have really loved the results. I wanted to use a recipe like this for my strawberry rhubarb jam, but could not find one I liked so I did some experimenting and came up with my own recipe.  Since my strawberry rhubarb jam turned out so well and was a hit with my family I decided to share it here with you!

Low Sugar

Traditional jam recipes often call for equal parts sugar to berries, which is far too much for even my sweet tooth! This recipe has much less sugar than conventional jam recipes. Although the 6 cups of sugar is quite a bit, it is less than half of the 16 cups of berries and rhubarb.

So why do we need to add sugar at all?

Even though strawberries are sweet on their own, sugar is added to help the jam thicken. Recipes that use store bought pectin often require high amounts of sugar for the jam to set. This recipe requires less sugar and relies on natural sources of pectin and cooking time to set the jam. 

strawberry rhubarb jam

Natural Sources of Pectin

This recipe has no store bought pectin, however it does rely on natural sources of pectin to thicken.

So why do we need pectin?  In order for jam to thicken and set pectin is needed, however there are various natural sources of pectin that can be used. 

Pectin is a type of starch (heteropolysaccharide) that gives structural support to plants. This structural supporting quality is what helps jam thicken. Store bought pectin is extracted from plants that have high levels of pectin and is sold as a powder or liquid. However, you do not have to buy processed pectin you can go right to the source and use fruits and vegetables that are naturally high in pectin. 

Citrus fruits are commonly used for their high pectin levels. For instance the rinds and juice from lemons and limes can be used as a source of pectin to thicken jams. 

Although I use lemons from time to time, I prefer to find a local source of pectin, and since I live in Canada where lemons do not grow I opt to use apples. This is what people in my area would have used to make their jam before pectin was sold in stores, and I was so excited to find out I could use it too!

Another way to make strawberry jam without pectin is to pick ⅓ under-ripened berries. Before strawberries ripen they have higher levels of pectin (this is true of many fruits). By using enough in your jam you can eliminate the need for adding additional pectin. 

For this recipe I used 2 apples and 1 lemon but you can use whatever source of pectin that is local and available to you. For example 3 lemons, 3 apples, a combination, or the equivalent amount from other fruits. 

Needed Materials:

  • Mason jarslids and rings – approximately 12 half-pint jars
  • Canning funnel 
  • Jar lifter
  • Ladle
  • Water bath canner – If you do not have a water bath canner, no worries, a large pot with a tea towel in the bottom will work just the same. As long as it has a lid and is tall enough for there to be at least 1 inch of water above the top of the jars.
strawberry rhubarb jam

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Ingredients:

8 cups strawberries (whole berries with stems removed)

8 cups rhubarb (½ inch pieces)

6 cups sugar

1 lemon (zested and juiced)

2 apples (grated)

¾ tsp salt

Recipe Yield and Time:

Makes approximately 12 half-pint mason jars.

Takes approximately 20 minutes of prep, 1 hour cooking and 10 minutes canning.

Jam Directions:

1. Stem strawberries and add to a large pot.

2. Slightly mash the berries with a potato masher or fork.

3. Chop rhubarb in ½ inch pieces and add to the pot.

4. Add in the sugar and salt.

5. Zest and juice the lemons into the pot AND/ OR peel apples and grate them into the pot. (OR add whatever natural source of pectin you choose to use)

6. Mix ingredients and turn on heat to high until they start to boil, stirring frequently.

7. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook until jam thickens (see below), continue to stir as needed to keep jam from scorching.

8. Take jam pot off the heat and start canning.

Canning Directions:

1. While jam is still hot ladle it into sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch head space.

2. Clean rim of the jar, place on lid and screw band on finger tight.

3. Put jars in water bath canner and bring to a boil.

4. Once boiling, set timer and let boil for 10 minutes (if higher than 1000 ft above sea level add appropriate time, see note for times).

5. Turn off heat and let set for 5 minutes before removing jars from canner.

6. Let jars set untouched for 12 hours.

7. Remove bands, check for proper seal and store on the shelf for up to a year.

strawberry rhubarb jam

How To Know When Jam Has Thickened

Every time you make jam it will likely take a different amount of cooking time to thicken. This is because berries have different water contents. This jam usually takes me approximately 1 hour of cooking time to thicken. Here are a few ways that I use to tell if my jam is thick enough:

Frozen spoon test: Place a spoon or two in the freezer when you start cooking your jam. When you think it is getting close to being ready (45 min -1 hour) take a spoon out of the freezer, swirl it around the jam, pull it out and inspect the back of the spoon. If the jam drips off in individual drips it is not ready, but if a few drips come together before falling or the jam slides off in sheets it is ready!

Frozen plate test: Put a plate in the freezer when you start to cook. When you think the jam is ready take the chilled plate out and put a spoonful of jam on it. Once the jam has cooled, run your finger through it and see how well it holds its shape. This will help you see if the jam is thick enough for you. 

Apart from these tests, I know that my jam is getting close to being done when it starts to spit, which can burn you so be careful when stirring the pot. You will also be able to feel the jam getting thicker and more resistant to stirring. 

If you have a candy thermometer the jam will be thick enough around 220°F.

Canning Times By Altitude

The times for any water bath canning will need to be longer as you go up in altitude. Here are the canning times for this jam recipe depending on your altitude location:

0 – 1000 ft …………. can for 10 minutes

1001 – 3000 ft …… can for 15 minutes

3001 – 6000 ft …… can for 20 minutes

6001 – 8000 ft …… can for 25 minutes

8001 – 10000 ft ….. can for 30 minutes

More Food Preservation Posts

Here are some more of my favourite canning and preserving recipes:



strawberry rhubarb jam


  1. Carol Murdock

    Thanks Maggie for the recipe and all the interesting info on pectin. May try sometime.

  2. Lori Pittenger

    I am going to try this. I wish you had a print option here. I am looking forward to the outcome.

  3. Nicole

    Do you recommend a certain type of apple and do you remove the skin?

  4. Dianne

    I thought this was low sugar. Not with six cups or did I misunderstand.

  5. Mary Houle

    In what universe is 6 cups of sugar low sugar?

    • Sheila

      This is very low sugar compaired to normal jam that is usually equal parts fruit & sugar. There’s 16 cups of fruit and only six cups of sugar.

  6. Morgan

    Can frozen strawberries and frozen rhubarb be used?


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Hey, I’m Maggie. I hope you will join me and my family in getting back to the land.  Here you will learn about making things yourself, cooking homegrown food, and beginning a homesteading journey.


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