Pectins 101

Jam-and-Jelly-Preserving-Pectins-101So you are ready to make jam, jelly, conserve, marmalade or some other type of jellied product and you know what type of fruit you want to use.  You go to the store to get pectin – and you find that there are several brands and types of pectin available.  Can you just buy whichever brand costs the least and use it?

The quick answer is no.

Rule of Thumb: Follow the recipe. At the store, you will find regular dry pectin, light dry pectin, liquid pectin, and freezer pectin.  Which one do you choose?  That depends on what you intend your end product to be.  My first rule of thumb is that if you have a recipe that specifies a brand of pectin, buy the brand specified in the recipe or you may end up with an unset product.

This is particularly true when liquid pectin is called for in a recipe.  Sometimes you can interchange brands, other times it just doesn’t work.

Rule of Thumb: Sugar content matters. As for the powdered products, they are more interchangeable because of the type of pectin used in the manufacture of each kind.  Do not interchange regular pectin for one that allows you to use less sugar, sugar substitute or no sugar.  Again, this does not work.

Regular pectin is used in jellied products that are high in sugar content.  Read the package insert and follow the directions for the order of adding the pectin and sugar to the mixture.  Also, measure exactly – do not add more fruit or less sugar and never double a recipe.

The lite products use less sugar or they may allow you to use sugar substitutes.  Again, follow the package inserts explicitly for making the type of product you are making.  Many of the products made this way need to be refrigerated or frozen until used.  Because they do not contain high enough sugar content to make them shelf-stable, they will likely mold if not kept cold.

Rule of Thumb: Liquid pectins are different. Liquid pectin comes in a pouch and is used for specific recipes.  I have recipes for lemon jelly and pepper jelly that use liquid pectin.  Again I will say, if you have a recipe that specifies the brand of liquid pectin you need to use, follow the directions because you cannot be sure that another brand of liquid will work.  Also, liquid and powdered pectin are NOT interchangeable in recipes.

Rule of Thumb: Freezer Jam is easy and can save time. To make freezer jam, usually you prepare the fruit by crushing and adding sugar (and maybe lemon juice) and the freezer pectin.  Allow the product to sit at room temperature until it sets, then label, date and freeze.  You may use a food processor to prepare the fruit, but I have found that sometimes the resulting product is a little “foamy”.  Store opened containers in the refrigerator.

Shirley’s Helpful Tip: If you are looking for various pectin products, visit mrswages.com which offers a variety of pectins for canning and preserving.

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