Low Sugar Alternatives for Jams and Jellies

Allison M. Oesterle
National Center for Home Food Preservation
April 2004

If you have found yourself wondering what to do with the abundance of fruits you have from the summer harvest, consider turning them into jams and jellies that will last throughout the year. Jams and jellies are one of the simplest and most rewarding ways to preserve your summer fruits. Even though most jams and jellies are very sweet, there are some excellent low- and no-sugar alternatives. "Regular" pectin recipes required the amount of sugar listed with them in order to obtain a satisfactory gel, but there are four methods to produce low- and no-sugar jams and jellies:
      The first method is to use specially modified pectins. These pectins are labeled as "light," "less sugar needed," or "no sugar needed." The box of packaged pectins will come with recipes that give options for using no sugar, less sugar, or sugar substitutes. Using these pectin-added methods allows you to store your recued-sugar product at room temperature.

      Another method is using regular pectin with special recipes. Some tested recipes are formulated so that the gel forms with regular pectin without needing to add the usual amount of sugar. Keep in mind that there is some sugar in the regular pectin. These recipes often use sugar substitutes for additional sweetening.

      A long-boil method can be used to make no- or low-sugar jams. The fruit pulp is boiled until it thickens and resembles a jam, but these spreads will not be true jams with pectin gels. Sugar substitutes can be added to taste for sweetening these products.

      Finally, there are some recipes that use gelatin as the thickening agent in jams and jellies. This method allows you to control the amount of sugar that is added to the product. These spreads usually have the sugars from fruit juices that are used for the flavoring and sugar substitutes for sweetness. Jellied products thickened with gelatin will require refrigeration.

Jams and jellies made with traditional recipes using lots of sugar or by the first three methods listed above for reduced sugar options will require a short process in a boiling water canner to be kept at room temperature in a sealed jar. Once opened, they all require refrigerated storage. Directions for using a boiling water canning process for jams and jellies can be found at: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/uga_processing_j_j.pdf.

Additional recipes and canning information can be found at the website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation, hosted by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia: http://www.homefoodpreservation.com.

While there is an abundance of ways to make jams and jellies, keep in mind that following well tested recipes is your best bet for getting a successful gel. Try making jams and jellies using various methods to determine which you like best.

Allison M. Oesterle is an Educational Program Specialist-Food Safety with the Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Foods and Nutrition, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, The University of Georgia, Athens.