Ah, the joy of spreading homemade jam or jelly on hot buttered toast or biscuits. Making jams and jellies has become a fairly easy thing in our modern times, with the use of high amounts of sugar as a main part of the preservation process.
But what if you run out of sugar, or cannot eat as much sugar due to health issues?
Consider these alternatives to using sugar to make your jams and jellies.
1. Use No-Sugar Pectin.
The simplest solution to making jams and jellies without sugar is to use a pectin made especially for this purpose. Products like this have been around at least since the late 1970s, when a Mother Earth News article explained the process using a product called Magic Pectin that, at the time, was available through a company called Walnut Acres in Pennsylvania. That company moved away from making the pectin in 2000 to focus on other things.
Current examples on the market of this include Ball® RealFruit™ Low or No-Sugar Pectin and Bernardin No Sugar Needed Pectin(a Canadian product). Another is Pomona’s Universal Pectin. No-sugar pectin products tend to be low methoxyl pectins, which means they are made from the inner peels of citrus fruits. They also contain a small amount of calcium to cause your finished product to gel.
For best results, make sure your pectin is fresh. This is one thing you don’t really want to stockpile and save for one day in the distant future when you might need it. You aren’t likely to get reliable gelling results from old pectin products. The exception to this rule is Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which the brand claims to keep indefinitely. I would recommend just getting a couple extra and keeping them for a few years and trying them out to see if they still produce good results before taking Pomona at their word and potentially have a lot of lost money and food.
Whatever brand you choose to use, be sure to read and follow the instructions carefully for best results. The websites in the links above also offer tips and recipes for their particular products.
2. Use Whole Foods Instead Of Sugar
Honey, maple syrup, fruit juice, and stevia are ingredients that can be used to replace the sugar called for in most no- or low-sugar jam and jelly recipes. In most cases, you will not want to substitute the sugar with the same exact amount of substitution food. Sweetness in our preserves is a matter of personal taste. Read and ask around and try to find someone whose taste reflects yours, and try what they do. If you aren’t happy with the results, adjust accordingly. You may even find you don’t need any sweetener at all when using the sweeter berries and fruits!
3. Use Sugar Alternatives
Some (but not all) sugar alternatives, such as Splenda, can be substituted for sugar in jam and jelly recipes if you use a low- or no-sugar pectin. The jam recipes on Splenda’s website tend to recommend SURE-JELL’s For Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes fruit pectin. If you are hesitant about using that much of a sugar alternative in your recipe, you can substitute part of the artificial sweetener with one of the natural sweeteners above.
4. Make refrigerator or freezer jams
If you don’t like the above options, or just don’t want to can, you might consider refrigerator or freezer jams. These tend to be more forgiving, since you don’t need to have exact proportions to keep well on the pantry shelf for a long period of time. There are a slew of options when making refrigerator or freezer jams. Here are just a few options.
Raw – To make a raw jam, simply puree your fresh fruits with ground chia seeds and freeze until ready to use. The chia seeds are what cause the fruity concoction to gel. The general recommendation is 1 tablespoon of chia seeds per cup of fruit. If you would like some recipes to start out with, check out the Powercakes website’s recipes featuring chia seeds.
With Gelatin – Unflavored gelatin can be used to thicken no- or low sugar jams and jellies. Generally, these keep up to four weeks in the refrigerator. The Knox website has a recipe on its website for Very Berry Jam that can get you started.
With MaryJane’s ChillOver Powder – This is used similarly to gelatin, and is available exclusively from MaryJane’s Farm. It is derived from agar-agar kanten, and is a vegan alternative to gelatin with the perk of setting up in half the time gelatin does. Also, it keeps itself gelled at room temperature, while gelatin tends to melt. Sample recipes are linked to on the site above, and some of her books containing the recipes are mentioned as well. Don’t make yourself pay for them, though. Don’t forget that you can use your local library and get books for free, glean the information you need from them, and return the books.
Simply Cooked – Simply cook the fruit down until it is a thick jam-like consistency. Freeze, and only thaw enough to use within a week or so. Keep thawed “jam” in the refrigerator.
It is important to note that the less sugar there is in your finished product, the shorter your end product’s keeping time. Canned products will, of course, last longer than frozen or refrigerated products. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and use common sense when you open up your containers of jam or jelly. If it doesn’t look, smell, or taste right, don’t take your chances!
As you can see, there are many methods available to use when looking to make jams and jellies without using sugar. With fall on the horizon and various fruits becoming available this season, there should be opportunities to try a few of these options. This is by no means a complete listing. What are some other options that you have used with success?