Canning and Jam Making Without Sugar

If someone in your family has diabetes, or you just want to cut down on sugar, it is possible to freeze or can fruit and make jam without sugar. Making jam or jelly is the trickiest because you can't just take any pectin, eliminate the sugar or substitute artificial sugar, and expect it to set up. You need a special pectin. And you need to use fully ripe, but firm, fruits of the highest quality. Here are some tips: *Freezing* Fruits frozen without sugar taste good. Choose ripe, firm fruit. Underripe fruits may taste bitter when frozen. Fully ripe fresh fruits lose quality rapidly after harvesting, so pick only an amount you can preserve the same day; otherwise, refrigerate and freeze as soon as possible. Fruit should be pitted and peeled, washed, drained well, cut up or left whole, and placed into freezer bags or containers. Or, they can be frozen individually on a cookie tray and then placed in freezer containers. For light-colored fruits such as peaches, apricots, or apples, use an antioxidant such as Fruit Fresh to prevent darkening. Follow package directions. Dissolve the antioxidant in water and dip the fruit in it, or add it to fruit juice or water to freeze the fruit. Place the fruit and enough solution to cover in freezer bags or rigid containers; squeeze air from the bags before sealing. Leave ½-inch head space for expansion in rigid containers. For best quality, use within eight months. *Canning* For optimum flavor and texture, use the hot-pack method, which requires heating the fruit before adding it to jars and processing in a boiling-water canner. This method enhances the natural juices and sugar in the fruit. First add the hot fruit and its juice to the jars, then add extra juice to fill. Use sugar-free bottled or frozen juices that complement the fruit you're canning. For example, use pineapple juice with pears or apricots, and apple juice with peaches. Other juices to use are white grape and orange. Juices also can be diluted to the sweetness you desire. To can fruit using juice from the same kind of fruit, bring thoroughly ripe, crushed fruit to a simmer over low heat; strain through a clean jelly bag or cheesecloth. Do not add artificial sweetener before canning your fruit; plan on adding the extra sweetness when you serve it. Because sugar preserves the color of fruit, fruits that turn dark easily - such as peaches, apricots and pears - should be treated with an antidarkening agent such as Fruit Fresh. Add this to the fruit before processing it, following package directions. All canned fruits must be processed in a boiling-water canner to prevent spoilage. Use the US Department of Agriculture's recommended procedures and timetables. These can be found in the Ball Blue Book guide to home food preservation. *Jams and Jellies* Regular pectin will not set properly if you cut down or eliminate the sugar. Pectin occurs naturally in fruits in varying amounts and depends on sugar to make the jam stiff. However, there are several pectin products that can be used to make no-sugar jam, including Slim Set (MCP), Ball No Sugar Needed Fruit Jell, and Pomona's Universal Pectin. You can make only cooked jam with Slim Set, but the other two have directions for both cooked and freezer jams. Pomona's pectin has been chemically treated to remove a natural component of pectin that requires sugar to make it gel. You can make both no-cook freezer jam and cooked jam with this pectin. If you're making freezer jam, you will need a blender or food processor to keep the jam from becoming lumpy when the hot water is added to the pectin. You can make an "all fruit" recipe or use artificial sweetener, honey or a small amount of sugar. As with all jam and jelly recipes, you must follow directions exactly. I have tried all the no-sugar pectins, and, in my opinion, Pomona's is the best and certainly makes far better preserves than commercial products with no sugar. Even though it costs more than products such as MCP or Sure-Jell, it makes more than twice the amount of jam (a 1-ounce box makes 20 cups of jam). If there is no added sugar to preserve the fruit in the jam, it needs to be frozen or processed in a boiling-water canner. Also, jams with little or no sugar do not keep as long in your refrigerator. Be aware that jam made without sugar will not have the same texture, flavor or shiny appearance as "the real thing."

Canning and Jam Making Without Sugar

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