Saskatoon jam is a delicious way to use this unique wild fruit. Whether you’re growing saskatoons at home, or foraging them in the wild, this jam is a great way to preserve saskatoons right on the pantry shelf. It comes together with just a few ingredients, and no added pectin!
They say a well loved child goes by many names, and that’s definitely true of saskatoons. They go by many common names, including serviceberry, shadbush, juneberry, prairie berry and many others. There are a number of different varieites, but they’re all closely related (Amelanchier species). They’re most commonly in the prairie states of the US, and all of Canada, but they can be foraged wild almost anywhere in the northern half of North America.
Saskatoons ripen as early as June in the more southern parts of their range, and all the way into late July in the far north. Here in Vermont, we grow them and forage them in the wild, and they ripen during the last few days of June and into the first week of July.
They’re a common landscape planting, largely due to their beautiful early spring flowers, and you can find them lining parking lots, in front of supermarkets and all around housing developments. The seeds are spread by birds, so once you have one in a landscape planting…there will be many more in the surrounding wild areas within a few years.
The fruit are very early, even here in the north, and they can be incredibly prolific.
Saskatoon berries taste quite a bit like blueberries, but they’re not quite the same. They’re dryer in texture, with a much more concentrated, intense flavor. They have a mild “almond” flavor that comes through as well, so it’s like a deep, rich blueberry with a hint of almond extract…which is absolutely perfect for making homemade saskatoon jam!
While the fruit are prolific, they can still be hard to come by because the birds are especially fond of these “blueberries that grow on trees.” The fruit are also sometimes high and out of reach as well, making picking them a challenge. Still, many of the wild species grow to no more than 6 to 8 feet tall, and they fruit so prolifically that there’s plenty for the birds and humans to share.
Some areas grow them commercially, and they’re not all that uncommon to find at farmer’s markets in northern regions. When grown commercially, they’re pruned to keep them within arms reach and they’re also grown under extensive bird netting.
If they are available, they’ll be ready in the spring months, right alongside fresh rhubarb.
Basic Saskatoon Jam Recipe
Wild foraged or purchased at the farmer’s market, it makes not difference. Saskatoon jam is delicious either way, and it comes together without any added pectin. All you need is fruit, lemon juice and sugar, though a bit of optional lemon zest really makes for a lovely serviceberry jam.
The basic recipe for saskatoon jam requires:
- 4 cups saskatoons
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (2 tbsp juice, and about 1 tsp fresh zest)
This should make about 4 half pint (8 oz) jars, and it can be doubled, but don’t use more fruit than that because large batches don’t heat evenly and won’t set properly.
The recipe needs water at the start because the berries take some time and a bit of coaxing to release their juices. They can scorch without a bit of water to get them started, but once they’re cooking there will be plenty of liquid in the pot.
Keep in mind that the fruit won’t break down easily, so unless you mash the fruit as it cooks you’ll have a very chunky jam. That’s my preference, and I tend to leave the fruit mostly whole, but if you’d like a smoother jam I’d suggest using a potato masher in the early stages as the fruit are starting to cook.
Need water because will scorch without water at start, takes some coaxing to get them to release juices. Also suggest mashing the fruit as much as you can, as they don’t really break down much, still stay whole berries in there.
Are Saskatoons Safe for Canning?
Saskatoons vary in pH from 4.2 to 4.4, which means they’re much less acidic than blueberries. They’re just barely acidic enough for canning, as fruit need to have a pH below 4.6 to be safe for canning.
That said, you never quite know how much variation you’ll find in wild fruit, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The lemon juice in this recipe helps to lower the pH of the fruit to help preserve the jam, and it also improves flavor and helps with set. Since the serviceberries are not very acidic on their own, the lemon juice adds tartness which helps balance the sugar.
Lemon juice is also full of natural pectin, which helps this jam set so that you don’t have to run to the store to buy boxed pectin. (At this point, pectin is about $6 a box, which will increase your costs quite a bit on a batch of jam that only yields 4 jars. That’s an extra $1.50 per jar, which is quite a bit when you’re working with fruit that’s otherwise free in the wild.)
While the lemon juice is technically optional in this saskatoon jam recipe, it’s not optional if you’re canning saskatoon jam. It’s needed to ensure that they’re well below the safe pH for canning, and honestly, I wouldn’t recommend skipping it even if you’re making a refrigerator preserve. It really does bring out the flavor of the fruit nicely.
(The zest also adds pectin, and a lovely lemon flavor, but does not contribute to lowering the pH. The zest is not required for canning safety, and is truly optional.)
Making saskatoon jam
The process for making saskatoon jam is really quite simple. There’s no added pectin to fuss with, so all you need to do is put everything into a jam pot and boil it hard until it sets.
Start by placing all the ingredients into a deep pot, ensuring that the ingredients don’t come further than half way up the sides. Jam tends to foam up quite a bit while its cooking, so it’s important to make sure there’s plenty of space in the pot so it doesn’t boil over.
Mix the ingredients, and don’t forget to add a bit of water to get the process stared. Saskatoons take a bit of convincing to release their juices, and you need a bit of water in there at the start so they don’t scorch.
Bring the mixture to a hard boil, mashing the fruit while they cook if you’d like a smoother jam, or leaving them whole if you like a chunky jam. (If you puree the fruit first, you will get a much firmer set, but I actually like a loser jam with big hunks of fruit.)
The fruit will need to hard boil for about 15 minutes until they reach gel stage, which happens at 220 degrees F. Watch the pot closely, and stir continuously to prevent the jam from boiling over.
If you have an instant read themometer, it’s easy to tell when the jam is done. This jam, and most jams really, finish at 220 degrees F at sea level. That finish temperature drops by 1 degree for every 500 feet above sea level, so at 1,000 feet in elevation jams should finish at around 218 F.
If you don’t have an instant read themometer, you can check for set on a plate that’s been placed in the freezer. It should take about 15 minutes to get there, so start checking for set after 10 minutes of cooking (or sooner, if your stove runs very hot).
Canning Saskatoon Jam
Once your saskatoon jam reaches it’s set point, it’s perfectly fine to just ladle it into jars and store it in the refrigerator once it’s cool. It’ll keep for several weeks if refrigerated, or up to 6 months if frozen. (If freezing, be sure to use freezer safe jars and leave enough headspace for expansion.)
Personally, I prefer canning saskatoon jam, and all my jams really, because it allows me to enjoy the flavor of summer fruit during the coldest part of the year. Canning is pretty simple, and it’s worth it to be able to keep this jam right on the pantry shelf.
If canning, prepare a water bath canner and jars before you start cooking the jam. The canner should be preheated to about 180 F, or just barely simmering.
Make the jam as you otherwise would, but make sure you don’t skip the lemon juice. Ladle the finished jam into prepared canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Cap with 2 part canning lids.
Use a jar lifter to load the jars into the canner and bring it up to a hard boil. Start the timer and process jars for 10 minutes (or 15 minutes if above 6,000 feet in elevation).
Once the process time is complete, turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the canner for another 5 minutes. This partially cools the jars, and helps prevent thermal shock and siphoning when you remove them from the canner. Next, remove them and allow them to cool on a towel on the counter for 12-24 hours.
Once cool, check seals and store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator for immediate use. Properly canned and sealed jars will maintain peak quality on the pantry shelf for 12-18 months. Refrigerate after opening.
Looking for more ways to use saskatoon berries in season?
Saskatoon jam is an easy way to preserve fresh saskatoon berries for year round enjoyment.
- 4 cups saskatoons, washed and picked over
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (2 tbsp juice, and about 1 tsp fresh zest)
If canning, prepare a water bath canner, jars and lids before you begin. (Optional)
- Place all ingredients in a deep sided pot and bring the mixture to a hard rolling boil.
- Cook the jam at a hard boil over medium high heat, stirring contniously to prevent overflows. Mash the fruit occasionally if desired for a less chunky jam, or leave them whole.
- Boil the jam for about 15 minutes until it reaches gel stage, which is 220 degrees F at sea level. (Or 1 degree less for every 500 feet above sea level. At 1,000 feet in elevation, the jam would finish at 218 F). Alternately, check for set on a plate that's been placed in the freezer.
- Once the jam reaches it's set point, remove it from the heat and ladle into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Cap with 2 part lids.
- If canning, process the jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (or 15 minutes above 6,000 feet in elevation). After processing, allow the jars to cool on a towel on the counter for 12-24 hours, then check seals. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator for immediate use. Properly canned and sealed jars of saskatoon jam will maintain peak quality on the pantry shelf for 12-18 months. Refrigerate after opening.
Saskatoons vary in pH from 4.2 to 4.4, which means they're much less acidic than blueberries. They're just barely acidic enough for canning, as fruit need to have a pH below 4.6 to be safe for canning.
That said, you never quite know how much variation you'll find in wild fruit, and it's always better to be safe than sorry. The lemon juice in this recipe helps to lower the pH of the fruit to help preserve the jam, and it also improves flavor and helps with set. Since the serviceberries are not very acidic on their own, the lemon juice adds tartness which helps balance the sugar.
The lemon juice is technically optional if not canning, but highly recommended. Do not skip the lemon juice if canning.
Low Sugar Saskatoon Jam
I have made this recipe with less sugar, and it did still set nicely. You can reduce the sugar down as low as 2 cups of sugar to every 4 cups fruit and still get a nice set. With less sugar, the yield will be lower and the set will be slightly less firm.
If you want less sugar than that, I'd suggest using a low sugar pectin such as Pomona's or sure jel low sugar. In that case, follow the recipe in the box for low sugar blueberry jam, but be sure to add lemon juice at a rate of 2 tablespoons for every 4 cups of fruit.
Berry Jam Recipes
Looking for more fresh berry jam recipes to try this summer?
- Raspberry Jam
- Thimbleberry Jam
- Strawberry Jam
- Blackberry Jam
- Blueberry Jam
- Black Raspberry Jam
- Gooseberry Jam
- Berry Jam Recipe with any Berry
Berry Canning Recipes
Jam isn’t the only way to put berries in a jar! Try out these easy berry canning recipes:
- Canning Strawberries
- Canning Strawberry Juice
- Canning Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate
- Canning Raspberries
- Canning Blackberries
- Canning Gooseberries
- Canning Berry Juice