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Tips for Reducing Sugar in Home Canning Recipes

Tips for Reducing Sugar in Home Canning Recipes

With obesity rates so high, consumers are looking for ways to reduce sugar even in home-canned foods says Janie Burney, a professor and food preservation specialist with the University of Tennessee Extension Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

“Many consumers like the taste of fresh produce preserved at home, but they want less sugar,” Burney said.

Here are some tips from the expert about when sugar can be reduced and when the sweetener is necessary for a safe home-preserved product, including a link to canning recipes:

Question: Can I make my jams and jellies with a sugar substitute?

Burney: Yes, you can, but be sure to use a recipe that has the sugar substitute listed with the exact amount to use. For example, if using Splenda, go to their website and look for a jam recipe using Splenda. You cannot use just any sugar substitute in place of sugar and come out with a jam or jelly that is gelled properly. Changing the amount of sugar or using a substitute can result in syrup rather than jelly. Sugar is also important in preserving jams and jellies so that microorganisms do not cause spoilage. The high concentration of sugar deters growth of spoilage bacteria.

Question: What is low or no-sugar-needed pectin?

Burney: This is specially formulated pectin made for reduced or no-sugar jellied products. Some canning recipes call for no sugar or low sugar and some use sugar substitutes. Just choose the recipe that suits you and follow it exactly. It is a good idea to follow recipes provided by the manufacturer of the special pectin. The first time you try to make a reduced-sugar or no-sugar product, make small amounts. These products may have a more tart or acidic taste because natural flavor changes in the fruit are more noticeable without the sugar to mask them. Light-colored spreads may also darken more quickly with less added sugar. Don’t experiment with sugar. Follow research based canning recipes. Sugar not only affects the taste, texture and consistency, it also increases the chance of spoilage.

Make sure you follow a recipe for jam or jelly that can be stored at room temperature if you do not plan to refrigerate the product. Some reduced-sugar spreads have gelatin and must be stored in the refrigerator and used within four weeks to prevent spoilage.

Question: Can sugar be reduced in canned fruit?

Burney: Because most fruits are high acid, the sugar is not needed to prevent growth of spoilage organisms and bacteria that cause botulism. Processing canned fruits in a water-bath canner also is important for killing spoilage organisms. If you want to reduce the sugar in your canned fruit, keep in mind that sugar also is important for maintaining the color, texture and shape of the fruit as it stored over time. You can use very light syrup with 10 percent sugar (3/4 cups sugar in 6-1/2 cups water). If you choose not to use sugar, select fully ripe but firm fruits of the best quality. If you can use the juice made from the fruit being canned, this is best. Or, try blends of unsweetened apple, pineapple and white grape juice. When adding a sugar substitute, it is best to add it when serving.

Question: Can I make pickles with less sugar?

Burney: Sugar is an important ingredient for preserving some pickles, typically your quick pickles that are not fermented. Because the vegetables used in pickling are low-acid, it can be dangerous to alter the sugar and salt in pickle recipes because of the potential of botulism. Instead of reducing the sugar in a pickle recipe or using a sugar substitute, follow a recipe that is specifically developed with a sugar substitute. The USDA has published two canning recipes using Splenda®: no-sugar added pickled beets and no-sugar added sweet pickle cucumber slices. These can be downloaded from the following website at

Question: What about Stevia?

Burney: Stevia can only be used in processes that do not depend on sugar’s ability to bind to water. It also is not appropriate for processes that need the sugar to form a gel. Therefore, it would not work for jams and jellies and we do not have processes established for pickled foods. You could use it to make syrup for fruit because the sugar is optional.

For more information about home canning and food preservation, contact Linda Hyder at the Sevier County UT Extension Office at 865-453-3695 or [email protected].

About UT Extension - Sevier County

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. It is a statewide educational organization, funded by federal, state and local governments, that brings research-based information about agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and resource development to the people of Tennessee where they live and work. Sevier News Messenger distributes UT Extension news as a courtesy. UT Extension – Sevier County can be found at