50% sugar: jams & pies

donnie88July 16, 2012

To me, the biggest issue in jams and pies is how much sugar they contain. Sugar is 10 times cheaper than fruit, that's why they usually add too much of it. Let's call a spade a spade here (let's not beat around the berry bush): Most jams and pies are cloyingly sweet. They don't just have a little too much sugar. They don't just have a medium amount too much sugar. They have a GREAT DEAL too much sugar!

Any review of a jam, jelly, or pie should give the grams of sugar/serving. All the big companies give this on their labels consistently. 1 serving = 1 Tbsp = 20 g (grams). In front of me is a jar of store-bought berry jam. Its label says "Sugars 10g" This is about average for store-bought jams. You see clearly from this that this jam is 1/2 sugar by weight. And it tastes like it. The fruit flavor is overpowered.

The same is true in soft drinks, desserts, cereals, etc., etc. No wonder a recent Time Magazine cover story said that obesity is THE major health problem in America. Big corporations increase their profits by dumping millions of gallons of cheap corn syrup into their products, more every year. (That�s why executives take home $multi-million per year, each!) Modern young people don't know what a delicious healthy jam or fruit pie tastes like any more.

(And watch out for the 'low sugar' jams that just add more water to their over-sugared jam, to bring down the grams/serving. Fruit has plenty of water in it, so if the label ingredients include "water," don't buy it.)

The best solution is to make the jams/pies yourself. Enlist the help of your children or grandchildren... Yes, pull them away from the computer screens, let their little arms and hands get some healthy exercise. Let them interact with the family. Let them build skills and confidence. If you don't pass on the old American tradition of home made jams and pies, who will?!

In closing, let�s remember: Fruit costs $5/gallon, corn syrup (heavy sugar water) costs $.50/gallon. Which do we want to feed our families?

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...you left out low-sugar tips for pies and preserves, as most standard recipes call for lots of sugar in home-made products.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 12:19AM
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Great point! I make jam from some of my fruit. After using Sure-Gel, I found the jam sickening sweet. When I reduced the sugar on the next batch, the jam did not gel thick enough. Some of the recipes called for 5 cups fruit with 7 cups sugar!

I now use sure-gel light. It calls for 1/3 less sugar than regular Sure-gel. Works great. I have reduced the sugar on some of their recipes even more and still get it to gel good.

I am amazed when I meet europeans living in ith U.S. I constantly hear from them that Americans use too much sugar!

Of course I agree somewhat but not always. I bought some
scandiavian made jams from a local specialty store. WOW!
It listed sugar on the ingredients but far too sour for me.
I will not buy jelly/jam from scandinavia again. Although I have had great luck with morello jam from Italy and some
red currant jelly from the U.K.

Luckily I now have enough homemade jams from 2011 crop to last me thru 2012.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 12:16PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I use about half the sugar of standard recipes. To get it to gel I cook it in a very thin layer, maybe 3/4" thick at most. I cover the whole stove with pots cooking all at once. One other thing I sometimes do is cook it down with half the sugar added then add the other half toward the end - this keeps the boil temp lower and avoids overcooking the fruit. If set is not happening fast enough I may add a touch more sugar at the end. There is almost never a need to add pectin if its cooked in a thin layer.

Even low-sugar jam is relatively sweet, its like all these parents thinking they are being good by feeding their kids "100% juice" but its not much different from Kool Aid in terms of sugar content. The way you eat less sugar is eat smaller helpings of whatever is sweet.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 10:40PM
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The use of thickeners such as Clear Gel and a sweetener such as stevia has allowed me to cut way back on sugar in baked goods and sauces.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 11:44PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I have never tried making jam, but I only eat pies that I've made myself and I always adjust the recipe to have more fruit and less sugar. I've never had someone complain that my pies weren't sweet enough, people are always impressed by how much better a pie made with good fruit and a reasonable amount of sugar is.

I agree that sugar being cheap is the main factor in the over sweetening of American foods, not just fruit desserts but in everything. I think many businesses use sugar to make up for sourcing the cheapest ingredients possible. One time I read the ingredient list on a store bought 'angel food cake' and I was unable to find flour or eggs in the entire long paragraph. It was a completely artificial food-like substance (thanks to Michael Pollen for my new favorite term.)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 11:24AM
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The common grocery store pectins use sugar and high heat to gel and to get a good gel you have to use a lot of sugar. The low sugar versions work well but they still need sugar just to activate the pectin. If you can find Pomona brand pectin it is completely different - it uses Calcium to gel. You can make jams and jellies without any sugar at all if you wish. I see it at high end health food stores.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 1:04PM
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This is a good string.
I have always been concerned whether the sugar specified in any particular recipe or brand of pectin was necessary for the canned jam to be safe to keep for two years? I often use recipes that use no pectin, just because the pectin is quite expensive and I make large amounts of jam, but the jam is overly sweet to my taste. If one uses the Pomona brand and a hot water bath, is that sufficient to keep the canned jam for long periods, or does this make more what we would call a "refrigerator" jam?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 1:55PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I think this is moving into the territory of the Harvest Forum. There are real experts on canning and safety over there. I'll cross post it if that's OK.

Here is a link that might be useful: Harvest Forum

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 2:17PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Coming over from Harvest following Flora's thoughtful cross-post.

To answer Northwoodswis' question: a jam or other preserve with high-acid fruit (which excludes such low-acid fruits as bananas, figs, mangoes, melons) will be safe to process by boiling water bath regardless of the amount of sugar.

Studies on the shelf life of low-sugar spreads are limited, but there are some indications of somewhat reduced shelf-life. Refrigerator life is also somewhat briefer.

But regardless, no canned high-acid spread is going to present any health issue other than (possible) mold. Since mold is easily discernable that's not a problem except for the waste.

Old-timers used to scrape the mold off and eat the remainder. That's not recommended because invisible threads of mold can still penetrate the preserve and there is evidence of a correlation between this mold and cancer.

I hope this helps.

Happy preserving,

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 9:16PM
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"If you can find Pomona brand pectin it is completely different - it uses Calcium to gel. You can make jams and jellies without any sugar at all if you wish. I see it at high end health food stores."

Good luck with Pomona pectin. The less sugar you add the more it tastes like jello. No sugar and you get jello. Plus the pectin is exorbitantly expensive, like $50 a pound. I gave up on that stuff due to poor results with low sugar. If you add full sugar it works great.

Instead of Pomona, I buy commercial pectin from the well known auction site for $5 a pound. I did however have to develop my own recipe. The recipe I developed turned out to use about the same quantity of pectin as the Pomona. This pectin uses the full sugar but tastes great and costs way less.

So buy the Pomona pectin and hand them $45 a pound profit. I you search around you can find low sugar pectin for less than $50 a pound.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 3:08AM
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