This Cranberry Jam strikes the ideal balance between tartness and sweetness with subtle notes of orange and warm spices. In just 30 minutes, you can make this easy, pectin-free recipe without any special canning equipment. It's perfect for the holidays and doubles as a thoughtful homemade gift.
I'll be honest, I don't always love jam.
Most jams are too sweet for my personal taste. And I rarely use them for anything other than baking desserts.
However, there is one big exception. Cranberry jam.
Not often enjoyed fresh because of their tartness, cranberries are magic when it comes to jam-making. Their tartness complements the sugar, resulting in a spread that isn't overly sweet.
This cranberry jam recipe stands out with fresh orange juice, zest, and warm spices, offering a cozy holiday flavor. Enjoy it on everything from toast and muffins to a festive charcuterie board.
Today, I’m walking you through how to make the best cranberry jam, including which ingredients to use, tips for success, and some creative ways to use this spiced holiday jam.
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Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Quick & Easy- With just 5 simple ingredients and 30 minutes, you can have this quick cranberry jam ready for your holiday breakfast table.
- No Pectin- Cranberries are naturally pectin-rich so they gel easily without the need for additional pectin.
- Balanced Sweetness- The tartness of the cranberries balances the sweetness of the sugar and orange juice, creating a homemade jam that isn't too sweet.
- Seasonal Flavors- Cranberry and orange is a classic holiday season flavor. Pairing it with warm spices adds another layer of cozy goodness.
- Great for Gifting- A small jar of easy homemade cranberry jam makes a thoughtful gift for family and friends around the holidays.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Cranberries- Fresh cranberries are typically available in the fall and winter. Look for plump, firm berries with a deep red color. If fresh cranberries are not in season, frozen cranberries are a great alternative and can be used without thawing.
- Orange Juice- Choose ripe, juicy oranges for the best flavor. You'll need 1-2 oranges to yield ½ cup of fresh orange juice.
- Sugar- Granulated sugar sweetens the jam, aids in the gelling process, and helps the jam last longer. Adjust sugar to taste, but note that less sugar may affect texture and shelf life.
- Orange Zest- Adds a more intense orange flavor. Use a microplane or the small side of a cheese grater to remove the orange zest, being careful to avoid the bitter white rind.
- Warm Spices- A combination of cinnamon and nutmeg adds warmth and depth of flavor to the jam.
🌱 Sustainability Tip: Source your cranberries from local or organic growers, if possible. This supports local agriculture and reduces the environmental impact associated with long-distance transportation.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can try customizing this spiced cranberry jam to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Cranberries- Swap some or all of the cranberries with other berries, such as blackberries and raspberries, to create a unique mixed berry jam.
- Orange Juice- Substitute orange juice with cranberry juice, lemon juice, apple juice, or pomegranate juice for a different flavor.
- Sugar- Swap granulated sugar for brown sugar, coconut sugar, or maple syrup in a 1:1 ratio. If using honey, begin with 6 tablespoons and adjust to taste. Note that with liquid sweeteners, a longer simmer may be needed for desired consistency.
- Orange Zest- Use lemon zest, lime zest, or orange extract in place of orange zest. For a less intense citrus flavor, you can omit the orange zest altogether.
- Warm Spices- Experiment with other warm spices like ginger, cloves, and cardamom.
- Ginger- Add freshly grated ginger along with the orange zest for a zesty, spicy warmth that pairs well with the cranberry and orange flavors.
- Apple Cinnamon- Cook finely diced apples along with the cranberries and add an extra pinch of ground cinnamon for a delicious fall-inspired jam.
- Vanilla- Infuse the jam with a vanilla bean or pure vanilla extract for a subtle, sweet undertone.
- Pomegranate- Add a splash of pomegranate juice for a tart flavor that pairs well with cranberries.
- Jalapeño- Make spicy cranberry jalapeño jam by cooking diced fresh jalapeño along with the cranberries.
Here are some notes on any special equipment I used to make this recipe.
How to Make Cranberry Jam
Here is how to make this easy cranberry jam without pectin.
Step 1: Prepare cranberries. Rinse the cranberries and carefully inspect them. Discard any cranberries that appear bruised or spoiled. Set the remaining cranberries aside.
Step 2: Combine ingredients. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the cranberries, sugar, and fresh orange juice.
Step 3: Dissolve sugar. Whisk continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture comes to a gentle boil.
Step 4: Simmer and thicken. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cranberries will burst and the mixture will thicken to a jam-like consistency.
Step 5: Add flavors. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the orange zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Step 6: Transfer and cool. Carefully transfer the jam into a clean pint-sized mason jar. Allow it to cool to room temperature before sealing and storing.
Step 7: Store. Store the sealed jar of cranberry jam in the refrigerator for up to one month or freeze for up to one year.
Cranberry Jam (Video)
Tips for Success
Make this holiday cranberry jam recipe successfully the first time using these helpful kitchen tips.
- Use sterile jars. While this is a quick jam recipe, using a sterilized mason jar can still help prolong the jam's shelf life.
- Inspect the cranberries. Carefully inspect the cranberries and discard any that appear bruised or spoiled.
- Dissolve sugar thoroughly. When heating the mixture, whisk continuously to ensure the sugar is fully dissolved. Undissolved sugar can crystallize during cooking, resulting in a gritty texture.
- Monitor consistency. Once the jam is boiling, stir frequently and keep an eye on the consistency. It should reach a jam-like thickness before removing from heat.
- Add flavors off the heat. After removing from heat, add orange zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg to preserve their flavors.
- Cool before storing. Allow the jam to cool completely before storing it in the refrigerator to prevent condensation.
- Label and date jars. Label and date your jam jars before storing them in the refrigerator or freezer for easy identification and to keep track of freshness.
What to do with Cranberry Jam
Cranberry jam is a versatile condiment that can be used for so much more than just spreading on toast.
Naturally, cranberry preserves pair well with a variety of classic breakfast foods. Try it with sourdough bread, bagels with cream cheese, pancakes or waffles, French toast casserole, buttermilk biscuits, pumpkin muffins, yogurt, and oatmeal.
Finally, get creative by using leftover cranberry jam as a marinade, glaze, salad dressing, or dipping sauce.
How to Store
- Refrigerator- Store fresh cranberry jam in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.
- Freezer- For longer storage, freeze cranberry jam in a freezer-safe container for up to one year.
🎁 Edible Gift Idea: Surprise your loved ones with some homemade cranberry orange jam this holiday season.
Can Cranberry Jam Be Canned?
Cranberry jam is generally safe for water bath canning due to the natural acidity of cranberries and orange juice. Note that this lower-sugar recipe may have a shorter shelf life compared to standard cranberry jam.
Here are the basic steps for water bath canning cranberry jam:
- Prepare your jam according to your recipe.
- Sterilize your jars, lids, and bands in boiling water for 10 minutes.
- Fill the hot, sterilized jars with the hot jam, leaving a ¼-inch of headspace.
- Wipe the jar rims clean, place the lids on, and screw on the bands until they are fingertip tight.
- Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. This time can vary depending on your altitude and the size of the jars.
- After processing, carefully remove the jars and let them cool completely on a clean towel or cooling rack. Make sure they are not touching each other.
- Once the jars have cooled, check the seals by pressing down on the center of each lid. If it doesn't pop back, the jar is properly sealed. If it does pop back, it did not seal, and you should refrigerate and use it promptly.
Of course, always follow proper home food preservation guidelines to ensure the safety and quality of your canned jam.
Frequently Asked Questions
While similar, cranberry jam and cranberry sauce do have a few key differences. Cranberry jam is a sweeter, spreadable preserve, while cranberry sauce is less sweet, has a thinner consistency, and is traditionally served with savory dishes.
If the jam is too runny, it may not have been cooked long enough. Return it to the heat and simmer until it thickens to the desired consistency.
A grainy texture can occur if the sugar isn't fully dissolved. Make sure to dissolve the sugar completely before bringing the jam to a boil.
Yes, this recipe can easily be doubled or halved to fit your needs. Just make sure to use a pot that accommodates the adjusted quantity.
- 12 ounces (about 4 cups) whole cranberries fresh or frozen
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- Zest from one orange
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Rinse the cranberries and carefully inspect them. Discard any cranberries that appear bruised or spoiled. Set the remaining cranberries aside.12 ounces (about 4 cups) whole cranberries
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the cranberries, sugar, and fresh orange juice.¾ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup fresh orange juice
- Whisk continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture comes to a gentle boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cranberries will burst and the mixture will thicken to a jam-like consistency.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the orange zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg.Zest from one orange, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Carefully transfer the jam into a clean pint-sized mason jar. Allow it to cool to room temperature before sealing and storing.
- Store the sealed jar of cranberry jam in the refrigerator for up to one month or freeze for up to 3 months.
- Storage: Store jam in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month or freeze for up to one year.