Canning 101: Can You Preserve With Artificial Sweeteners?

sweeteners

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a Canning 101 post about the different roles that sugar plays in preserving. This was my attempt to conclusively answer the questions I regularly get from people wanting to reduce the amount of sugar in their preserves.

There was one thing I didn’t address in that post and that was question of artificial sweeteners, like Splenda, Equal, Truvia, or xylitol. Personally, I don’t work with artificial sweeteners much simply because I don’t like the way they taste. I do understand, though, that for some folks it is necessary to use these products as a way to cut back on sugar. So here we go.

First, let’s talk about the situations in which artificial sweeteners aren’t going to work. When you make jam in the traditional manner, you are relying on the fact that as you cook, the sugar you added to the fruit is going to thicken as heat is applied, eventually thickening to the point where it bonds with the conventional pectin (either natural or added). If you remove the sugar from the equation, the jam is never going to set.

Sure, you might be able to boil it down into something to stir into yogurt, but it’s not going to be jam. What’s more, lots of the artificial sweeteners become bitter during extended cooking, so if you added your sweetener at the beginning of the cooking and then boiled the heck out of the fruit for 45 minutes, the finished product may well be inedible.

What this really means is that you can’t take a traditional recipe for jam, swap in Splenda and think you’re going to get anywhere near the same result. I know this might feel frustrating to some of you, but truly, this advice will save you buckets of aggravation in the long run.

So, here’s what you can do. You can use pectin that was designed to work in low or no-sugar environments. There are a couple different versions out there. Ball makes a special modified pectin and the package insert will be able to guide you through the process of creating serviceable jams.

Pomona’s Pectin is another good option. Known as low methoxyl pectin, it’s requires both a pectin made from citrus peels and a calcium solution. Instead of needing sugar to trigger the set, the calcium activates the pectin. This means that you can make spreadable preserves with whatever sweetener you choose, including a wide range of artificial sweeteners.

Another option is to start making fruit butters rather than jams and jellies. When you make a fruit butter, you cook a fruit puree at low temperature for a long period of time. In doing so, you remove much of the moisture, and concentrate the natural sugars in the fruit. You can then either leave it as-is (though the juice of a lemon or two will help preserve the color and brighten the flavor) or adjust it slightly with the artificial sweetener of your choice.

Just remember, as discussed in this blog post, when you reduce or remove sugar, shelf life and the quality once open shortens. I combat this by making low sugar or sugar-free preserves in small batches and canning them in four ounce jars, to ensure that they are as good and fresh as I can make them.

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Giveaway: EcoJarz Jar Hugger Handle and Green Pop Top

Ecojarz Giveaway

I’ve got a good giveaway for you this week! Our friends at EcoJarz are on a quest to make it ever more convenient to use mason jars a travel mugs and this pairing may well take the cake on that front. They’ve created a cozy called the JarHugger Handle made of recycled denim that has a large, sturdy loop built in for easy gripping.

Coupled with their sealable silicone Pop Top, this is accessory duo will have you ready for portable coffee, smoothies, and iced tea drinking.

This week, I have three of these cozy and topper sets to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post share one thing you’re looking forward to about spring!
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, March 14, 2015. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, March 15, 2015.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: EcoJarz is providing the cozies and pop tops for this giveaway. They have not paid for promotion and at the time of this writing, are not current Food in Jars sponsors. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. 

 

Upcoming Classes: Philadelphia Free Library & Morris Arboretum

class image revised

Slowly but surely, my summer teaching schedule is shaping up. I’m not going to be doing as much teaching or traveling this year as I did last, but I’m committed to offering an array of classes in the Philadelphia area and beyond. There are a couple of classes I want to point out right now, as I think both of these offerings are going to fill up fast and I want you to know about them.

The first is a sauerkraut workshop next Monday, March 16 from 6-8 pm at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center. In this workshop, I’ll show you how to make a basic sauerkraut using my single quart technique. We’ll talk easy fermentation and I’ll share some of my favorite ways to use homemade kraut once you’ve got it. The class costs just $10 and you can sign up here.

The other class I want to make sure you all know about is my annual spring preserving workshop at the Morris Arboretum’s Bloomfield Farm on Saturday, May 16 from 10 am to 12 noon. I’ll be teaching about low sugar preserving using Pomona’s Pectin. This class a great way to refresh your canning knowledge for the coming season. It costs $40 for Arboretum members and $45 for non-members. Register here.

The rest of my confirmed classes can be found here. If you want me to come and teach a class for your church group, home schooling co-op or other gathering (preferably within an hour’s drive of Philadelphia), I am open to inquiries. Drop me a note here.

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Links: Repurposed Ferments, Pancakes, and Winners

kumquats

Despite the loss of the hour this morning, today was sort of glorious. The sun was shining, the temperature hovered well above freezing, I wrote a third post for a silly little side blog I’ve started, and I spent a couple hours in a coffee shop working on the new book (it’s finally starting to come together. Thank goodness). Now, links!

fresh herb keeper

The winners of the herb savers are #137/Laura H. and #264/Elin . Stay tuned, another fun giveaway coming tomorrow!

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Other People’s Preserves: Omnivore Sauce from Garibaldi Goods

Omnivore Sauce

Other People’s Preserve is my opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the very delicious jams, pickles, and condiments being made by dedicated professionals. If you see one of these products out in the wild, consider picking up a jar, tub, or bottle!

This week, I have a fun product to share with you. Called Omnivore Sauce (from the makers of Omnivore Salt!), this is a condiment that defies traditional definitions. Made from a roster of organic ingredients, including tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, ancho chiles and other spices, this tangy, spicy, and slightly sweet sauce can dress up just about any meal you make.

Omnivore Sauce label

It is runnier than ketchup, but thicker than most barbecue sauces or bottled marinades. I’ve used it as a dipping sauce for roasted root vegetables and spread as a base layer on homemade pizza. The folks at Garibaldi Goods also suggest brushing it over roasted or grilled fish at the end of cooking or stirred it into sautéed onions and garlic for long braised dishes.

open Omnivore Sauce

This post is the second in a series I’m doing with the nice folks at Garibaldi Goods. They’re an online shop that features artisanal, small batch products all made in the fine state of California (place of my birth!). Sign up for their newsletter to get 10% off your first order! Sign up form is at the bottom of the page.

Disclosure: The folks at Garibaldi Goods sent me this jar of Omnivore Sauce for sampling and photography purposes. All thoughts and opinions remain entirely mine. 

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Cookbooks: Against the Grain

Against the Grain cover

I have no beef with gluten. I eat it happily and without any kind of gastrointestinal or autoimmune distress. Nonetheless, I have really enjoyed using some of the gluten-free cookbooks that have been published over the last few years.

The reason for my appreciate is simple. I like new ideas and opportunities to expand beyond my regular set of ingredients and these books are terrific at finding new, delicious ways to make things work.

peanut butter bars

What’s more, while I can eat wheat until the cows come home, lots of people I know cannot. I am always happy to discover novel recipes that I can share with friends and relatives who have to stay away from various grains or anything with gluten.

book and squares

A few weeks back, a copy of Nancy Cain’s Against the Grain appeared in my mailbox. I spent a few minutes flipping through and immediately identified a handful of recipes I wanted to try (Maple Flax Crackers! Cashew Chews with Cacao Nibs! Buckwheat Cheddar Puffs!). Later that night, I had a pan of her Peanut Butter Bars cooling on my counter.

peanut butter cubes

Made with just peanut butter, honey, an egg, baking soda, and a little bit of coconut, you might wonder how on earth these bars work. But work they do, whether you’re on a gluten-free diet or not. I cut them into small squares and ate most of the pan on my own, one or two at a time. They’re naturally sweetened, high in protein, and best when eaten at room temperature. Perfect for snack time or a late night nibble!

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