This easy mango jam recipe will ensure those mango season leftovers don’t go to waste. It makes two jars of mango jam that tastes of fresh ripe fruit rather than sugar. Made without pectin and four ingredients – mangoes, sugar, lemon, and lime – this refrigerator mango jam is so delicious, you won’t be able to stop eating it.
It’s mango season here in Cambodia, which means we’re making mango recipes in our Siem Reap kitchen, such as these recipes for mango sticky rice by David Thompson, Terence’s mango gazpacho, my tropical Eton Mess with mango, passionfruit and dragon fruit, and our easy mango jam recipe. Finally, after a few months gazing at the mangoes trees that surround us, all of them heaving with green fruit until recent days.
Our landlords gifted us a big bag of the fruit on Monday, which I laid out on a tray to finish ripening evenly, and as I eat them the spaces magically fill with new mangoes. Terence has been doing a spot of mango picking and foraging for just-fallen mangoes on his afternoon walks, so we can make the most of mango season and develop new recipes for you.
I adore fresh ripe mangoes. Sure, green mangoes are great in savoury Southeast Asian salads such as the classic green mango salad or sprinkled with a mix of chilli, salt and sugar, but for me there’s no better way of eating mangoes than biting into the juicy flesh of sweet, ripe, aromatic mangoes that have just been plucked or have just recently fallen from the tree.
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Easy Mango Jam Recipe to Make Use of the Mango Season Harvest
Our easy mango jam recipe is about as easy as homemade jam recipes get and it will make you a couple of jars of homemade mango jam that tastes of fresh ripe fruit rather than sugar. Made without pectin and only four ingredients – mangoes, sugar, lemon, and lime – this mango jam is not the kind to put away in the pantry and forget about.
This is the kind of jam that my Australian grandmother and Russian baboushka used to make with their own fruit or fruit that they’d buy in bulk on Sunday drives in the countryside or up to Bilpin in the Blue Mountains.
This type of jam is quite often called ‘refrigerator jam’ and as the name implies, it needs to be kept in the fridge. It will only last around a month, but it’s so delicious you’ll have a difficult time stopping yourself from eating it before the month ends.
This is not a ‘shelf stable’ jam that can be stored long-term in a cupboard. Those shelf stable jams require ‘water-bath canning’ where the jars of jam are placed into a large stockpot and boiled.
People usually opt for water-bath canning when they have grown or been given an abundance of ripe fruit that can’t be eaten fresh, they like to give the preserves as gifts, or they just eat a lot of jam! It’s a great way to preserve ripe fruit, particularly fruit that has a short season.
There are many resources online for canning preserves and jams using the water-bath canning method if you want to go that route, however, we will share tips in another post.
Tips for Making This Easy Mango Jam Recipe
We only have a few tips for making this easy mango jam recipe. Firstly, only use the freshest ripe mangoes and make sure they’re in good condition. Mangoes can easily bruise, especially when they are ripe.
In the old days, the thinking was that fruit jams were a way to use up old bruised fruit, but old fruit can affect the flavour of the jam.
Use any young bruised fruit to make a mango smoothie and older bruised fruit can be used to make a spicy mango chutney, relish or salsa, fruit compote, or hot savoury mango sauce.
How to Cut a Mango
If you’re new to using mangoes, one of the first things you need to know to make our easy mango jam recipe is how to cut a mango. Your mango will have a big seed in the centre of it, which you need to work around, so start by standing the mango up on a cutting board with the pointy end facing downward. With round and kidney-shaped mango varieties that may not always be clear. In that case, make sure you have the base of the stalk facing upwards.
Now imagine that you’ve wound a 1cm wide ribbon around the mango length-wise, starting from the stalk base, down to the pointy part, up around the other side, and back to that stalk base. With large mangoes, your imaginary ribbon might be 2cm wide and with tiny mangoes it may be less than 1cm.
Using a sharp knife, so that it slides easily through the mango skin, cut along one edge of the imaginary ribbon, so 1cm from the centre of the fruit, slicing right through the mango flesh so you end up with a mango cheek. If you hit the seed, just cut around it, but when you slice the edge of the other side of the ‘ribbon’, you’ll need to cut away from it.
Holding one mango cheek in your hand – skin down, flesh up – use your knife to carve parallel lines into the mango, stopping before you reach, then carve perpendicular lines in the same way, so that you know have a chequerboard. Put your knife down, hold either end of the mango cheek with your thumb and forefinger, and use the remaining fingers to push the skin up so the sections of mango protrude in cubes. Don’t they look pretty?
Now, using your knife again, starting at one end and working to the other, you can easily slice the mango cubes from the skin into a container. With the centre section of the mango, make a horizontal slice beneath the stalk base, then use the knife to cut the strip of skin away. You can then slice off the rest of the mango flesh around the seed directly into your container.
If you’re not making our easy mango jam recipe right away, refrigerate the container until you’re ready to use the mango flesh. If you have mango flesh left after you’ve weighed out what you need, you can freeze it in an air-tight container.
Making this Mango Jam
If your mango jam doesn’t appear to set, do not add any more sugar or other ingredients such as thickeners. This usually means that there is still excess water in the mango meat that needs to evaporate. Keep the heat high and just keep stirring.
With varieties of mangoes that are quite fibrous or older stringier mangoes, use a stainless steel potato masher to help break down the mango fibres.
Many jam makers swear by their wooden spoons, but a silicone spatula does a better job of getting into the ‘corners’ of the saucepan.
If you manage to burn or score the sides or bottom of the pan, transfer the mango jam immediately to another stockpot and keep stirring.
Once the mango jam is ready (see steps 7-8 in the recipe), transfer it to sterilised jars, which you should label with the date, and immediately refrigerate. Our easy mango jam recipe makes us two jars of jam.
The jam should last at least 3 weeks, maybe a month, as long as you’re careful not to contaminate it. That means using a jam-only knife (don’t use the same knife you use for butter) and no double-dipping. To prevent this from happening, transfer the amount of jam you need for breakfast to a separate dish.
Tips for Making Homemade Refrigerator Jams
Sterilise your jars
Sterilising your jars for refrigerator jams isn’t as essential as it is for long-life jams that you plan to store in a in the kitchen cupboard or pantry for months, however, it’s still advisable so the jam doesn’t spoil. You can sterilise jars by boiling them in water on the stove or heating them in the oven for at least 15 minutes. If you’re recycling jam jars boil them twice, the first time to remove the label and every little bit of glue, and once they’re completely clean, the second time to sterilise them.
Always use good quality fruit
It’s long been thought that the best thing to do with bad fruit is to make jam. It’s not. The same kind of thinking tells us to use cheap plonk or dinner party dregs for red wine sauce. Don’t. Just as a good red will make you a very good red wine sauce, fresh fruit at its optimum quality is going to make you an amazingly delicious jam.
By all means use frozen fruit and freeze fruit
We’re making mango recipes right now because it’s mango season and we have access to an abundance of mangoes. But if you don’t and you really want to make a particular jam, buy frozen fruit, which is generally frozen at its peak. And when you do have a harvest that you can’t use and can’t give it away, freeze it. Then you can make jam all year.
Don’t wait until the fruit is ripe or over-ripe
You might think that ripe and even over-ripe fruit is best for making jam as it’s sweeter. However, under-ripe fruit actually makes great jam because it has higher acidity, and don’t forget you’re adding plenty of sugar, so the acidity results in a more balanced jam. Ripe and over-ripe fruit results in a very sweet jam, so you may have to add lime and/or lemon juice as we do in this mango jam recipe so it’s not sickly sweet. Under-ripe fruits also contain pectose…
Refrigerator jams don’t need additional pectin
A lot of online guides to making homemade jam talk about pectin, a jelling substance that gives jam its jammy texture and helps preserve long-life jams that are typically kept in the kitchen cupboard or pantry. Pectin actually occurs naturally in fruit, and is at its highest concentration in the skin, cores and pips. Under-ripe fruit contains pectose, which transforms into pectin as the fruit ripens. This is another reason to make jam with under-ripe fruit.
Make your jam in a stainless-steel pan
Many guides to making homemade jam recommend pots, however, your jam will cook faster in a wide pan with low sides and the quicker it cooks the better it will taste. Stainless steel is essential, as the fruit’s acidity reacts to aluminium, resulting in a tinny taste.
Consider your sugar
Use ordinary granulated white sugar, not caster sugar and there’s no need for special jam sugar; don’t heat the sugar for too long as it will caramelise; and don’t add too much sugar to sweet fruit as it will taste sickly sweet; and if you do add too much sugar, then balance it with lime and/or lemon juice, as we’ve done in our easy mango jam recipe.
Use a candy thermometer
Avoid guesswork when it comes to figuring out when the jam will set. A lot of guides to making homemade jam suggest things like putting a teaspoon of jam onto an icy-cold plate that’s been chilled in the fridge, and if the jam wrinkles, it’s ready and will set. Go for it, but a candy thermometer will tell you exactly when the jam’s ready to set and they’re very handy things to have in the kitchen. See our guide to kitchen thermometers.
Easy Mango Jam Recipe
- potato masher, silicon spatula, mason jars
- 500 g ripe mango fruit
- 100 g sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 pinch salt to taste
- Cut the mango into cubes. Place in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Crush the mango pieces down a little with a potato masher – remember we're looking to have some chunky pieces in the final jam.
- Add half the sugar and stir over medium-high heat, being careful to not let any of the mango stick to the pan.
- When the sugar is fully incorporated, add the rest of the sugar and stir until fully incorporated.
- Add the lemon and lime juice and stir over high heat. Stir this frequently until the jam takes on more of a 'jammy' texture.
- Taste and add the salt, to taste. The salt will intensify the mango flavour.
- There are several ways to test if the jam is ready. If you use the spatula to pull the jam away from the side of the saucepan it should not fill in the space quickly. If you pull the spatula out of the jam it should not drip back into the pan.
- To be more specific or scientific, the jam must reach 105°C or 220°F.
- Once your jam is ready, pre-warm the jars in simmering water and ladle the warm jam into the jars. Allow these jars to cool down to room temperature.
- Seal and label the jam with the date before refrigerating.
- The jam should last for up to three weeks, being careful to always use a very clean knife or spoon to scoop out the jam to stop contamination which may spoil the jam.
Please let us know if you make this easy mango jam recipe, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.