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Oct 11, 2009 08:47 AM

ok to use grape juice instead of sugar in jelly recipe?

Yesterday I picked all the apples, grapes and quince in my yard! I'm thinking of turning the grapes into juice and using that as the sweetener for the quince jelly. I don't want to use a low-cal sweetener (it's not about the calories, just trying to go more natural). Thoughts? Will I need more pectin or will there be enough in the grapes and quince?

Thanks for your help!

btw: I'm going to can the apples for future apple pie filling! :) YAY x 100! This is only my 3rd year in canning, wish I had started sooner - it's so great to open your own jar of deliciousness.

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  1. If you expect it to jell and keep for months on the shelf, best stick with sugar. It is not just a sweetener. Among other things, it alters the boiling temperature of the mixture. Do you use a thermometer while making the jelly?

    For freezer jams you have greater freedom to substitute.

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      Haven't used a thermometer previously, just kept an eye on things until things got to the jelly stage. Does using one make it easier to know when that is?

      Will have to try freezer jams, thanks!

    2. Yes, I can't imagine this would jell without sugar. I once tried to reduce the sugar in a strawberry jam recipe and ended up with many jars of... compote. And after all, sugar is natural! But perhaps not as local and sustainable as your grape juice. The quince is very full of pectin, I think, so it might work without sweetener. I'd think the grape flavor would overwhelm the subtle quince.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Procrastibaker

        I wondered about getting the balance right for the grape and quince juices too. Also I thought just the pectin caused the gelling? - it's the chemistry between pectin and sugar, then?

        Just trying to find sugar alternatives for my non-sugar eating friends as I want to give homemade canned items as holiday gifts this year. Guess they can have the canned apple pie... which means more delicious quince jelly for me to hoard, lol!

      2. If you're making a short term jam (refrigerated) then you can try. If you want it to stand at room temperature, then you need at least 67% sugar by weight, which you won't get from grape juice. In true jams, sugar is a preservative, much the way salt is in pickles, but you need a lot more of it.

        If you do try it, you'll definitely need more pectin, or it won't gel properly.

        The gelling is partly due to pectin, but is also due to getting a sugar syrup to the right concentration. As the ratio of sugar to water changes, the boiling temperature of the sugar increases and the mixture gets hotter. At sea level water boils at 212 F, about 220 F gives you jam, while 235F gives you soft ball stage for candy and so on.

        Boiling temperatures change with altitude, as the air pressure decreases, so the temperatures have to be adjusted for about about 1000 ft.

        Hmm, those chemistry course come in useful sometimes.

        1. Use a low/no sugar pectin if you want to use less sugar or other sweeteners. I prefer more fruit taste and less sweet in my jams and jellies and this works great. For example, I can use 1 cup sugar instead of the usual 7 cups of sugar in a standard strawberry jam recipe. Or I can sub in honey instead of sugar. The end results are just fine and the proof to me was walking away with 3 ribbons and a reserve champion win at the county fair this year. All with low/no sugar pectin.

          3 Replies
          1. re: morwen

            Ditto what morwen said. I made a no-sugar-added peach jam for my mother who is a diabetic. I got the recipe from the Ball blue book. It called for the peaches, unsweetened white grape juice and no-sugar-necessary pectin. It set up just fine. I only tasted it while it was still hot and it tasted good too. I think the no-sugar-necessary pectin is pretty easy to find in most places -- heck, I'm in Manhattan and I even found it here. Good luck with all your lovely fruit!

            1. re: morwen

              how much fruit juice did you use to the 1 cup of sugar and how much did it make? I've got some Merlot grapes I got from a friend and they are really sweet and I don't want to add much or any sugar. I'll have to go get the low/no sugar pectin. Have you made jelly with no sugar at all? thanks!

              1. re: cynncat

                I use Ball brand low/no sugar pectin. Different jams and jellies require different amounts of fruit and juice. Follow the instructions that come with the pectin until you're familiar with how it works. I find the low/no sugar pectin gives me a wide range of play with ingredients, amounts and kinds of sweeteners, and add-ins. Start with slightly less sugar than you think you'll need, taste the jelly before you pull it off the heat and if you think it needs more add a little and stir until well mixed and dissolved.
                I have made jams and jellies with no sugar but I find that even with the sweetest fruits a small amount of sweetener enhances the flavor. I've used as little as 1/8 cup. The exception to that is jams made with dried fruit. I did a dried fig jam that required no sugar because of the high concentrations of sugar in the figs. Other dried fruits may be the same. Taste as you go.
                I really love no/low sugar pectin because I feel it gives me more control over the final product, and much less cooking time is involved which I think goes a long way toward retaining the bright flavor of the fruit.