If you are new to canning, picking out ingredients is confusing and complicated. Yet, sugar is a key ingredient, so which one to go for? The short answer is, when in doubt use sugar syrup, but we’ll tell you exactly why and how to use it.
Keep in mind that canning isn’t just mixing fruit and sugar; it requires you to follow steps and use specific tools.
Yet, your life will be much simpler if you already know how to pick the right sugar to use.
Know Why and How to Use Sugar Syrup for Canning
Reason #1: Sugar syrup is easy to make
When you hear sugar syrup, you may think of something complex and manufactured.
Instead, sugar syrup is simply made by mixing water and sugar in a pot until the sugar dissolves and results in a syrup concoction.
Here are some guidelines for making your homemade sugar syrup:
- Light: 2 cups of sugar + 4 cups water yields 5 cups sugar syrup
- Medium: 3 cups of sugar + 4 cups of water yields 5 ½ cups sugar syrup
- Heavy: 4 ¾ cups of sugar + 4 cups of water yields 6 ½ cups sugar syrup
Once ready, you can simply keep it refrigerated for many weeks. And you can use it to make cocktails and drinks as well.
Reason #2: There are many types of sugar syrup
While most people rely on making simple syrup at home, made with white sugar, there are many types of syrups out there.
In canning, you should go with simple syrup to preserve the natural flavor of the fruit, but you can try other options too.
Here are some of the most common sugar syrups:
- Maple Syrup: you can make this by boiling down the sap of the maple tree until it is thick and sweet.
- Corn Syrup: though you can’t do it at home, this syrup is used in regular commercial foods everywhere, and comes from cornstarch.
- Honey: this natural syrup comes from beehives, and sometimes has added flavors.
- Molasses: this is the leftover product after the sugar cane is removed during the refining process. It is thick and caramel-like.
When using other syrups, keep in mind the viscosity, flavor, and color, which change the texture and taste of your food.
There are alternatives for people looking to cut down on calories or have dietary restrictions. One such alternative is Sucralose, this alternative isn’t heat sensitive compared to most artificial sweeteners. However, the drawback is that it doesn’t have the color and texture preserving properties of sugar and there might be a slight taste difference with the end product.
Stevia is another alternative, this also doesn’t break down when heated. But, you’d need a low-methoxyl pectin if you want to use them in jams and jellies, and the texture is loose compared to the ones made with sugar.
Reason #3: Sugar syrup can be used in many ways
Because it is clear and easy to make, simple sugar syrup has many uses, especially in baking and making food at home.
First, sugar syrup is used in cocktails. It is an essential part of many bars, as it adds sweetness to an alcoholic beverage without changing the color.
Also, because it is liquid, some people prefer it to regular sugar in baking, as it creates a chewier and richer texture.
Finally, sugar syrup is essential in the canning process. This is because, as you know, the fruit should always be mixed with sugar.
Reason #4: Using sugar syrup in canning retains flavor, color, and shape
When you are in the process of cooking your fruit or food before canning, you usually have to mix sugar in.
But why not use sugar syrup? This type of sweetener doesn’t prevent spoilage, but it preserves the vibrancy of colors, shape, and flavors.
Knowing how much syrup to use can be confusing, but it solely depends on your taste.
We suggest that you use light syrup for fruits that are already sweet, and it maintains a more natural flavor.
Use medium syrup for fruits like apples, cherries, berries, or grapes, as these aren’t overly sweet on their own.
To finish, add heavy syrup for the tart and sour fruits. Examples are apricots, sour cherries, gooseberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums.
Reason #5: You can add your flavor to the sugar syrup
Since making sugar syrup at home is pretty easy and low key, most people make it during the canning process itself.
However, you can change things up easily by adding new flavors to your syrup and your canned goods, baked products, or drinks.
Some common additions include mint, lemon, cinnamon, ginger, pomegranate, rose, and strawberry.
One last thing to note
Canned fruits often float if-
- there is excess air after processing
- the sugar syrup is too heavy
- the jars are packed too loosely
To avoid it, pack the fruit tightly in the jars. Then use a light or medium syrup, making sure the fruit is ripe and firm.
Some fruits may darken during storage. But, cover them with liquid, leaving the recommended head-space and remember to remove any bubbles.
Finally, fruits, like apples, peaches, and pears, can show a pink, blue, or red color change.
The color change is a natural process due to a chemical change in the heat processing.
Whether you make your sugar syrup at home, or you decide to go with a store-bought variety, the results are great. It can make your canned goods look and taste delicious.