Sunday, June 20, 2010

Can Jam: Berry jams without the boxed pectin

For this month, the Can Jam featured ingredient was _erries....any kind of berries.   For my house, I make tons of strawberry jam...we eat it by the case here.  This is my second year that I've demonstrated making strawberry jam at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market - here is my friend Ellen and me making jam there a couple of Saturdays ago.  I'm the one with the Yes, I Can apron.    It was roasting hot and very humid that day, and I was grateful to be canning outdoors.   Canning indoors on a hot day really is miserable - even if you have air conditioning - because it really heats up the kitchen.  But it's great to do outside.  Behind us stands a double burner propane outdoor stove -- a regular Coleman style camp stove doesn't kick out enough BTUs, but this type of stove does.   I recommend it to anyone into preserving or home brewing so you can take your work outdoors! 

Here's the technique for making jam without the boxed pectin:

For the pectin:
5 tart apples,blossom and stem ends removed, chopped up, core and seeds and all
1 lemon (or 2 limes) choped up, peel and seeds included.

Cook this down until soft, and put through a food mill. I use my Kitchen Aid Fruit and Vegetable Strainer attachment, which is a handy thing to have if you are into canning and already have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  It's way easier to use, and costs about the same as a hand cranked food mill.   Alternatively, you could press it through a sieve with a wooden spoon.   This will make about 2 cups of puree.

For the fruit:
8 cups strawberries, halved and hulled and 5 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups blueberries and 3 cups sugar.  Use limes in the pectin with blueberries for added flavor
4 cups raspberries and 5 cups sugar 

Add the pectin puree to the fruit and sugar and boil until it hits the gel temp at your elevation.  For "flatlanders" like me, that's 220 F.  Put the jam in sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  You will not be able to taste the apples or lemons (the limes give a nice lime essence to your jam)

I am not a fan of boxed pectin for a few reasons:

  1. It's cheaper to make it from scratch.  Pectin can be expensive, especially the low sugar varieties.   A product search shows that the popular no sugar required Pomona's Pectin cost almost $5 per box, and regular style boxed pectin (Ball, Sure Jell, etc) runs about $3 per box. 

  2. Using apples in with the berries increases the yield of jam made.   Apples are generally much cheaper than berries, so adding 2 cups of the puree to the fruit decreases the cost per jar.   

  3. The process for making pectin is anything but "natural", despite what some brands advertise. A pectin factory receives apple residue or citrus peels from juice factories. It's mixed with acid to get all the pectin out of the sludge. The solids are separated and then alcohol is added to precipitate the pectin out of solution. Ammonia is added to some kinds to make it work without added sugar normally needed (those expensive brands of pectin that allow you to make jams and jellies without adding sugar), and then it's mixed with dextrose or sugar to stabilize it. 

  4. For the no/low sugar kinds of boxed pectin like Pomona's, it's even more of a science project.  It's made in the same way as regular pectin, but then some amide groups are then introduced into the pectin molecule during the process of de-esterification (a process by which the pectin is changed from high-methoxyl to low-methoxyl). High-methoxyl pectin requires a sugar concentration above 55% to gel whereas low-methoxyl pectin gels in the presence of calcium ions. So, users of this style of pectin have to make a calcium solution and add it to the fruit. So instead of sugar, you're adding calcium ions, so preservers can use other sweeteners like Splenda.   I don't care if they sell Pomona's pectin at Whole Foods, I don't think I want to eat anything that requires "de-estrification" or adding calcium ions. 

  5. I don't use Splenda.  Natural apple/lemon pectin jams require less sugar than boxed pectin recipes.   If you are looking for a less sweet jam, skip the Pomona's/Splenda and just use good old fashioned apples and lemon. 
In the fall, I plan on foraging for crab apples and putting up some pectin for next years jam making.  It will be a great off season canning project.  Happy Can Jam! 


Anonymous said...

This pretty much answers all the questions I had about boxed pectin, so thanks!

Anonymous said...

This pretty much answers all my questions about boxed pectin, so thanks!

Jane said...

Good info! I like the link to the stove also. I need one of them.

Anonymous said...

I made mine without pectin too, but I just cooked it until it was thick. I made some pectin last year and hope to can some this fall as well. I wondered about Pomona's; I think I'll pass.

Buttercup said...

Thanks, your instructions helped me make a successful batch of serviceberry (aka Juneberry) jam this year. I used your blueberry proportions with lemon juice. But just commercial pectin (no time or will to experiment for the home extracted version).

I used Pomona's for the serviceberry jam last year and got what I considered to be a rather strangely bland product (my husband had no problem with it). In the past I tried to make the jam with just apples in the mix to supply pectin but results were too variable, including a whole year's worth of syrup.

Tightwad Mom said...

Thanks for the info.! I have been looking for ways to make jam and jelly without boxed pectin! By the way, I am coveting your apron!!!!!

Mom said...

The "Yes, I Can" apron can be bought through Preserving Traditions

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lowdown on pectin! And great instructions on making your own natural pectin base.

Julia said...

Great post, Mom! Clear and concise and to the point. I really like your recipe too, blending some lemon with apples is such a great idea. I'm on it. Thanks for sharing.

Karen said...

Wow! I appreciate this post from both the home canning and scientific fronts :) I like the details, and I'm sorry to have missed the demonstration! I'm not a great canner, but one day I hope to be. Thanks for sharing this natural pectin recipe!!

Laurelei said...

Thanks! I've been making my own jam for several years and have always wondered how I could make it without buying boxes of pectin. Can you make the pectin and then freeze it for the following year? I can get free apples in the fall but my berries need to be processed in July and August.

Kisha said...

Going berry picking today, but apple picking is a few weeks off, how can do you put up your apple pectin for the next year? Freeze? Can? I already make tons of apple sauce so why not save some of the tart ones for next years canning.

Jackie Watson said...

Great instructions...I would have had no idea of how to make pectin....however, I would leave out the apple seeds as they contain arsenic and it would be a simple thing to pop out the seeds.

Many thanks for sharing!