No sugar added jams and jellies have steadily gained a greater and greater market share over the years. Those who are calorie conscience and the increase rate of diabetes are contributing factors. The goal of this blog is a general overview of the make up of no sugar added fruit spreads and the functional issues surrounding them.
Traditionally jams and jellies required being made with sugar for several reasons. First, In order to activate commercial pectin or the natural pectin in the fruit, a high sugar content is needed. Having a high sugar content also gives the product a long shelf life once opened. Hence, as the sugar content goes down so does the length of shelf life once opened. Sugar made the jams and jellies taste good too. As the need for lower sugar products grew the manufacturers of pectin developed pectin’s that did not need sugar present to activate the gel. Low Methoxyl pectin’s were born. These pectin’s are ionic reactive and will gel water. The ionic agent generally used is calcium in the form of calcium citrate or calcium phosphate.
Now that sugar was no longer needed the issue of preservation was addressed. Biologically speaking we are gelling pure fruit. How long will fresh strawberries last in your refrigerator before growing mold? Sometimes a matter of hours to a couple of days. To slow this biological process down the introductions of preservatives was needed. Most commonly used are potassium sorbate (mold inhibitor) and sodium benzoate (bacteria inhibitor).
For those of us that do not want to consume preservatives, you will have no choice but to use the fruit spread quickly. Just like fresh fruit, a couple days is all you will have.
The next issue is taste. As stated before, sugar makes it taste good. A pure no sugar added fruit spread will taste very bland. There are several options. Lets start with concentrated sweetners. Due to problems with high temperatures, aspartame or sweet n low cannot be used. The two most popular right now are sucralose and stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetner and will be preferred by people not wanting to consume an artificial sweenter. The down side to stevia is taste. Stevia has a bitter after taste. There are manufactures that mix stevia with an alcohol sugar to help offset the bitter taste. From a taste perspective sucralose is the closed to a sugar like taste, The down side is that it is an artificial product. People with a sensitive stomach might have a problem with this product. Juice concentrates in small quantities can be used to off set the bland taste enough while not driving the sugar content to high. Agave and alcohol sugars are options as well.
If you noticed I have been bouncing back and forth with the term “fruit spread” and “jams and jellies”. From a legal stand point a fruit produce can only be called a jam, jelly or preserve if the final sugar content is in the mid 60% range. Products below that should be called fruit spreads.
Jam makes the world a better place!