My orange jams and strawberry jams with honey are not getting set.. for some reason I don't use pectin (mental block maybe - though I know it's a natural ingredient).. reading a lot of blogs I found this could be the case when lower amount of sweetner is used.. Is this correct? My friends love the saucy consistency so that's not a problem.. but I want to know if this is normal or should I let it boil more?

Strawberry jam:

  • 1kg strawberry + 100 grams water to boil initally to remove seeds (this was for a kid who doesn't like the seeds)
  • 600 grams honey
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

To start with low flame for 10 minutes and then at a medium flame for 80 minutes.. temperature was 104°C when I switched it off..

Orange :

  • 500 grams orange juice
  • 220 grams honey
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Low flame 10 minutes + boil in medium flame for 30 mins - end temp 104.5°C

  • 1
    relevant: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/5756/… talks about how to ensure your fruit provides the pectin you need Jun 11, 2019 at 18:17
  • 3
    "for some reason I don't use pectin". Why not?
    – RonJohn
    Jun 13, 2019 at 17:45
  • @RonJohn- as I mentioned it's more of a mental block. I kept reading mixed comments about using commercial pectin for homemade jams. also i do customized ones based on preferences. so when more requests for jams from organic fruits and vegetables started coming up, i stopped thinking about adding comm pectin. I have tried to use raspberries/ water in which orange rind, pith and seeds are soaked for a few hours (not very bitter) for a few jams with more than 1 fruit . but for single fruit jams with honey/ other sweetner consistency varies. So wanted to know if there are ways to improve Jun 14, 2019 at 18:33
  • 1
    make your own pectin to have on hand thespruceeats.com/homemade-citrus-pectin-1327833 "You can keep it in the refrigerator for a week, or in the freezer for 6 months." Jun 22, 2019 at 2:43

4 Answers 4


Jam is set with pectin or it is syrup. Period.

If you are not adding pectin then you are relying on whatever pectin is available in the fruit you use. Strawberries don't have a lot. Oranges have a good amount but it's in the peel- thus the existence of marmalade.

Pectin requires sugar and acid to set. The sugar is not going to prevent a normal jam from setting.

If you boil it longer you will just be removing water which will thicken your syrup and maybe it will be thick enough for your tastes but it still is unlikely to gel like jam.

If you are deathly opposed to purchasing pectin, you can make it yourself by boiling tart apples. It's a lot of work and you will end up with a product that is no better than commercial pectin but you will have control of the process.

  • 12
    +1 just for the first 10 words. I don't like buying pectin so I add a few small chunks / slices of cooking apple to the jam which gets mashed in so boiling the apple pieces doesn't have to be separate from boiling the jam.
    – MD-Tech
    Jun 12, 2019 at 8:07
  • @MD-Tech- do you peel the apple? I would think pieces of apple peel might be distracting in some jams but a lot of the pectin is in the peel. Jun 12, 2019 at 19:23
  • 2
    Sometimes I peel it but the peel can cook down nicely depending on the apple and how small you cut it. If I add the peel it is to low pectin fruit and I I cut the apple into small (like 1com) cubes so the peel is small.
    – MD-Tech
    Jun 12, 2019 at 19:41
  • 2
    Just to address the 3rd paragraph: You can buy low-methoxyl pectin which doesn't require sugar to set - it's usually marketed as 'no-sugar-required pectin'. Totally doesn't answer the OP's question, but I thought it worth mentioning.
    – indextwo
    Jun 13, 2019 at 10:25
  • How about Jam is syrup + pectin?
    – RonJohn
    Jun 13, 2019 at 17:44

In addition to Sobachatina's very good answer: Some fruit contain a lot of natural pectin. Black and red currants are a prime example of that (they also contain a lot of acid, to set the pectin). I sometimes have the problem that my currant syrup becomes jelly by accident (one year even my currant juice started to set...). My grandma always mixed high pectin fruits with low pectin fruits to get for example currant-cherry-jam or something similar. However, currants have a very strong flavor, so it dominates most other fruits.

Another trick to reduce pectin in some fruit jams is to use the whole fruit to make jam out of purée, as the peel of many fruits contains the most pectin. (this doesn't work for strawberries, though.) It might affect consistency, taste, and looks, though (mostly not in a bad way).

EDIT: I talked this topic over with my mom. She mentioned, that agar-agar could be used as well to achieve a jelly texture. It is a common vegan gelatin substitute made from red algae. It comes in powder or liquid form. However, I haven't used it myself in a jam, yet. During my baking experiments with it, it behaved a lot like gelatin, tough. It can give of a ... "fishy" odor while processing it, however, in the final product it should be practically tasteless.


I use apple. Just puree it in a blender, about 1/2 medium apple per 2 cups of other fruit (more if you like a thicker consistency). I like the natural pectin. Apple doesn't really impart much flavor or too big a change in the consistency of the other fruit. But if you are worried, just quarter the apple and fish the chunks out before canning.


Beside the other answers, you are on the right track with the "add enough sugar and cook down more" part. Alton Brown has an episode where he prepares orange marmelade using a thermometer, and explains that it is actually a form of candymaking - you take your orange-flavored sugar to a specific stage below softball. I have seen marmalade from other fruit being made in the same way, even fruit with low or no pectin content.

If you insist on low sugar and/or short cooking times (the more you cook, the less flavor) you do need pectin for thickening, as Sobachatina explains.

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