Date: April 1989 (Revised April 1995)
Source: NDSU Extension Service Nutrition Specialists
You may successfully can fruits in water or unsweetened fruit juice, instead of the traditional sugar syrup.
Sugar is not essential for preventing spoilage in canned fruits, except for jams and jellies. Here are some pointers on processing sugar-free foods.
Although sugar generally helps fruit keep its shape, color, and flavor, there is no danger in canning fruit without sugar. This can be done by using water, the fruit's own juice, or purchased fruit juice.
Use only high-quality, firm, ripe fruit. Avoid overripe fruit as it will soften too much during preparation and processing. As you peel or cut the fruit, place it in a gallon of water to which 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder or 6 crushed 500 mg vitamin C tablets has been added. Commercial products are also available. These help keep your fruit fresh and prevent darkening.
Canning with plain water instead of a syrup saves calories. Depending on whether a thin, medium, or thick syrup is used, plain water can reduce the calorie content of canned fruit by 200 to 375 calories per pint.
For a sweeter taste and extra nutrients, you can use fruit juice instead of water. You can buy fruit juices or prepare your own from fresh fruit.
To do this, bring ripe, crushed fruit to a simmer over low heat. Strain the hot juice through a clean jelly bag or cheesecloth and use it in place of some or all of the water that you add to the canning jar.
It's better not to add artificial sweeteners before processing as they may change the flavor. If you want to sweeten your fruit with an artificial sweetener, add it when you serve it.
After you've added liquid to the canning jars, you're ready to process the fruit. Use the boiling water bath processing method. Processing times are the same for fruit canned with or without sweeteners.
Remember, home canning without sweeteners is safe for all fruits except for jams and jellies. To can fruits without sugar, use water, the fruit's own juice, or purchased juice. Use firm, ripe fruit and use normal processing methods to can these foods.
For future reference, you may want to obtain a copy of Extension bulletin HE-174, "Home Canning of Fruits," which is available at your county office of the NDSU Extension Office.
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