Home canning - substitutions/additions

Asked June 18, 2019, 5:45 PM EDT

Hi, I attended the jams & jellies home canning evening course that OSU extension held last summer. Since it's been a few months, I have some questions regarding boiling water canning for jams: 1. Is there a way to substitute fruits in a given recipe? For example, I have black currants, but cannot find black currant recipes (there are plenty for red currants). Can they be used in place of blueberries? blackberries? In general, how does one determine substitutions safely, considering potential differences in acid level? 2. Is it safe to add things to jams before processing that may not be in the recipe? For example, adding dried hot chili flakes to a berry jam, or a couple drops of lavender or orange extract? Dried lavender flowers? Fresh lemon verbena or basil leaves? Citrus zest? Can you substitute lime juice for lemon juice? I remember the emphasis on following recipes precisely, but am not finding many variations (or don't know where to find trusted recipes besides Ball Blue Book, USDA and National Center for Home Food Preservation). 3. If a recipe calls for lemon juice, must it be the bottled lemon juice, or can it be fresh squeezed? Same for lime? Thanks so much! Beth

Benton County Oregon food safety home food preservation

2 Responses

What thoughtful questions!

Since fruits do vary by pH, amount of juice and texture, it is best to use a recipe meant for that type of fruit. However, most jam recipes are pretty similar, regardless of what fruit is being used. Most common fruits used in jams are acidic enough so that you do not having to worry about swapping one for another or even mixing them together in a recipe, what might change is the quality of the jam, not the safety. The known exceptions are mango, bananas, white peaches, all melons, and figs. These would all need additional acidification to be made safe for a boiling water bath process.

You could use black currents instead of red. Some recipes are generic “berries” and the currents should work in those recipes as well. If you compare blackberry versus blueberry recipes, there is usually more pectin to less fruit or more cooking for blackberries because of their excess juice and lower natural levels of pectin. Currents may fit the blackberry recipe better than the blueberry recipe.

It is safe to add limited amounts of flavorings to jams without changing their safety. Dried spices and herbs, extracts and oils are all safe in the amounts that would be used in a jam. Fresh herbs may be a bit more questionable. Some would be safe, but I don’t have good guidelines for how much it would take to change the pH and the safety of the product. I will check further to see if there are any guidelines.

Lemon and Lime juice can be used interchangeably. If the recipe does not specific bottled lemon juice, then fresh is safe. In that case, the lemon juice is most likely there to enhance the flavor and work with the pectin to gel the product and is not part of the safety equation.

I suggest that you look for recipes in packages of pectin or on the websites for the pectin manufacturers. We know that they test their recipes and they know their products well, so have good directions to follow. Ball® 's website Freshpreserving,com also has many choices and they are tested recipes. They have many creative recipes to look over.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Thank you so much for your thorough response. You answered all my questions in a way that helped me understand more of the science behind the process, giving me more confidence to give it a go!
Appreciate your time and help,