Nectarine jam is incredibly easy to make with just a few ingredients. Unlike peach jam, there’s no peeling required and no added pectin either.
I know peaches get all the attention mid summer, but personally, I’m all about nectarines. The flavor is better, much richer and more vibrant, at least in my opinion. They’re also simpler to prepare and with soft smooth skin, they don’t have to be peeled.
Unlike peach peels, which are fuzzy and tough, nectarine peels are tender and fall apart completely in the jam. They add pectin at the same time, along with gorgeous color.
Nectarines are generally a bit firmer than peaches, which comes from their higher pectin content. That extra pectin means it’s easy to make nectarine jam with just fresh fruit, sugar and a bit of lemon juice to balance out the flavors. No need to whip out the boxed pectin for this recipe!
The end result is a luscious homemade nectarine jam with just three ingredients!
Nectarine Jam Ingredients
The ingredients for nectarine jam are simple, all you need is:
- Fresh, ripe nectarines
- Lemon Juice
Whole fresh nectarines are obviously the star of the show, and they’re macerated in sugar, which helps draw out their juices and firm up their flesh so that you get a nice chunky jam.
The sugar also activates their natural fruit pectin, which allows the jam to set.
Lemon juice adds acidity, which helps balance the sweetness in the jam. It also lowers the pH, which helps with preservation and ensures that this recipe is safe for canning. (Canning is optional, of course, and you can always make a refrigerator or freezer preserve.)
Lastly, the lemon juice also adds pectin, which again, helps this nectarine jam set naturally.
How to Make Nectarine Jam
The first step to making nectarine jam is chopping he fruit. I’d recommend pieces no larger than 1” chunks to start.
We’re using a fruit maceration technique, which lets the fruit sit overnight in sugar. That draws out the juice from the fruit, but it also firms the texture of the fruit and allows it to hold together while it’s cooking. Without maceration, this would be more of a sweet fruit butter than a jam.
The thing is, maceration works really well, and the fruit will hold together for the most part…meaning that the size you chop the fruit is close to the size of the fruit in the finished jam.
You can use a potato masher to break up the fruit while it’s cooking, which will make the chunks more manageable if you’ve cut the nectarines to large.
Still, it’s nice to start at a reasonable size to save effort later.
I sliced the nectarines, and then cut the slices into roughly 1/2 to 3/4 inch chunks before macerating first tossing them into the lemon juice to prevent browning, and then allowing them to macerate overnight in sugar.
After maceration, pour the fruit into a deep, heavy bottomed stock pot or dutch oven for cooking.
The pot should be quite deep, and you want to make sure that the fruit doesn’t come up more than half way up the sides. Less would be better, and help prevent overflows. Ideally, you’d only have the pot 1/3 of the way full.
Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a hard boil, stirring constantly to prevent overflows.
It is going to foam up considerably, watch that and be careful. The sugar-y foam is very hot obviously, and will make a big mess if it spills.
As the nectarine jam cooks, the foam should settle down considerably.
If you’re an experienced jam maker, you know that one of the ways to tell when a jam’s nearly done is by watching the bubbles. Early on, they’re small and foamy and rise high up the pot.
As the jam heats and approaches a nice firm set, the bubbles will change in character. They’ll be fewer bubbles, with a less foamy appearance and more of a glossy look.
The total cook time will vary based on the amount of moisture in your fruit, as well as the natural pectin and how much sugar you choose to use. My nectarine jam took exactly 10 minutes on high heat to reach set, but I’d expect anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to be normal, depending on your stove.
(Be sure to macerate the fruit, it also helps the jam set faster.)
As the jam cooks, you can test for set on a plate that’s been placed in the freezer. Or, you can also use an instant read thermometer. Jams “set” at 220 degrees F at sea level. For every 500 feet above sea level, that temperature drops by 1 degree.
For example, we’re at about 1,000 feet in elevation, so my jams finish at 218 F.
Using an instant read thermometer is one of the most dependable ways to tell when your nectarine jam is finished.
Once the jam reaches its set point, it’s time to remove it from the heat and ladle it into prepared jars.
Canning Nectarine Jam
This is a canning safe recipe for nectarine jam, but you don’t have to actually can it. That’s optional, and it’s perfectly fine to make it as a freezer jam (or refrigerator preserve).
It’ll last several weeks in the refrigerator, or up to 6 months in the freezer. If freezing, be sure to use freezer safe jars with straight sides.
Personally, I prefer canning because then I’m able to store this jam right on the pantry shelf and it’ll maintain peak quality for 12-18 months (and be good to eat long after, so long as the jars are sealed).
That means I can enjoy nectarine jam on my toast in the dead of winter, which is what makes it a real treat and totally worth the extra effort in my opinion.
Canning nectarine jam is simple, and only requires processing in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (or 15 minutes above 6,000 feet in elevation).
Prepare a water bath canner, jars, lids and rings before you start cooking the jam. When the jam reaches set point, ladle it into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
Seal with 2 part canning lids to finger tight and load into a simmering canner. Bring the canner up to a full rolling boil and process the jars for 10 minutes. Turn off the canner, and allow the jars to sit for an extra 5 minutes before removing the jars with a jar lifter.
(This extra 5 minutes allows them to cool slightly before removing, which helps with thermal shock and siphoning issues.)
Allow the jars to cool completely on a towel on the counter for 12-24 hours. Check seals, and store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator for immediate use.
Properly sealed and canned jars will maintain peak quality on the pantry shelf for 12-18 months (refrigerate after opening).
Ways to Preserve Nectarines
Looking for more ways to preserve nectarines?
Nectarine jam is an easy homemade preserve captures the fresh flavor of summer right in a jar!
- 8 cups chopped nectarines (from 3 1/2 pounds fresh, or about 8 to 9 average sized fruits)
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Slice the nectarines but do not peel.
- Toss the pieces in the lemon juice, and then stir in the sugar. The mixture will be very thick and grainy until the nectarines release their juices. Cover the mixture and refrigerate at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
- Once the fruit has macerated in the sugar for at least 4 hours, place it in a deep stock pot or dutch oven. The mixture should only come half way up the sides of the pot to leave room for foaming as the jam cooks.
- If canning, prepare a water bath canner, jars and lids.
- Place the mixture on the stove, turn the heat on to high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously.
- Cook on high heat, stirring constantly to prevent overflows, until the jam reaches its set point. Test for set on a plate that's been placed in the freezer, or use an instant read thermometer. (Jams "set" at 220 degrees F at sea level. For every 500 feet above sea level, that temperature drops by 1 degree. For example, we're at about 1,000 feet in elevation, so my jams finish at 218 F.) It should take about 10 minutes to reach set, but it can vary based on the heat of your stove and the moisture in the fruit.
- Once the jam reaches set, remove it from the heat and ladle it into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
- If canning, process the jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (or 15 minutes above 6,000 feet in elevation). Remove jars to cool on a towel on the counter and check seals after 24 hours. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator for immediate use.
Properly canned nectarine jam should maintain quality on the pantry shelf for 12-18 months (refrigerate after opening).
As a refrigerator preserve, this jam will keep for 2-3 weeks. In the freezer, it'll keep 6 months, but be sure to use freezer safe straight sided jars.
Fruit Canning Recipes
Nectarines aren’t the only fruit you can preserve in a jar!
Old Fashioned Jam Recipes
These easy homemade jams are made the old fashioned way, without added pectin.