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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!