Home canner’s column: Food preservation for a special diet
by Kaye M. Smith Extension Agent Family & Consumer Sciences
Aug 07, 2011 | 1900 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

People who need to reduce the amount of sugar or salt they eat often wonder if they can preserve foods at home without these ingredients. Actually, canning or freezing foods for special diets at home is an easy way to get that fresh taste all year-round, possibly at a lower cost.


Q. We are on special diets in our house. Is it safe to can or freeze without salt?

A. YES. With the exception of pickles and brine, cured or smoked products, salt is not necessary for safe processing of home canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. The use of salt does help retain color and texture but it is primarily added for flavor.

Q. Can fruit be canned without using sugar?

A. Recipes and directions for canning fruits actually call for the addition of sugar or syrup. The sugar added to canned fruit products helps preserve the texture, shape and color of the fruit. Sugar also adds flavor but is not needed to prevent spoilage. Water or fruit juice can be substituted for sugarless home-canning. You also can use less sugar or make light syrup.

Q. Can fruit be frozen without using sugar?

A. Sugar is not needed for frozen foods to prevent spoilage. However, most fruits will have a better texture and flavor if packed in sugar or syrup.

Q. What about making jams and jellies?

A. The sugar in jams and jellies helps formation of the gel, serves as a preservative and can add flavor. It is important to remember that you cannot simply substitute the artificial sweetener for sugar in a recipe. You need to follow the directions in a recipe for a jellied product with low or no sugar. There are four different ways you can do this.

The first way is to use special modified pectin. Look for packages that say “light” or “no sugar needed” on the label. Follow the directions for the brand of pectin you are using. Be sure to follow directions exactly. Some products are designed to be used with no sugar or less sugar with, or without, artificial sweeteners.

The second way is to use regular pectin with a special recipe. These recipes have been formulated to use regular pectin so they do contain some sugar. Artificial sugar may be added.

The third way is to use unflavored gelatin as the thickener for the jelly or jam. Artificial sugar is often added.

The fourth way is called the “long-boil method.” This requires boiling the fruit pulp for an extended time to make a product that thickens and resembles jam, preserves or fruit butter. Artificial sugar may be added.

Q. Do you know if the new product Splenda® can be used in jellies and jams?

A. You can use Splenda as an artificial sweetener in recipes that do not require sugar. It is heat stable and can be used as a sweetener in canning and in making jams and jellies. However it does not provide the preserving properties of sugar, so proper canning techniques are essential to avoid spoilage and to achieve successful results. Once opened, these homemade goodies must be stored in the refrigerator and used within one month to minimize any spoilage from natural airborne bacteria. For these products, you will need a low-methoxyl pectin that does not require sugar, such as Mrs. Wages™ Lite Home Jell® and Ball® No Sugar Needed Pectin.

If you have any questions you would like addressed in the “Home Canner’s Column,” call your local office of University of Tennessee Extension office at 728-7001. We look forward to your questions.