Sugar Substitutes in Canning

natural-canning_400We are commonly asked in our canning classes whether honey or other natural sweeteners can used in place of sugar when making jam or other preserves. The short answer is ‘yes’ but it does change the product and the product does not have the same shelf-life as preserves made with sugar. The Hobby Farm magazine has a great article 8 Natural and Healthy Canning Substitutions that offers substitutions for sugar, pectin and alum. Here is the excerpt as it relates to sugar substitutions:

Cooks often want to know if they can use sugar substitutes when making jams and jellies or
canning and preserving fruits. Honey, agave nectar and stevia can all be used in canning recipes, but most experts advise against replacing all of the sugar in a recipe with a substitute.

“You can’t just replace honey for sugar, cup for cup,” says Eugenia Bone, author of Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods. “It is a preservative, but it doesn’t dehydrate the fruit cells, which retards the growth of spoilers, in the same way as sugar.” Honey can be substituted for up to half of the sugar in a recipes. If a recipe calls for 5 cups of sugar, add 2½ cups sugar and 2½ cups of honey. (Some people suggest using slightly less honey so 1 cup sugar equals about 7/8 cup honey). You still need sugar in the mix for preserving purposes. Using honey in jams and jellies might affect how long the product is processed and how well it gels. Because honey doesn’t dehydrate fruit as much as sugar, the final product might be runny; plus, the honey can overpower the fruit’s flavor if you’re not careful. To replace sugar with honey, look for recipes that have been specifically formulated-and approved-for honey, or use Pomona’s Pectin, Bone advises.

Agave nectar can be used in the same manner as honey. Powdered stevia is also an option, but you should use no-sugar pectin or Pomona Pectin when using stevia.


Looking for more natural substitutions? Read the full article in Hobby Farms. Making your
own preserves, natural or refined sugar, allows you to get the flavours you want and know
exactly what is in your food. So, enjoy summer’s bounty of fresh produce and be sure to store
some away for later in the year.