Preserve low- and no-sugar jams and jellies

Homemade jams and jellies can be made with low or no sugar for those monitoring the amount of sugars or calories consumed.

Jam on toast.
Photo: Pexels/Dome Poon.

Whether fresh grape jelly to liven up a peanut butter sandwich or home-preserved strawberry jam for an ice cream sundae, homemade jams and jellies can make a good meal great. For the best results when making jam or jelly with little or no sugar, Michigan State University Extension recommends using a research-based recipe.

Sugar is the main ingredient that safely preserves most jellied products. Because of this, jams, jellies and preserves made with the standard amount of sugar may be off-limits for those who may be looking for ways to lower sugar consumption for health or lifestyle reasons.

Specially formulated pectin can ensure good wiggle room in making low- or no-sugar jams and jellies. If a regular recipe is used and the sugar is decreased or not added, the end product may not be successful.

Use one of the following methods to make low- and no-sugar jellied products:

  • Powdered or liquid pectin can be found in the canning supplies section at the grocery store, hardware store or online. Look for words like “light”, “less sugar” or “no sugar needed” on the label. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Some recipes that use regular pectin may use call for sugar substitutes or other sweeteners. Regular pectin does contain some sugar, so this would not be completely sugar free. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has recipes that use unflavored gelatin as the thickener for jellied products.
  • Consider making a fruit puree, which resembles a jam. With a puree, the fruit is boiled until the pulp thickens, so there is no added sugar.

After selecting a research-based recipe, read the directions several times. Not following directions may lower the quality of the end product, or even pose a food safety risk. To preserve the jam or jelly, use an approved method such as a water bath canner or atmospheric steam canner. For best quality, use the jam or jelly within one year. Recipes with low or no sugar are a great way to make your jam and eat it, too.

For more tips and tricks on canning and preserving a variety of delicious foods, visit MSU Extension's Food Preservation website.

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