18

I'm making a variety of jams. And I've never made jams before.

I found some really fun flavours online, such as blueberry-lavender, spiced-fall-fruit, tomato-rosemary, and pear-vanilla.

Some of the recipes call for pectin. A quick google search reveals that pectin is something that's released from fruit. Is this correct? If so, why do I need to add pectin while making fruit jam (by heating fruit for a long time)? Won't the fruit release pectin of its own? So do I need to buy pectin?

EDIT - I followed the advice given here and got pectin (sureJell brand) from QFC, followed the recipes online, and the jams came out amazing. I think I'm going to make jam every month! No need to wait for Christmas :)

  • 2
    I like my jams chunky with big pieces of fruit and a runny syrup. The trick is to control the water content, I will usually just add dehydrated fruit (dry-frozen) to the fresh fruit so that it absorbs excess water. It also adds a punch of flavor if you are off-season. They also keep their pectin and release it on rehydration, raising the pectin to water ratio. – Drunken Code Monkey Dec 15 '17 at 3:03
  • It's a question of having "some pectin" vs "enough pectin". – Agent_L Dec 15 '17 at 14:50
  • 1
    Traditional Russian jams are all made without pectin. Just look up "russian jam recepies" on Google. – Arkadiy Dec 15 '17 at 15:02
  • I think it's similar to when I made my own spaghetti sauce from ripe tomatoes...it took a lot of "boiling down." Results were great though! – Vekzhivi Dec 15 '17 at 17:26
37

I would probably just follow the recipes. If they're good, the amount of additional pectin they call for is what's necessary to get the jam to set well. If you use less than that, it might end up really runny.

Different kinds of fruit have different amounts of pectin, and it's not evenly distributed through the fruit. For example, apples and pears have a decent amount, while grapes and strawberries have very little. Oranges have some, but orange peel has a huge amount. There's a partial list in the Wikipedia article on pectin.

So, it's possible to make things that get the pectin they need from the fruit, especially if they're cooked enough to thicken and set more easily. Orange marmalade might be the most obvious example of this. But some recipes/fruits don't have enough to ever set, so they need additional pectin.

Since you're searching broadly online for recipes, you may also be seeing variations in how firmly set they come out. You might discover that some of the no-pectin or lower-pectin recipes just don't set as firmly, because that's what the author prefers. If the recipe comes with really good photos, you might be able to anticipate this.

  • 1
    "do you know where, in a regular store, I can buy pectin?" as in which isle it's in? – RonJohn Dec 14 '17 at 18:15
  • 4
    @convexityftw you should be able to find it at any major grocery store. If you have trouble finding it, ask an employee. It's not an exotic substance. – Kat Dec 14 '17 at 18:16
  • 1
    @convexityftw All of those stores should carry pectin, at least they do where I live. – AJMansfield Dec 14 '17 at 18:45
  • 1
    @convexityftw : I'd go with a less 'specialty' grocery store. It looks like both IGA and Safeway are in your area, and around here, they both carry it. (it's with other canning/pickling supplies ... just ask someone who works there where that is) Target and Walmart I don't even think of as grocery stores, unless it's a 'Super Walmart' or similar. – Joe Dec 14 '17 at 19:07
  • 2
    Yeah, assuming your stores are reasonably large, this is more an issue of where you can't find it. I've seen pectin in all the large grocery chains I've gone to, I've seen it in Target, Walmart, and even a couple hardware stores alongside canning supplies. – Cascabel Dec 14 '17 at 19:13
18

this answer is an addition to Jefromi's answer

To extract and activate the pectin from fruit, you need a certain cooking time - that's one of the reasons our ancestors cooked jam for up to two hours or until it visibly thickened. And the fruit will likely taste different after such a long time, which may or may not be desired. Modern recipes with added pectin or a store-bought pectin/sugar mix will set after as little as two to four minutes at a rolling boil.

So flavour and convenience are two reasons recipes may call for adding pectin even in cases where the fruit would contain pectin for the jam to set.

  • 2
    Hence also some recipes that cook apples for some time before adding other fruit that's meant to not fall apart comepletely – Chris H Dec 14 '17 at 9:23
  • 2
    I always use pectin. The brand I use is the German Dr Oetker. If you are a beginner it means your jam will always set. Also your jam will contain more vitamins and flavour because it's cooked for less time, so it's a good thing. – RedSonja Dec 14 '17 at 13:26
  • Oh wow, four minutes seems like a ridiculously good improvement! What an amazing discovery this must have been. Thank you for your input! – lazulikid Dec 14 '17 at 18:01
8

In addition to the two answers already posted, I thought I should mention that pectin is not present in all fruits in great enough quantities to thicken jam, which is another reason a recipe may call for pectin.

Generally speaking, the sharper fruits tend to contain the higher levels of pectin, such as apples, raspberries, and any citrus fruit. Fruits likely to need extra pectin are more mellow, like ripe pears and strawberries. Some fruits even have changing pectin levels as they ripen/mature.

Blackberries are a fun example - when they first ripen they are full of pectin, but when left on the vine for a few weeks the pectin levels drop significantly. So whilst it's usually a good idea to stick to recipes when making jam, it may sometimes be worth tweaking them a little if the jam isn't setting well enough/setting too well. I've found the best information on fruit pectin levels tends to come from brewing forums, as pectin can be undesirable to some brewers.

Another side note - freshly squeezed lemon juice can be a tasty and effective way to add more pectin without buying the powder!

0

No, you do not need to add pectin. As you said.... most fruits do have pectin. But you can add lemon juice to help breakdown and release the pectin in the fruit.

I recently made about 6 Jars of Strawberry Jam and added lemon juice without any pectin and it worked just fine.

    -
  • 2
    But how long did you cook it for to get it to set? I'm pretty confident that if you take a recipe that calls for pectin and try to do without, it will affect things. – Cascabel Dec 15 '17 at 8:09
-1

You can also purchase Pomona's Universal Pectin that you can use in little to no sugar added jam. It is activated by calcium water which is included in the box (dry powder) . You bring your jam up to boiling then add the prescribed amount of pectin stir to combine remove from heat and jar. I buy mine at Whole Foods or you can purchase online and I believe from Pomona's website. I've never used the other pectins so I can't comment on them but you have to add enormous amounts of sugar and usually the entire box of pectin . With Pomona's it's just the opposite and no long cooking times.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.