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Recipes for canning fruit usually call for adding sugar or sugar syrup. While sugar helps hold the texture, shape and color of fruit, it is primarily added for flavor. It is not needed to prevent spoilage. You can safely can all fruits in water or in fruit juice by following reliable canning directions for preparing and processing the fruit. Substitute water or fruit juice for the syrup or sugar pack.
When canning without sugar, use high quality fruit. Overripe fruit will soften excessively. Take special care to follow steps that prevent darkening of light-colored fruit. Several treatments may be used to prevent or retard darkening. One is to coat the fruit as it is cut with a solution of 1 teaspoon (3 g) crystalline ascorbic acid or 3,000 mg crushed vitamin C tablets per cup of water. Another is to drop the cut pieces in a solution of water and ascorbic acid, citric acid or lemon juice. Use 1 teaspoon (3,000 mg) ascorbic acid, 1 teaspoon citric acid or 3/4 cup lemon juice to 1 gallon water.
An ascorbic acid/water solution serves as a desirable anti-darkening treatment, adds nutritive value in the form of vitamin C, and does not change the flavor of the fruit as lemon juice may do. Ascorbic acid is available in crystalline or tablet form in drug stores and supermarkets. Ascorbic acid mixtures, such as ascorbic acid combined with sugar or with citric acid and sugar, also are available. For these, follow the manufacturer’s directions. In such mixtures, ascorbic acid usually is the important active ingredient. Because of its dilution with other materials, these forms may be more expensive than pure ascorbic acid.
For best results, prepare fruits to be canned without sugar using hot-pack methods described in fact sheet 9.347, Canning Fruit. However, use water or regular unsweetened fruit juices instead of a sugar syrup. Juice made from the fruit being canned works well. To prepare, bring thoroughly ripe, crushed fruit to a simmer over low heat. Strain through a clean jelly bag or cloth. Blends of unsweetened apple, pineapple and white grape juice also are good filling over solid fruit pieces.
If ascorbic acid products are not used in the pretreatment of cut fruit, they may be added to the canning juices or liquids before processing. This will help keep the fruit from darkening during storage. Use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid or 750 to 1,500 mg crushed vitamin C tablets per quart of fruit. Commercial ascorbic and citric acid mixtures also may be used according to manufacturer’s directions.
Honey or light-colored corn syrup may be substituted for up to half the sugar called for in a canning syrup recipe. However, these products do not reduce the calorie or carbohydrate content of the sugar syrup, and thus are not acceptable sugar replacements for people on diabetic diets.
Substituting plain water for the sugar syrup reduces the calorie content of canned fruit by approximately 205, 280 or 375 calories per pint, assuming 2/3 cup of thin, medium or thick syrup, respectively, is replaced with water.
Adjust headspace and add lids. Process jars of fruit packed with water or fruit juice as for fruits packed with syrup. Use USDA recommended procedures and timetables that have been adjusted for altitude.
When serving fruit preserved without sugar, count fruit exchanges as for fresh or commercially prepared, unsweetened or artificially sweetened fruit.
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