Something I get asked a lot at the markets is does our jam contain sugar? There’s a lot of focus on reducing sugar intake in the media so I can understand why we get asked this. There's no way of getting around it- jamming is a way to preserve fruit using sugar. The way preserving works is to have a high enough sugar content in order to reduce the water activity, which in turn preserves the fruit. Reduced water activity = no microbial activity = long shelf life preserved jam! This means no artificial preservatives are needed.
There are two types of sugar in a jar of jam: naturally occurring fruit sugars, and added sugars. A traditional artisan recipe uses 50% added sugar, and a typical supermarket recipe uses 55-60% added sugars (and not just plain old sugar, this includes sweeteners such as glucose-fructose syrup, a cheaper sugar alternative). You can buy low sugar jams, but you'll find these are full of additives such as Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate and Potassium Sorbate. These are needed to preserve the jam because of the lower sugar content. I know I don't keep these in my kitchen cupboard at home, and so I definitely don't want be putting them into my jam either.
You can also find 'Fruit Spreads' which are made using fruit juice concentrate (basically mass produced cooked up fruit juice to leave the fruit sugar) rather than sugar. It still counts as sugar! And they don't taste anywhere near as nice, I’ve tried.
At Single Variety Co we prefer to get the bulk of our sugars from the fruit, and so our fruit preserve recipes typically use around 35% added sugar, much less than a supermarket and even an artisan recipe. We've tried using less sugar, but this means you have to cook the jam for longer in order to achieve a set. The longer the cook, then the more water is evaporated away, leaving a higher sugar %. You also lose more fresh fruit flavour the longer the cook- the best tasting jams have the shortest cook times. So in fact adding less sugar to begin with ultimately means you end up with the same or even more sugar overall in the jam anyway, and with less fruit flavour. It's a careful balance, and one which changes with every fruit, so every fruit has a different recipe and % of sugar added in order to get the perfect flavour. We have spent a LONG time working on it in the kitchen!
Yes, jam contains sugar. We use as little added sugar as possible in order to get the very best tasting flavour. And we believe flavour is most important, so we won't reduce the sugar any more than that. And if you are worried about sugar intake, then make your jam on toast a weekend rather than an everyday treat. And be happy in the knowledge that our jam contains way more fruit too.