Ask the Goats: Sugar Substitutes

Ask the Goats is a semi-regular Monday feature in which we attempt to answer your questions about growing, making, eating, and preserving food. Got a question for the goats? Drop us a line at

Q. Can tangerine marmalade be made with Stevia and/or Splenda for people like me who have diabetes?—Deborah

A. You can absolutely make a fruit spread from Stevia, Splenda, or other sugar substitutes. You can also go sugar free. If you want a consistency that in any way resembles a traditional jam or marmalade, however, you’ll need to add some form of pectin. Sugar is essential to the gelling process, so when you reduce or eliminate it, you have to add some other means of structural support. Although I haven’t had much experience with it myself, many low-sugar canners swear by Pomona’s Pectin. Laura at Squirrel it Away! recently posted an extremely helpful piece about her experiences converting her high-sugar recipes to low-sugar jams with the help of Pomona’s Pectin. (Note, though, that hers still include 1/2 c. of honey, which may be too much for you.)

Depending on what sort of artificial sweetener you’d like to use, you’ll probably need to experiment to locate just the right amount. You should also be aware that some artificial sweeteners (I don’t have enough experience with them to know which ones) produce an off-flavor when heated, so you’ll probably want to add your sweetener at the last possible minute before transferring the marmalade to the jars. For ideas, a good place to start would be Norma McRae’s Canning and Preserving Without Sugar.

Finally, remember that sugar is a preservative. While it’s safe to can reduced-sugar or sugar-free fruit products, be aware that they won’t last as long as traditional jams once you open them. You should plan on eating the contents of your jars within a week or two. If you can’t finish them that quickly, you might want to consider smaller jars.

Good luck, and please report back on your results!

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3 comments to Ask the Goats: Sugar Substitutes

  • Hi there!

    Thanks for this beautiful blog 🙂
    I come here often, but didn’t let comment often…

    Just a little note for canning with Pomona’s pectine or other “low-methoxy pectin”. Be sure to use a fruit or juice fruit enought acid to be can safely. Some fruit are not enought acid to be can and preserve in boiling bath and you will need to add lemon juice…

    Have a nice day 🙂

  • Hey there thanks for the link love! I just wanted to let you know that while most of my recipes include some sugar it’s possible if your fruit is sweet enough to make jams without any sugar using pomona pectin. I include some kind of natural sugar along with the stevia to prevent any aftertaste– just my preference, certainly not required. I’ve also made them using only agave nectar, only fruit juice concentrate as the sweetener-it’s incredibly flexible!

  • Hi, Sarah Lochrie (neice in law) sent me to you.
    I’m just starting a food blog with recipes for people on sugar-free, low saturated fat,low GI diets (diabetics, for example). Thanks for your tip on using sugar substitutes.
    I’d like to put a link to your blog on mine, when I get it up and running, if that’s ok?