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Canning With Sweeteners Other Than Sugar

Date: June 1988 (Revised April 1995)

Source: University of Minnesota

Home-canned fruits do not require sugar to prevent spoilage. The main reason sugar is used during canning is to help preserve the fruit's texture, flavor, and color. All or part of the sugar can be replaced by other sweeteners, such as fruit juices, honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, and non-nutritive sweeteners.

Fruit juice may be substituted for all of the sugar syrup in your recipe or for part of it, if you prefer. The juice may be purchased or made from fresh fruit.To make your own juice, use fully ripe, juicy fruit. Crush it in a pan and bring it to a simmer over low heat for several minutes, stirring gently. Then strain the hot pulp through a jelly bag or cheesecloth.

Mild-flavored honey and light corn syrup may be used to replace as much as half of the white sugar called for in your canning syrup recipe. Honey will also add flavor and color to the fruit, depending on the type of honey you use. Honey also may darken during storage. It's best to use fresh mild, light colored honey in canning.

Maple syrup can be used to replace up to 1/4 of the sugar in a recipe, but it will effect the natural flavor and color of the fruit.

It's best not to use molasses, sorghum, dark corn syrup, or other strong-flavored syrups when canning fruit. These sweeteners darken the fruit and over power the fruit flavor.

Non-nutritive sweeteners may be used to sweeten canning syrups, but they may cause a bitter or metallic aftertaste. You can reduce this problem by adding the non-nutritive sweetener when you serve the fruit rather than when you process it.

Most of the sugar substitutes mentioned here will cost more per cup than granulated sugar, and except for non-nutritive sweeteners and fruit juices, they will produce a canning syrup higher in calories than a medium syrup made with granulated sugar. However, some of them, particularly fruit juice, will add nutritive value to the canning syrup.

Replacing 1/3 of the sugar in a medium-syrup recipe with an equal amount of honey will add about 30 calories per pint of fruit.

If you have never used some of these sweeteners before, experiment with small batches first before making large quantities.

Here is a summary of things to remember about canning with sugar substitutes:Sugar is not essential for preventing spoilage of canned fruits, but it helps preserve flavor, texture, and color. Other sweeteners may be substituted for part or all of the sugar in your canning syrup recipe, but some sweeteners may change the flavor and color of the fruit.

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 Service.

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