Current U.S. Dietary Guidelines advise reducing the amount of sugar in American diets. In addition, there are many people who prefer or need to reduce their sugar intakes. Methods for canning jams, jellies, and other fruit spreads have been developed that limit or reduce the amount of sugar in the product. For home canning, there are four options for reducing sugar in fruit spreads: 1) using special modified pectin, 2) using regular pectin with special recipes, 3) using the long-boil method, and 4) using gelatin. The techniques and ingredients in these methods are not interchangeable, so follow tested recipes to produce the best-jelled, and safest, products. For added safety, be sure to process and store low-sugar or no-sugar fruit spreads exactly as stated in the tested recipes.
Low Sugar Fruit Spreads
Low- and no-sugar fruit spreads have become very popular, as people are changing their diets and consuming less sugar. To meet consumer demand for lower sugar products, many commercial pectin products have been developed for making low- and no-sugar fruit spreads at home. When making low- and no-sugar fruit spreads at home, it is important to follow recipes specifically designed for reduced sugar products, rather than reducing the amount of sugar in a traditional recipe.
Sugar has four functions when it comes to making a gelled product:
- Providing flavor by sweetening the product.
- Contributing to the glistening appearance of jams, jellies and other fruit spreads.
- Preserving fruit spreads by suppressing microbial growth.
- Helping set the pectin and providing the gel formation.
It is because of these four contributions that sugar cannot be altered in traditional recipes. The problems that occur with reducing sugar in a traditional recipe are: flavor and appearance may change, gel formation may be negatively affected, and the product may mold and spoil more quickly. However, for people wishing to make low- or no-sugar fruit spreads at home, there are four approved methods for doing so.
Methods for Producing Low- and No-Sugar Fruit Spreads
Modified Pectin: The first method is to use specially modified pectin. These will be labeled as “light,” “less sugar needed,” or “no sugar needed.” The pectin itself will come with recipes for using no sugar, less sugar, or sugar substitutes; follow the directions carefully. For assistance locating recipes using modified pectin, contact your local Extension office. Jams and jellies made with modified pectin can be water bath canned and stored at room temperature.