Want to learn how to start canning with honey instead of sugar? Let me walk you through the basics you need to know about replacing sugar with honey in your home canning!
When I first decided to rid my kitchen of refined sugars, I had no idea what I was getting into. I only knew that I needed to clean up my diet to help manage the symptoms I was experiencing with my chronic Lyme disease.
It was a challenge learning how to make home-baked goods with honey, but it was an even greater challenge learning how to start canning fruit, jams and jellies with honey.
Let’s be real here: the majority of our canning recipes today call for white sugar. And you can’t just exchange white sugar for honey without messing up a recipe. No one wants to waste honey (or fruit) and I know firsthand how discouraging the learning curve can be.
So after nearly a decade of experimenting, learning and making lots of mistakes, I’m here to give you a heads up and hopefully, make your journey easier!
Is It Safe to Use Honey in Home Canning?
This is often the first question that’s asked! We all want to feed our home canned food to our family, worry free.
So here’s the thing with honey. When it comes to preserving, honey is very similar to granulated sugar in how it sweetens and preserves the contents of your jar. On it’s own, raw honey is a natural preservative.
When it comes to water bath canning, the primary concern most folks have is this: does using honey alter the pH of your home canned fruit? If you’re familiar with safety rules in regard to water bath canning, you know it’s only safe for acidic foods that have a pH of 4.6 or lower.
Here’s the deal.
White sugar has an approximate pH of 7, which is quite neutral.
Raw honey ranges in pH from 3.5-5.5, which is quite acidic.
Honey won’t lower the acidity to your home canned products; it actually increases it, which makes it totally safe for water bath canning!
Is Honey Healthier Than White Sugar in Home Canning?
The primary reason I replaced white sugar with honey in my kitchen wasn’t because I wanted to try something new and cool. I did it for health reasons.
You see, I’ve been battling Lyme disease for over 10 years, and I noticed that when it came to sugars, my body responded best to raw, local honey, while refined sugars set me off.
After doing a bit of research, I began to understand why. Quality raw honey is guaranteed to still be in whole food form. Unlike white and refined sugar, no alterations or refinement have taken place. As a result, many people find that their body releases honey’s natural sugars into the bloodstream at a much slower pace.
Yes, even after it’s been heated in the water bath canner! And let me just say? Being able to eat home canned fruit and fruit products again without a huge blood sugar spike is a wonderful thing!
Note: honey is still a sugar and should be treated as one. If you are unable to consume sugar for medical reasons, PLEASE consult with your doctor before trying to consume honey.
What to Expect When You Start Canning with Honey
If you’re accustomed to canning with refined sugar, there are several key differences you’ll notice if you switch to canning with honey. Let me walk you through them now.
Honey is Sweeter Than Sugar
Cup for cup, honey is actually sweeter than sugar. This is important to take into account when you’re exchanging sugar for honey in your favorite canning recipe.
In general, you’ll find that 3/4 C honey is equal to 1 C of sugar where sweetness levels are concerned.
Because I like to keep a low sugar diet and prefer that the fruit flavor comes through in my home canning, I generally like to use about 1/2 C honey for every 1 C sugar required in my canning recipes.
Totally up to you!
Honey is More Acidic Than White Sugar
Did you know that honey is more acidic than white sugar? White sugar has the neutral pH of 7, while honey is much more acidic and ranges from 3.5-5.5 on the pH scale.
This is good news! You don’t have to worry about honey neutralizing the pH of your fruit, making it unsafe for water bath canning. Honey will actually increase the acidity of your home canned goods, making it quite safe to use in home preserving.
Honey Has More Flavor Than Sugar
Until you start using natural sweeteners in the kitchen, you don’t realize that white sugar is flavorless. And when you add refined sugars to your home canned fruit, your only gain is sweetness.
Honey is different. It has a distinct flavor that is affected by the blossom types bees gather nectar from, and it always adds body to your home canned fruit products.
If you’re accustomed to canning with sugar only, you’ll likely notice a slight difference in the flavor of your canning. It’s not a bad or unpleasant change; it’s just different.
Be prepared for this!
Honey Adds Liquid Content to Your Recipes
When you start canning with honey, don’t be surprised to discover that it actually adds liquid volume to your home canned goods.
We don’t often stop to think about this, but granulated sugar is actually a dehydrated product. As a result, it absorbs moisture.
Not so with honey! It always adds more moisture, which requires you to understand and adjust your canning recipes accordingly, particularly where homemade jams and jellies are concerned. Truly interested in learning how to start canning with honey? I teach you everything you need to know in my online course Canning with Honey
Join me and you’ll learn how to successfully and quickly use honey to sweeten your home canned fruit, jams and jellies. You’ll get my best time saving tips as well!
Honey Adds a Light Golden Color to Fruit Syrups
White sugar is colorless. Stir some into a cup of water and the result is a clear liquid.
Not so with honey!
Combine honey with water and it creates a soft, gold colored syrup. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but when you’re preserving fruit in a honey-sweetened syrup, you’ll notice a hint of additional color.
Honey May Darken Homemade Jams & Jellies
It actually isn’t difficult to make homemade jams and jellies with honey, provided you have the right equipment and techniques.
But there is one difference you may notice: honey can cause homemade jams and especially jellies to darken.
It’s nothing drastic and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with jams and jellies that are a few tones darker than you’re accustomed to seeing. In fact, if you aren’t into preserving for aesthetics, you probably won’t even notice.
Still, it’s something to be aware of as you start canning with honey.
Honey Can’t Be Successfully Used with Normal Pectin
When it comes to making homemade jams and jellies, many of us have relied on boxed pectin from the grocery store to get the “jel” we need.
Problem is, most of this pectin is designed to be used with a granulated white sugar that absorbs liquid. Not runny honey!
To make thick homemade jams and jellies, you need to use an alternative type of pectin, one that sets without an addition of granulated sugar.
Again, I cover all this in my online course, so be sure to check it out HERE and get the special sale before you go!
Is Canning with Honey More Expensive Than Canning with Sugar?
The answer is yes! Raw honey is far more expensive than white sugar. But it isn’t all bad, because it makes you more conservative with how much sweetener you use in your home canning.
If you truly want to start canning with honey, I recommend buying it in larger quantities so you get a better deal. Raw honey will keep indefinitely at room temperature, so you don’t need to worry about preserving it or spoilage.
You can also look into raising your own honeybees, which will eventually help decrease the cost of using honey in your home canning. My man started keeping bees over 5 years ago and it’s a wonderful feeling to be supplying our own natural sugars from our land!
Can Honey Be Used in Pickling Recipes?
Regardless of whether you’re preserving vegetables or fruit, most pickling recipes call for an addition of white sugar.
But can you change it up for honey?
The answer is yes! Feel free to exchange sugar for honey in any of your canned pickling recipes. Just remember to account for the following things.
- Honey will add liquid volume to your brine
- 3/4 cup of honey is equal to 1 C sugar in sweetness
- Unlike sugar, honey has flavor and will slightly change the taste of your pickling brine
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How to Start Canning with Honey Instead of Sugar
Now that you’ve had an overview, what do you think? Is canning with honey for you? I know I’ve just given you an overview here, but if you truly are interested in learning to preserve with honey, be sure to check out the sale on my course: Canning with Honey.
I’ll teach you everything you need to know!
I am so relieved to know this!!! Thank you for taking the time to experiment and share your experiences. I’m wanting to can apple pie filling without ultra gel. This information is not very prevalent online and I’m so happy to have stumbled upon your blog. I’m diving in more this evening when my jars are cooling and I’ll be sipping hot tea with my feet up by the fire !!! Thank you again!
Glad to have helped in a small way!
Can I pickle with honey? Thanks for the great article
You can add honey to your pickling recipes (instead of sugar). Is that what you meant?
Have you ever canned carrots in a honey syrup? My family loves honey glazed carrots. I’m wondering if honey canned the carrots would be a time saver or if I’d be better off just canning them in water.
Yum! I love honey-glazed carrots! I’ve never tried it, but you could probably pressure can them in a water/honey combo. But canning them in pure honey would be WAAAAAY too sweet! And the recipe would have to be pressure canned (which would make carrots soft) as carrots aren’t acidic enough for safe waterbath canning. Let me know if you try it and how it goes!
I cook fruit with a little extra leon/lime juice, then stir in honey afterwards and bottle. I leave in the frigde and the “preserves” lasy for ages!
I’d done freezer jam before, but I just learned a new thing from you! Refrigerator jam! 😀
Jolene Voigt says
I plan to use honey for 1/2 the sugar in my crabapple sauce recipe. Thanks for the tips!
Hey, I just stumbled upon your blog and I’m so glad I found it! Thanks for the great info. Making honey-sweetened jam today!
Glad to be found by you! Enjoy! 🙂
Hannah Lundy says
So you can your jams with honey and no pectin? I keep reading that if you use honey and no pectin that it doesn’t have a shelf life and needs to be froze so I’m excited to read yours!
You can make honey-sweetened jams with no pectin, but you have to cook them down for quite some time to evaporate liquid. But they are totally shelf stable. To speed the process of canning with honey, I like to use the pectin type I refer to in this blog post here (there’s also a video of the process as well): https://atraditionallife.com/make-low-sugar-jam-with-alternative-sweetener/
Let me know if you have any more questions!
hey I’m curious that how long should jam with honey last?
Do you mean preserved in the jar (will keep 1-2 years) or after you’ve opened a jar? After the jar has been opened, it really depends on how much honey you’ve added. We tend to be low-sugar, so I expect to get about 4-6 weeks from my open jams. Always refrigerate!