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Aug 15, 2007 03:20 PM

Making jam-using less pectin than the recipe calls for?

This is my first season making jam. I started using recipes from Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures, but I couldn't consistantly get the jams to set (she doesn't use pectin. The one I did get to set, by bringing them to 221 degrees, were the perfect texture but too sweet). I then tried Pomona's low sugar pectin, and of course that works like a charm, but I prefer a softer texture, not the super-jelled texture of commercial jam. So-does anyone know what will happen if I cut back on the amount of pectin I put in? Will I get a less jelled texture, or will the jam not set altogether? Thanks.

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  1. I don't use pectin either, but from what I know of pectin, it is designed to produce a standardized product and I doubt reducing it would give you what you want. If your jams are too sweet, you can cut the sugar a little, but not by more than 20%, in most cases. The most surefire way to get jams to set is using perfectly ripe fruit--avoid both over- and under-ripe. Add lemon or other acid, or a small finely chopped apple (a source of pectin), to fruits that are naturally low in pectin or are not perfectly ripe.

    4 Replies
    1. re: janeer

      Thanks. I've been using ripe produce either from my yard or from the farmer's market, and I always use lemon. Yet I still usually (but not always) get jams that are very runny. I've had the most trouble with berries.

      1. re: janeer

        Good idea on the chopped apple. FWIW, underripe apples have more pectin. A good book on making jams and preserves should include a list of high, medium, and low pectin fruits.

        1. re: Louise

          But then you have apples in your jam muddying up the flavor, of, say, what might otherwise be a very fresh, intense raspberry, don't you?

          1. re: christy319

            I've done that when making strawberry jam and found that the apple wasn't assertive enough to be noticed. Others may disagree.

      2. Quinces are very high in pectin. Similar to an under-ripe apple, I assume.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Glencora

          This is a very helpful and interesting thread. I've only made jam a couple of times and am thinking of making some this summer. I've made raspberry and orange marmalade in the past and want to try plum this year because it's my favorite.

          Two of my cousins make jam and I'm jealous.

          1. re: oakjoan

            Don't let my original question put you off. It is super easy to make with pectin, and you can get Pomona's low sugar pectin if you don't want it tooth-achingly sweet. I'm just being picky about the consistancy I want-if you like the kind of jam you buy at a store, you'll like the kind you make with pectin just fine.

        2. I am inherently lazy about jam production and always try to make double or triple batches and frequently end up with jam that doesn't set, despite increasing the pectin. Believe me, jam that is not set is a hassle, it runs off your toast. I am loooking more for the sure fire way to make my large batches jell, but haven't found it yet.

          5 Replies
          1. re: dijon

            Making jams/jellies is one of my hobbies, and it is best to do one batch at a time you
            will get better results each time, and it is wasting your time , money, fruit if you make
            it any other way. I use pectin each time, and it takes me about a half hour to do one
            batch. no matter what fruit that I am useing. I use MCP pectin and surejell pectin.
            and for those who have a jam/jellie that did`nt set, MCP has a clause on there paper
            telling you how to take care of it. as far as a canning book goes I think the one that
            Ball jar company puts out is one of the best., take care and happy canning.

            1. re: bigjimbray

              Absolutely agree with the above - make one batch at a time. I'm only experienced with pepper jelly, but the liquid (gel) pectin works fine for me most times.

              1. re: vanessao

                I've been making jams for years and have never used pectin. Sometimes I do have to boil it at spitting temperatures for longer than is fun, I must admit (and wipe down the walls and floor afterwards.) I put a little plate in the freezer, then pour some jam liquid on it. I push my finger into it while angling it to get a glare off the surface. If it pushes up and wrinkles at the surface a bit in front of my finger, it will set.

                1. re: wearybashful

                  I wonder if this is what I need to do, too.

                  1. re: wearybashful

                    I prefer making recipes with pectin, since they tend to set much more oftent that those that do not. Either way, I guess I am very bad at determining "gel point stage" since once I made an apricot jam that jelled so hard you needed to put it in the microwave to soften it (although it was still delicious) and other times the stuff never gels at all!
                    It is definitely a pain to reprocess the jams (and waste the lids) when they do not gel!
                    But all the books do say not to double recipes and to always use the amounts of everything called for for best results.

            2. I've had good luck making sauces and syrups not by reducing pectin, but by increasing the volume of liquid (juice) by about 30%. (if the recipe calls for 3 cups of juice, I use 4 or so.) So if soft jell is what you want increase the juice by maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup.

              I do this using MCP pectin and sugar, but I'm pretty sure you could do this using Pomona's and their recommended amount of sugar.

              You could also probably get the softer texture by cutting back on the cooking time by 20% or so rather than changing the quantity of juice.

              1. I rarely use Pectin, but when I do I just add a tiny amount as an insurance policy.

                I would suggest using recipes that are classics, that use a specific amount of sugar for a specific amount of a specific fruit.

                Since Jam and Preserves are supposed to be sweet, depending on the fruit you are using, the recipe usually will guide you to the proper amount to jell correctly.

                If you are looking for a less sweet product, perhaps you are not looking for a true Preserve, Jam or Confiture.