For those who are serious about making jams and jellies, homemade pectin is an alternative to commercial pectin that saves on costs while giving you the best and freshest organic ingredients. Most people don’t realize that it is easy to make your own homemade pectin as a great natural alternative to the commercial variety. It can be added to fruit that is low in pectin for a jam or jelly that is soft set.
The best homemade pectin comes from slightly under-ripe fruit, which contains the highest levels of pectin. Once the fruit is fully ripe, the amount of naturally-occurring pectin decreases as the fruit ages.
But what is pectin, and what does it do? Pectin is a starch that occurs naturally in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables. Some fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits and apples, have high levels of pectin, while some, like blueberries and strawberries, have meager amounts of pectin. When pectin is combined in a specific ratio with sugar, fruit and/or fruit juice, and acid, a scientific process is formed, which creates a gel bond that thickens any jam or jelly that you are making.
There are two forms of pectin, dry powder pectin, and liquid pectin. We will look at how to make both types.
How to Make Dry Pectin Powder and Liquid Pectin
For both recipes, the ingredients are the same.
- 5 lbs of green apples (Do not peel or core them). Also, when making any dish with apples, save the peels and cores and cook down to make pectin. That is where the greatest concentration of natural pectin is found in fruit. Fruits such as quince and crabapples can also be used.
- 10 cups of water.
- Tapioca maltodextrin powder (Use to make dry pectin powder).
- Stainless steel boiling pot (Click here to learn how to choose one), preferably large and heavy-bottomed.
- Storage containers or jars with lids and rings.
Version 1- Dry Pectin Directions
- Step 1: Leaving the skin and the cores intact, chop the apples into small pieces.
- Step 2: Place the chopped apple pieces into the cooking pot and add just enough water to cover, as too much liquid will make it difficult to reduce the liquid when extracting the powder.
- Step 3: Boil the mixture for about 40 minutes until the apples have softened and appear to be dissolving. Do not mash the apples.
- Step 4: Strain the liquid into a mixing bowl by using a colander lined with a single layer of cheesecloth. Let the liquid flow out of the apple mixture. Again, avoid mashing the mixture. Be sure to check out the article I wrote on extracting juice from fruits.
- Step 5: Put the strained liquid into the stainless steel pot over high heat and boil uncovered until the liquid reduces by half.
- Step 6: Test for the amount of pectin in the liquid by stirring 1 teaspoon of the liquid into 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. If the amount of pectin is high, a solid gel will be formed. Otherwise, continue boiling to reduce your liquid further.
- Step 7: Cool the liquid. Stir the cold liquid with the tapioca maltodextrin powder until everything turns into fine powder. You now have pectin powder that can be stored for future use. (You can get tapioca maltodextrin powder from restaurant supply stores or specialty grocery stores.
Version 2- Liquid Pectin Directions
- Step 1: Prepare the fruits by chopping them into small pieces. The smaller the chopped pieces are, the faster they will cook down.
- Step 2: Thoroughly mix the chopped fruits with sugar and lemon juice in a stainless steel pot. Allow it to soak for an hour to enable the acid in the lemon juice to activate the pectin in the fruits.
- Step 3: Put the fruit mixture into the boiling pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent it from scorching. Simmer over medium heat for about 40 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Step 3: Strain the resulting fruit mash through a jelly bag or cheesecloth into a large bowl. The longer you allow it to drain, the more juice you will be able to extract.
- Step 4: Put the extracted juice into a clean pot and boil over high heat until the juice is reduced by half.
- Step 5: The homemade pectin is ready for use and can be placed in storage jars or containers and can be stored in the refrigerator for approximately two to four weeks. When frozen, homemade pectin can last up to six months.
Best Way To Store Homemade Pectin
Homemade pectin can be canned in several different ways:
- By pouring into prepared jars and sealing;
- It can be frozen by allowing it to cool and storing it in a freezer-proof container in the freezer for later use, or
- It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.
How Much Homemade Pectin Do I Use?
Use a ratio of 1 cup of homemade pectin for every 4 cups of mashed fruit for jam.
Other Substitutes for Commercial Pectin
There are various substitutes for commercial Pectin. If you are unable to purchase pectin from your local store or you don’t want to make your own pectin, the following options are available to you:
1. Use the Citrus Pith, Peels, and Cores as a Natural Thickener
Orange and grapefruit pith are usually used in making marmalades.
How Much Homemade Pectin From Pith Do I Use?
Use 1 cup of homemade pectin made from pith for each batch of jam or jelly.
Cornstarch, usually derived from corn, makes a good thickener when combined with sugar. However, it burns easily and must be stirred constantly. As a result, cornstarch contains fewer calories than Chia but has more carbohydrates.
The best way to use cornstarch to thicken jam is to make a slurry of cornstarch and a small amount of fruit juice and then add the slurry to the fruit. There are a lot of good recipes online for using cornstarch as a thickener when making jam.
How Much Cornstarch Do I Use?
Use a ratio of 2 tablespoons of Cornstarch to every 4 cups of prepared fruit.
3. Flavored Gelatin or Jello
Flavored gelatin or jello not only serves as a thickener but it gives you the option to add additional flavors to the fruit you are using. Strawberry-fig jam is one of the most common examples of using jello in jam.
How Much Jello Do I Use?
Use a ratio of one 3-ounce package of Jello for every 6 cups of prepared fruit and juice.
Plain gelatin is a good thickener and is high in protein but is not a great thickener for jam. It can be used as a thickener, but the jam will be soft set. In addition, jelly and jam made with gelatin would not be an approved food on many diets as gelatin is an animal by-product.
How Much Gelatin Do I Use?
Use 2 tablespoons of Gelatin powder for every 4 cups of prepared fruit and juice.
5. Chia Seeds
Nutritious and easy to use, Chia Seeds can’t be used in making jelly but can only be used in making jams.
Chia Seeds are very nutritious and are considered a superfood.
When using chia seeds as a thickener, fruit can either be uncooked or cooked briefly, then the sweetener is added, and the chia seeds are stirred in last, let it set for a few minutes, and the chia seeds will soak up the juice to make a thickened jam.
Jam made with chia seeds should be refrigerator or freezer jam.
Chia seeds can be either left whole in the jam, or the jam can be pureed to produce a smoother, more spreadable jam.
Jam made with chia seeds should never be given to children under the age of one, as the chia seeds could create a choking hazard.
How to Add Chia Seeds as a Thickener
Chia can be added to your jam by using a ratio of 1 to 2 tablespoons per each 8-ounce jar of fruit.
Tapioca is a natural carbohydrate and is a good option for persons with allergy issues as it contains no allergens.
How Much Tapioca Do I Use?
Tapioca can be used as a thickener by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons to each quart of prepared fruit.
Can I Make Jelly and Jam Without Pectin?
Yes, you can make jelly and jam without pectin if you use fruit such as apples, peaches, quince, crabapples, and citrus, which are the source of commercial pectin and that are high in natural pectin. You can prepare the fruit for jam or the juice for jelly, add sugar or alternative sweetener of your choice, and bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for an extended period of time until thickened. The resulting jelly or jam will be soft set and will not have the same color or flavor of jelly or jam made with added pectin because of the extended cooking time.
Directions for Jelly and Jam Without Pectin
- Wash and prepare the fruit for cooking
- Place in a large pot
- Add sugar and a small amount of water
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until fruit is done and mixture has thickened.
Notes for Making Jam and Jelly Without Pectin
- By making jam without pectin, less sugar will be required.
- The increased cooking time will change the texture and will result in a loss of the fresh fruit flavor.
- Jam and jelly made without pectin will be soft set.
- The jam must reach 220 degrees F to gel.
- Be sure to use fruit that is high in natural pectin.
- Your fruit product will contain no ingredients except your fruit and the sweetener of your choice.
- If you are making jam out of fruit like blueberries that are low in natural pectin, combine the blueberries with a fruit that is high in natural pectin like crabapples that should contain enough natural pectin to produce a jam or jelly that is soft set without the addition of commercial pectin. And, as an added bonus, the combination of flavors are usually outstanding and taste better than the jam made from either of the combined fruits.
Use Fruits Rich in Pectin
Use natural fruits that have high amounts of pectin, such as apples, currants, and cranberries.
To use apples as a natural thickener, just add 2 to 3 apples to your fruit. Note that the addition of apples as natural pectin will not change the taste of your jam, no matter what variety of fruit you are using.
What Are Some of the Reasons to Substitute for Commercial Pectin?
There are quite a few reasons someone might want to use something other than commercial pectin to thicken their jams and jellies:
- It is hard to find a good supply of commercial pectin at some times of the year.
- Commercial pectin is one of the largest expenses of the jelly and jam-making process unless you purchase pectin in bulk.
- To make a healthier product.
- If you want to make jam right away and don’t have any pectin on hand.
Is Pectin Good for You?
Pectin is a naturally occurring substance that is often used to make medicine. For example, it has been used for people with high cholesterol and even to prevent certain types of cancers. It also has been known to help manage diabetes and GERD.
Can Pectin Be Bad for You?
Some commercial pectins can be made from genetically modified corn or GMOs, which a lot of people try to avoid but are not necessarily bad for you.
Where Do I Buy Commercial Pectin?
Pectin can be purchased at most major grocery stores as well as major chain stores such as Wal-Mart, year-round, but during the spring and early summer at the peak canning season, even the smaller groceries and most hardware stores will have pectin available. Also, there are many options for purchasing pectin online, including Amazon.
Helpful Jam/Jelly Thickening Articles
- The 3 Best Pectin Brands for Canning Jelly, Jam, and Preserves
- Two Ways To Make Homemade Pectin (Powder and Liquid)
- How to Make Homemade Preserves Without Pectin
- What Is Fruit Pectin? Everything You Need to Know
- The 8 Best Substitutes for Pectin in Jam Making
- Why Is My Jam Too Runny? (How to Reboil and Fix It)
- The 11 Best Substitutes for Gum Arabic (and How To Use Them)
- How to Use Gelatin or Jello Instead of Pectin to Make Jam and Jelly
- The 3 Best Ways to Make Thicker Jam or Jelly
There are many options when making jams and jellies, from the fruit you are using to the sweetener and the thickener that you prefer. First, consider the fruits that your family likes and that you have access to. Whether you and your family eat granulated sugar or whether you prefer a lower calorie option, and whether you are canning for persons with health or dietary issues, you are sure to find options that will work for you.
So, good luck with your jam- or jelly-making project, and Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss How to Make Jelly, Jam, and Preserves: A Complete Beginner’s Guide.
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