The Shortcut Jam That’ll Have You Gifting Jars to Everyone

August 13, 2018

When I lived in New York's Hudson Valley, my perfect summer day included hitting up my favorite farm stand and collecting all kinds of fruit, so I could take it back to my tiny little apartment and turn it into jam. Marisa McClellan’s blog Food in Jars was my bible, and I owned every annual copy of the Ball Blue Book. It didn’t take long for this hobby to take over my whole life; after all, I lived alone. Pretty much everyone in my life was getting canned goods as gifts. Once, when my brother came to visit, he looked all over my entertainment center for a DVD and only found row after row of jams and pickles, crammed in as tight as I could fit them.

No need to devote your day to this guy; just 1 hour (!!!!!!!). Photo by Julia Gartland

Since moving closer to New York City, I don’t preserve as much. When I do, it’s rarely in large batches. Instead, I make just one or two jars of something when I have some fruit really worth preserving (or, more often, when I have something excellent that’s teetering on the edge of spoilage). I often don’t mess with proper canning at all, opting to just refrigerate the preserves and enjoy them within a few weeks, or freezing them to bring out when I need a reminder of summer come December. When I’m particularly lazy, I turn to the easiest jam making method I know, what I’ve come to call roasted jam or sheet pan jam. This is a jam so simple, adaptable, and pretty much hands-off that you can even make it the morning while your toast toasts or your biscuits bake and enjoy it that same day.

Photo by Julia Gartland

To make this jam, just toss your fruit of choice on a sheet tray with a bit of sugar, lemon juice, and any other flavorings you might want to add (a pinch of salt, some dried spices, some vanilla bean seeds, a splash of booze, that sort of thing). Let it macerate and get a little juicy, then put it in the oven for a bit of a roast. The oven time concentrates and thickens the juices, and also softens the fruit.

Photo by Julia Gartland

When it comes out of the oven, I like to use a potato masher to mash it all up, then I scrape the mixture into a jar and let it cool.

Photo by Julia Gartland
Photo by Julia Gartland

The best part of this technique is the ease, but I also love that it allows me to add much less sugar and still create a jam-like product (note: less sugar does mean it can have a shorter shelf life, but it still keeps in the fridge for up to 1 month and freezes nicely). I also love the ability to use fruit at any stage, even under-ripe fruit, because the roasting process really intensifies the flavors on even mediocre produce.

A Perfect Vehicle For All That Jam

Best of all, it can be done with pretty much any fruit, in just about any quantity. I’ve done it with just a couple handfuls of overripe berries, and also with just a few bruised plums. You can easily adjust the amount of sugar to the type of fruit and level of sweetness, really tweaking it to your tastes. You can keep the flavor really simple, just using fruit, sugar, and lemon juice, which creates a really lovely jam with pure fruit flavor. Or you can get creative and add what moves you. I love the way vanilla beans intensify the flavor of blueberries, and I often add a splash of amaretto and a few pinches of cinnamon to peaches. Also, side bonus: Kids really love helping mash the fruit on the tray.

What’s your favorite easy way to use up ripe summer fruit? Share your preservation tips with us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Margie Laughlin
    Margie Laughlin
  • Jan Mulwitz
    Jan Mulwitz
  • Meg
  • Carrie
  • Linda Bjerke
    Linda Bjerke
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!


Margie L. November 5, 2020
Can I use Stevia?
Margie L. November 5, 2020
Can I do this with apples?
Jan M. August 20, 2018
I'm headed out to pick our wild Blackberries--RIGHT NOW!!
Meg August 19, 2018
Tried this today with some small plums on a volunteer tree in our yard that had never produced before. Didn’t know what to do with them. This was perfect and it turned out great. So easy! Thanks very much.
Carrie August 19, 2018
I’m looking forward to giving this a go with fruit from my Italian Plum Tree. You say not to peel!! Do the skins break down enough during the roasting?
Linda B. August 19, 2018
I add a few things of black pepper when I cook down strawberries or blueberries, using less sugar, as I prefer a savory note with fruit.
Linda B. August 19, 2018
*grinds of black pepper
bittersweet August 16, 2018
Have you also tried this in a shallow gratin dish, as in the above photos, or only in a sheet pan? Seems like it would be easier to keep all the juices in a gratin dish.
Erin J. August 16, 2018
A gratin dish works great, that's why I used it in the photos! A standard half sheet pan (which is a bit bigger than the casseroles pictured here), also works great.