Saturday, July 25, 2009

Natural pectin: Making jams without using boxed pectin

Pectin is a very important part of making jams. It's not often that I'd make some without adding pectin. Here's a list of high pectin fruits that have enough pectin in them to make jam without adding pectin:

Apples, sour
Blackberries, sour
Grapes (Eastern Concord)
Plums (not Italian)

Anything else needs pectin to be added. I often hear (erroneously) that strawberries are a high pectin fruit and adding pectin isn't needed. NOT SO! If you have under ripe berries you might be able to get away with it, but under ripe berries taste bad. Under ripe fruit often has higher pectin content than it's ripe version. When I preserve jam made of these fruits, I always add pectin:

Grapes (Western Concord)
Plums (Italian)

I got interested in making jams and jellies without using commercially prepared pectin for a number of reasons. First of all, I am thrifty and it can cost well over $2 per box. Secondly, I just wanted something a little more natural. 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. The good news is you can make all the pectin you need with apples and lemons.

Last year, I wrote about how to make your own pectin. Check it out! Happy canning!


martina said...

Can you preserve things without adding sugar or sugar substitutes? A friend is trying to avoid sweeteners. The box pectin always requires sweetener in the instructions.

Cynthia said...

Sure, you can preserve things without adding sugar. To make jams and jellies without it, you need a specially prepared commercial pectin for that purpose, like Pomona brand. It is fairly pricy, though.

Kitchen Chick said...

I am a bit confused. Emily at Preserving Traditions taught a pectin-free strawberry jam recipe that worked just fine with ripe strawberries. Do you think it's just riskier to not use pectin with strawberries?

Cynthia said...

Strawberry jam made by any method is tasty. I've made strawberry jam all 3 ways - adding boxed pectin, adding no pectin and adding natural pectin as described in this method. Strawberry jam without adding any pectin at all takes longer to cook, requires lots more sugar and results in less product than if you add pectin. And sometimes, it might not set up at all.

Lori said...

You can actually make jams without pectin for quite a bit of fruits. I recently had some blueberries that were a little under ripe. Following the Ball canning book 9 cups blueberries mashed and 6 cups sugar, it made a lovely, really set jam. It was gelling pretty early on. I ended up getting a yield of 4 pints (whole pints) and 1 -12 ounce jar. Whawhoo I was excited.

LondonGirl said...

I make various sorts of jam and jelly, and never use commercial pectin. I find it adds a taste that I'm not keen on.

For high pectin fruits, such as sloes or apples, you don't need it anyway.

For low pectin fruits, such as strawberries, I add some unwaxed lemons, cut in half. I squeeze them first, add the juice, get rid of the pips, and put the halves in with the strawberries, removing them just before putting jam in jars.

Lemons (and other citrus fruits) are very high in pectin, and the lemon flavour adds a lovely edge to strawberry jam, which can other wise taste far too sweet.

medo said...

i have a question, do you HAVE to use pectin? i want to make blackberry jam, i am using stevia, and i don't want to buy the pamona brand, although akins carry's it, i am frugal to the bone!! **big smile** but my question is, may i use unflavored gelatin to make it set? and will that work or does it alter the taste? this will be my first time making a jam... LOL

Cynthia said...

If you are using stevia, yes, you must use a Pomona style pectin or it won't set up properly. Jams need sugar to set up.

medo said...

after posting here i did find some recipes for unflavored gelatin, i'm going to try BOTH of them, to see how it turns out... i'm not a big fan of spending tons of money OR using lots of sugar! LOL My sugars will love me in the end!! **big smile** although i'm not sure how my taste buds will... or my kids will love me!! **big grin** Thank you so much for letting me know..

Anonymous said...

Educate me,please .. .. .. .. what is the function of pectin in jam and jelly recipes? Is it for flavor, texture, thickness, preserving?

Thanks ~ Chris

Anonymous said...

Pectin is the substance which, when cooked with fruit and sugars, make the jam or jelly actually stay gelled at room temperature. Without a gelling agent you will just have sweet fruity syrup. You can use gelatin in place of pectin only if you are making freezer jam which might be a good choice with Stevia. However, I am not familiar enough with Stevia to know how stable it is with heating and then freezing. I do know that after heating over 212F (boiling) aspartame products are often no longer sweet, as aspartame isn't stable. Another alternative could be AgarAgar which is used in commercial ice creams, some yogurts and other foods, as well as in laboratories to make the gel medium for growing bacteria. Agar Agar may be more difficult to buy for home use and it isn't cheap. It will definitely gel your jam, it doesn't require sugar to set. However, don't use too much or you jelly will be too firm and it won't have a spreadable texture.

SnowdogGirl said...

A correction please... raspberries most certainly have a high concentration of pectin in the seeds. I've made many jars of raspberry jam all without pectin.

Cynthia said...

Good to is the data I have to indicate that raspberries are low pectin:

Anonymous said...

Peaches are another fruit quite high in pectin, as are mangoes. The peels from either are great for adding to low-pectin fruits for jellies or jams.

From the USDA:

"All fruits are made up of at least 5 - 10 percent pectin. Peaches, apples, oranges, grapefruit and apricots contain the highest amount of pectin among fruits. For example, one small peach contains 0.91 gram of pectin, while 1 cup of apple slices contains 0.654 gram of pectin."

Unknown said...

I recently processed strawberry jam with no pectin. americas test kitchen has a great recipe using 1 shredded granny smith apple, low sugar. Lot's of time but the results were fantastic.i have an organic berry farm so I appreciate best commercial grade pectin with no dextrose (corn sugar). Thank you.

Mommas kitchen said...

Old way of doing things takes longer uses less ingredients makes beautiful delicious clean result . I only use fruit 2:1 sugar and sometimes 4:1 sugar depending on fruit(ex ample wild blackberries 2 parts blackberries 1 part sugar,
black raspberries 4 parts fruit 1 part sugar ( they are already super sweet) for a gallon of berries I add juice of one half to one lemon(by taste) remove seeds of lemon and pith add to berriesremoving after 20-30 minutes simmering time keep simmering until it starts to help or set up ( btw if you add one tablespoon of coconut oil to pot of fruit and sugar it will keep foaming down) simple but a labor of love!