This version of canned clementines has no refined sugar and a healthy helping of some of my favorite spices. Typically folks can fruit in a sugar syrup. If you know me, you know I'm not a fan of refined sugar at all and the majority of my canning is done without any, or with very little. This one I ventured away from my usual syrup for pears, peaches and apples and took a chance.
Here I go again, Breakin' the rules. With full disclosure of course.
The disclaimer and my logic:
My usual syrup is a watered down fruit juice (white grape juice) mixed with the lightest syrup you can make that is also watered down and canned as if it were canned in fruit juice only. Which means different processing times and hot packing the fruit. For more about that you can look here. http://www.pickyourown.org/sugarsolution.htm I stray somewhat from the USDA regs and rules on this one. Keep in mind that it is allowable to can fruit in juice or water only so this is only a slight variation.
**You normally when canning fruit in non sugar solutions need to use the hot pack method and also will want to add time for the different method. In this case - I did not hot pack the fruit- which you could easily do if you are concerned about the safety. I was envisioning super uber cooked clementines, which was not what I wanted here and being lazy, and knowing that these will likely be eaten well before the year is up. And I also canned separated slices, not halves as shown here. Which would mean that the insides of the fruit would be more fully heated in the canning process.
I've made some assumptions with my canning processes here and while I don't necessarily recommend or vouch for the safety of what I've done- I'm not an expert only a home canner. I think it's fair for me to tell you will happily feed this to my family without fearing our safety. If you differ in opinion then see my suggestions for more closely following with what the USDA says. But please let me run through the logic of what I'm thinking.
In canning you have two major concerns - they are spoilage and quality of the end product, and botulism. I've done some fairly extensive research on botulism- a deadly toxin found only in low acid foods. It cannot survive in high acid environments. It is deadly-- if you are canning low acid foods-- PLEASE, PLEASE use a pressure canner and proper methods. Citrus is NOT low acid. In fact it's one of the highest acid foods. Therefore the risk of botulism is Nil, or at least no worse than eating anywhere else. Most other forms of molds, and spoilage that occur in canned goods would also come with very obvious smells, tastes or visual signs. (botulism gives in many cases no signs) That said -- as long as you are aware of the visual signs-- in high acid foods, your only risk in terms of canning high acid canned foods would be spoilage. If something is spoiled it will have obvious signs- leaking, bulging, foaming, mold, or an off smell. That said -- as long as you aren't foolish about eating something that shows those obvious signs when canning high acid foods, using sanitary methods, clean jars and lids, boiling syrup, etc.. you have some freedom. If I wanted to I could test the acidity with ph strips to be sure but I am comfortable with what I've done.
The USDA does not endorse using most alternative sweeteners because they haven't done adequate testing to determine beyond any doubt that they are safe. And it's my personal opinion that the USDA has a responsibility to ensure that the methods they present are safe even for the "dumbest common denominator". I know that might sound harsh to say but many people will see the "rules" and not follow them at all. In some cases USDA overprotects us in order to prevent anyone from getting sick- noble yes, but not always necessary IMHO. In water bath canning the temperatures don't reach much higher than if you were cooking in most standard applications and in theory as long as the sweeteners -stevia and agave nectar don't alter the PH of the product substantially it "should" be safe. Testing by the USDA costs money and it will likely be a long time before it's done in regards to sweeteners like stevia, sucanat, and even agave nectar as they can't necessarily be copyrighted like Splenda can. Splenda has a vested interest in getting their product approved and since they will solely benefit from more folks canning with it I would in fact expect to see it get tested. So by using alternative sweeteners I am taking a chance. One that is not USDA approved. If you are more comfortable with doing what the USDA recommends -- you can do what I did- only hot pack your fruit-in the syrup copy the spices but use apple juice, water or a honey solution, and still get the same end result or similar. That would be completely within the USDA guidelines and absolutely safe without a doubt.
Why I don't like the other options:
Because apple or fruit juice is costly and somewhat will flavor your fruit although using white grape juice that is 100% juice in my experience does not taint the taste of the fruit. However, white grape juice still has a large amount of natural sugar in it and if you are glycemic that may not be a good idea. Water leaves your fruit tasting --well, watered down. And honey is again highly glycemic. I personally don't use splenda as I feel it is questionably safe. If you feel differently that's fine and I'm sure you could use it, but I don't. The syrup I've created is far less glycemic and my own personal preference. I've explained above that I feel my only risk is spoilage and therefore I'm willing to chance using the other sweeteners. But I do so -- with full disclosure. Also I want people to know that it's possible to can fruit with confidence without using refined sugar, as I do it all the time.
Be aware that once your fruit is opened after canning it has no preservative (sugar) and so it will spoil within just a few days even refrigerated. Which is why I did these in pints. Minimizing waste is always a concern for me. So-- on to the recipe!
First, I heated the syrup in a pan on the stove. And heated the water in my canner and the jars.
TIP*** I also heated the water for my lids till it boiled- then I pour it into my tiny crock pot and turn the crock pot on and add my lids to this-- this holds the temp of the water perfectly at 180 degrees! No reaching for lids across a hot burner of syrup!! **This is even mentioned in the Ball Blue Book and an approved method! Check yours with a thermometer to be sure as all crockpots differ slightly.
First I peeled, and separated several clementines- about 3 per pint jar. I packed the slices into the jars firmly because they will shrink up once canned. If you were going to hot pack you would add the slices to your syrup and heat them and then pack the jars.
My syrup includes:
8 cups water
8 tiny tsp. of stevia powder (the tsp that is included in the jar of KAL brand stevia)
1/8 c. of sucanat
1/4 cup agave nectar
by USDA- 8 cups of white grape or apple juice, or water
1/2 tsp of cardamon powder
1/4 tsp of dried ginger powder
2 large cinnamon sticks
1 tsp vanilla added at the last part of the process just before filling jars
**update, upon tasting the finished product I would double the spices next batch!
Boil this several minutes to develop the flavors and then pour onto fruit in jars using a canning funnel. Use the recommended methods of filling the jars including removing the bubbles with a bamboo stick or other tool. And fasten lids onto your jars until they are finger tight. Leave 1/2 inch head space. Process for 20 minutes. (this is for hot pack, fruit juice or water canned fruit) I adjusted this for my altitude and my methods- cold pack and between 4,000-6,000 ft. altitude.