Dive into the simplicity of our 4-Ingredient Cranberry Christmas Jam, a recipe that promises maximum flavor with minimal fuss. Unlike more complicated preserves, this easy-to-make delight shines with its pure, vibrant taste, setting a new standard for homemade jam. Prepare to be amazed by how a handful of ingredients can create such a standout addition to your pantry.
This Christmas jam is so delightful and so simple that it practically makes itself, asking for nothing more than 4 humble ingredients to weave its magic.
Perfect for those who want to impress without the stress, this sweet-tart cranberry jam is your ticket to turning the Christmas dial up to eleven. It looks as fancy as a snowflake on Santa’s beard, yet it’s so easy to whip up, that you’ll have plenty of time left in those busy holiday seasons.
Whether you’re dolloping it onto warm scones on a chilly December morning or glazing your holiday roast, its vibrant hue and burst of berry flavor are sure to bring joy to your table.
The beauty of this jam isn’t just in the eating—it’s also in the giving. This jam can be beautifully canned, ensuring it keeps its merry flavor all the way through the holidays and beyond, lasting for up to a year when stored properly. Present it as a heartfelt homemade gift that’s sure to stand out under the tree.
And let’s not forget, while it’s tailor-made for Christmas, this jam is also an excellent alternative to traditional cranberry sauce, ready to grace your Thanksgiving table with its harmonious blend of sweet and tart.
So, don your apron like it’s a holiday garland, and let’s get ready to stir up some Christmas spirit!
🥰 Why You Will Love This Recipe?
- With a combo like cranberries, star anise, dried orange peel, and sugar, you’re in for a real treat. The tangy cranberries pair perfectly with the sweet warmth of star anise and the citrusy zing of orange peel. It’s a holiday party in your mouth, and guess what? Everyone’s invited.
- Everyone loves a homemade gift. Jar this crimson beauty up, slap a bow on it, and you’ve got a personal gift that screams “I’m thoughtful and I know my way around a kitchen.” Who doesn’t want to be that person?
- As this simmers away, your kitchen is going to smell like Santa’s workshop on Christmas Eve – if Santa’s workshop was in the business of crafting artisanal spreads. The scent is a nostalgic hug, the kind that reminds you of the excitement and warmth of the holidays.
🥘 Ingredients and Substitutes
- Cranberries bring that classic, lip-puckering zing and a festive color that just screams Christmas. Frozen cranberries work just as well, or in a pinch, red currants or even raspberries can pinch-hit to give you that tartness and a color that still looks like the holidays.
- Star Anise. This is our secret spice that makes the jam taste like you’ve distilled Christmas into a jar. Its sweet, licorice-like flavor gives depth and an exotic twist. No star anise in the pantry? Reach for a cinnamon stick or a few cloves for a different but equally holiday-worthy flavor profile. They bring their own brand of warm spice that cozies up nicely with the cranberries.
- Dried Orange Peel. We use this for a sunny burst of citrus that cuts through the sweetness and spice, adding layers of flavor that turn simple into sublime. If you’re out of dried orange peel, a little fresh orange zest works wonders, or even a splash of orange juice concentrate for a stronger citrus kick in your jam. Heck, a bit of lemon zest can also do the trick, giving a fresher, zippier twist.
- Sugar helps thicken the jam to that perfect, spreadable consistency. If sugar’s not your jam (pun intended), honey is a great sub, adding a richer, deeper sweetness, or even maple syrup can bring a unique, rustic edge to your holiday spread.
👩🍳 Step-by-step Directions
For this recipe, you’ll need a heavy-bottomed, non-stick pot, which is essential for making jam to prevent it from sticking and burning.
Combine all the ingredients in the pot: cranberries, orange zest, sugar, and spices. Give everything a good mix and set your pot over the lowest flame. Pop a lid on the pot.
Let the mixture simmer gently until the fruit starts to release its juices and soften, which should take around 10 minutes. After that, take off the lid and keep the heat low, stirring occasionally to keep the jam from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Pro Tip: As you stir, mash the fruit a bit to help the jam reach a smoother consistency.
Continue to cook until the jam has thickened to your liking.
Quick Note: For me, this took about 30 minutes, but keep in mind that the total time can vary based on how much you’re making and the size of your pot, as these factors influence how quickly the liquid evaporates.
Once the jam has thickened to your liking, it’s ready to be enjoyed immediately or canned for later use if you’ve made a larger batch.
If you’re opting to jar the jam, make sure to wash the jars thoroughly and dry them completely. As soon as you take the jam off the heat, transfer it into the jars, seal them tightly, and let them cool. Once they’re cool, store the jars in a cool, dark place.
Enjoy our delicious 4-ingredient Christmas jam made from scratch!
🍽️ Serving Suggestions
- On Toast & Breakfast Items: Let’s start with the classic – slather a generous spoonful of this jam on a warm, buttery toast. It’s the perfect way to jazz up your morning routine. But why stop there? Swirl it into your oatmeal or dollop it atop pancakes or waffles for a holiday twist.
- As a Glaze: Want to impress the in-laws? Brush this jam over a roasted ham during the last 30 minutes of cooking. It creates a glossy, sticky, and sweet-tart crust that’s just divine. You can also give your roasted chicken or turkey a Christmas jam glaze for a berry-licious twist.
- Cheese Pairing: Here’s where you can get all fancy-schmancy. Pair this jam with a creamy brie or sharp cheddar on a cheese platter. Add some crackers, and you’ve got an appetizer that says, “I’m sophisticated, but I also know how to party.”
- Dessert Drizzle: Picture this: a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a warm drizzle of Christmas jam. Or, sandwich the jam between layers of puff pastry for a quick tart that looks like you’ve worked on it for hours. It’s the dessert hack of the century.
- Gift It: Okay, not exactly serving, but hear me out. Fill up mini jars with this crimson goodness, tie a ribbon around the neck, and hand them out as gifts. You’ll be the culinary Santa of your circle!
😻 Other Recipes You May Enjoy
- 4 Ingredient Spiced Poached Pears
- 4 Ingredient Beetroot And Feta Tartlets
- 4 Ingredient Eggplant And Cheese Rolls
- Air Fryer Pork Roast With Apples
- 4 Ingredient Mashed Potatoes
🏆 Expert Tips. What to Pay Attention To?
- Fresh cranberries should be firm to the touch and bright red. If they’re looking a bit shy and wrinkled, they won’t bring that vibrant tartness we’re after. If you opt for frozen, no need to thaw them first—they can go straight into the pot, making your jam-making even easier.
- The amount of sugar in jam isn’t just for sweetness—it’s a pectin partner, helping to set the jam. If you dial back the sugar, you might end up with a runnier jam, which could be a sauce in disguise (not a bad thing, but not what we’re going for). Keep the sugar in the sweet spot for that perfect jammy texture.
- When you cook down your ingredients, a gentle simmer is your friend. A rapid boil can cause the sugars to caramelize too quickly, changing the flavor and potentially leading to a burnt bottom. And nobody likes a burnt bottom.
- If you leave the star anise cooking for too long, it can overpower the other flavors. Let it infuse the jam, but once you’ve hit that sweet spot of spiced perfection, pluck it out. The goal is Christmas cheer, not Christmas fear of licorice.
- If you’re sealing your jars, listen for that satisfying “pop” sound as they cool—it’s the jar’s way of whispering sweet nothings that say “I’m sealed” to you.
🤔 Answering Your Questions:
How Do I Know When the Jam is Ready?
The wrinkle test is a great way to check for doneness. Chill a plate in the freezer, then spoon a little jam onto it. After a minute, push the jam with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s set. If not, keep cooking and check every few minutes. Another clue is when the jam has reduced in volume, has a thicker consistency, and the berries have mostly broken down.
Is It Possible to Overcook the Jam?
Yes, it is possible. Overcooking can lead to a jam that’s too thick or even caramelized, which might not spread as nicely and could have a slightly burnt taste. Keep an eye on your jam, and once it passes the wrinkle test or reaches 220°F (around 105°C), it’s time to take it off the heat.
How Long Will the Jam Last After It’s Made?
Properly sealed and processed in sterilized jars, your Christmas jam can last up to a year in a cool, dark pantry. Once opened, keep it refrigerated and use it within a month. Without canning, just refrigerated, it should last 2-3 weeks.
Is This Recipe Suitable for Canning?
Yes, this jam is suitable for canning using the water bath canning method. Just ensure you have sterilized your jars and followed proper canning procedures to create a vacuum seal. This will allow you to store your jam at room temperature until it’s ready to be opened.
Can I Make This Jam with Other Types of Fruit?
Certainly! While cranberries offer a classic holiday flavor, you can get creative and mix in other berries like blueberries or raspberries for a different twist. Just keep in mind that the natural pectin levels and the acidity might vary with different fruits, which can affect how well your jam sets.
📋 Recipe Card:
Easy 4 Ingredient Christmas Jam
- 1 cup Cranberry
- ½ cup Cane Sugar
- 2 Star anise
- ½ teaspoon Orange Peel dried
- Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan: fruit, sugar, and spices.1 cup Cranberry, ½ cup Cane Sugar, 2 Star anise, ½ teaspoon Orange Peel
- Place the saucepan on the stove over low heat and cook for 10 minutes with the lid on, allowing the fruits to release their juices and to prevent the jam from burning.
- After the fruits have softened, remove the lid and continue cooking on low heat, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the jam thickens to the desired consistency.
- Once the jam has reached the ideal thickness, pour it hot into sterilized jars.
- Allow the jam to cool to room temperature before sealing with lids and storing in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator.
I highly recommend reading the entire recipe to find more tips and notes about this recipe. Read Full Recipe ⇑
- For an even deeper flavor, consider macerating your cranberries in sugar for a few hours or overnight before cooking. This process draws out their natural juices and intensifies the flavors.
- Remember that the jam will thicken as it cools. If it’s a bit runny while hot, it’s likely to set to the right consistency once cooled.
- As your jam cooks, a pinkish foam may form on the surface. Skim this off with a spoon for a clearer, more aesthetically pleasing jam.
- If you’re sensitive to strong flavors, enclose your star anise in cheesecloth. It makes for easy removal and prevents the spice from overwhelming the jam.
- Stir frequently, especially as the jam begins to thicken, to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
- If you don’t have a thermometer, besides the wrinkle test, you can also see if the jam is ready by checking if it coats the back of a spoon and remains separated for a couple of seconds after running your finger through it.