Preserving Foods For Special Diets
by: Val Hillers, Ph.D. , Extension Food Specialist
People who are reducing their sugar or salt intake can preserve foods at home to meet their special needs by using food preservation methods such as freezing, canning, or drying because these methods don't require sugar or salt for their preservation effects.
Canned or Frozen Fruits
The sugar specified in canning and freezing is only needed for its effects on flavor and texture. Water or natural fruit juices, such as apple juice, can be used in place of sugar syrups for canning and freezing fruits. Try a variety and see what you like. Good combinations are peaches canned or frozen in orange juice, pears or apples canned in apple juice or pineapple juice, and berries frozen in cranberry juice. The texture of low-sugar canned or frozen fruits may be somewhat mushy because sugar aids in holding the shape of the fruit.
Jams and Jellies
Sugar in jams and jellies promotes gel formation and serves as a preservative. Low-sugar jams and jellies can be made using special products that were developed to use with reduced sugar or with no added sugar.
Regular pectin requires sugar for jelling. If sugar is reduced in most recipes using regular pectin, the jelly will have syrup consistency, since the correct proportions of fruit, pectin, and sugar are essential for jelling.
Pectins that require less sugar or no sugar for jelling are also available. These modified pectins can be used to make jams and jellies with a varying sugar content.
The keeping quality is changed when sugar is decreased in jams and jellies. Follow storage directions carefully for reduced-sugar foods because they will mold rather quickly.
Many fresh pack pickles can be made safely without salt; however the flavor will be reduced. However, some fresh-pack pickles and relishes require a salt soak to produce the desired texture, so the low-salt version will be quite different.
Sauerkraut and fermented pickles that are made by sitting in a crock or jar from weeks must have salt in the brine to prevent spoilage. Low-salt versions of these cannot be made.
There are many pickle recipes that call for little or no sugar and may be used without modification in a low-sugar diet. Sugar in pickles is used to add flavor and to balance the tartness of the vinegar. If sugar is eliminated from pickle recipes, the pickles or relish may taste quite tart.
Canned Vegetables and Meats
Salt is used only for flavoring these foods and may be removed safely.
Non-calorie and Low-calorie Sweeteners
Some of the low-calorie sweeteners are not stable in heat and freezing, so the best quality product is usually obtained by canning or freezing the food without any added sweeteners. Add the low-calorie sweetener just before serving.
If you do add artificial sweeteners, it is better to undersweeten the fruit than to over sweeten. You can always add more later. The fruit's tartness will help determine the amount of artificial sweetener to add.