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May 22, 2008 07:09 PM

What is wrong with using commercial Pectin in Jams?

Hi everyone,

I was wondering if any jam makers out there could help me out. I am new to making jams (and to these boards) and I was wondering why people have such a negative attitude towards natural powder pectins. I want to start jamming our local fruits and would like to make enough to get through the winter( we are jam nuts). Both my parents are diabetic and the old recipes I have from my grandmother require a lot of sugar to preserve them. I wanted to use the low sugar pectin so that my parents can enjoy the jams too, but after doing some research I'm skeptical. If I take my old recipes and lesson the sugar will they still keep through the winter.

Oh and I properly hot water can everything.

Thanks for your input in advance!

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  1. Take a look at the harvest forum on Gardenweb. Those people have tons of knowledge and are big fans of that Pomona Pectin( for use with low sugar jams)

    1. anyone have a good recipe for lemon curd that substitutes pectin for the butter? this is going to sound totally bizarre, but i actually prefer the less creamy, more gelatinous consistency of store bought lemon curd, but i'd like to be able to replicate it at home with meyer lemons.

      5 Replies
      1. re: beelzebozo

        I use the lemon curd recipe (buried in a lemon mousse recipe) in the Greens Cookbook that has no butter (or pectin, for that matter). If you want to can lemon curd, I suggest against it after having researched the topic at some length. It does freeze well, just take it out of the freezer and stick it in the fridge for 24 hours. Safer, it seems, than canning, especially with Meyer lemons, since they have less acid than Eurekas.

        1. re: dkenworthy

          can you share the recipe? or at least direct me to the cookbook itself? i don't own a copy :/

          1. re: beelzebozo

            I have more recipes from the Greens cookbook that I make regularly than most cookbooks on my shelf. I love the lemon mousse, but often make just the curd to use with gingerbread or as a base for a tart with summer fruit. The curd doubles easily.

            Carefully grate 2 Meyer lemons, avoiding the white area under the skin. Beat 3 egg yolks well, pour through a strainer into a small non-reactive saucepan. Add the grated lemon peel, 1/2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice, and 1/4 c. sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Do not boil or the yolks will curdle. Set in fridge to cool.

            If you are making the mousse, beat 3 egg whites with 1/4 t. cream of tartar until they form firm peaks; then gradually beat in 1/4 c. sugar. In another bowl, whisk 1/2 c. heavy cream until it holds its shape. Using the same whisk used for the cream, break up the lemon curd and beat it until it is smooth. Fold in the meringue, then the whipped cream. Spoon into dessert glasses and refrigerate until it is well chilled. Garnish with rose geranium flowers, candied violet blossoms, or chopped rose petals. Also good with sweetened raspberries, blackberries, or red currants.

            1. re: dkenworthy

              you're awesome. thank you so much.

              i also just ordered this cookbook.

        2. re: beelzebozo

          Somehow I don't think that is going to work. The butter in Lemon Curd is not the thickener, it is the egg yolks. I have made Meyer Lemon Curd a number of times. For a thicker consistency you might want to cook it longer. You could also look for a lemon pie recipe where the filling uses not only egg but cornstarch as a thickener. Lemon Curd is just a thick lemon custard. Maybe an extra yolk and longer cooking will give you what you'd like. The pectin would give you a lemon jelly.

        3. What is wrong with using commercial Pectin in Jams?


          Have Fun & Enjoy!!!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Uncle Bob

            I agree, nothing wrong at all. It simply depends on what sort of texture and flavor intensity you are going for, and how much sugar you want to add. Jam with commercial pectin tends to be more gummy (which can be good) and it makes things easier for a new jam maker.

            Having said that, the hands-down most delicious strawberry jam I've ever made or tasted does not use pectin. And I thought I could not make strawberry without it. Dixieday's strawberry jam:

            Dixieday's technique of adding sugar to fruit and letting sit overnight, heating, cooling, then cooking allows the fruit to slowly pick up sugar and retain an incredible fresh and intense flavor.

            Will low-sugar jams keep through the winter? Absolutely.

            1. re: Junie D

              You make da strawberry jam...I'll make da biscuits!!!

          2. Thanks for the input. I guess I was most worried about spoilage on low sugar jams if there was no pectin but I guess I will experiment and see what happens :)

            2 Replies
            1. re: foodaholic8

              The pectin, whether "natural" or added simply makes the set of the jam/jelly. The preservative comes from sugar and acid, and if you want to make shelf-stable preserves (rather than freezer jam/jelly), I would be careful about reducing the sugar too much. The USDA site is a good resource for home canners, conservative, but safe.

              1. re: foodaholic8

                Pectin isn't present for preservation; its role is to thicken and jell the mixture so it is spreadable. It is, however, part of the four elements necessary for a proper jam: fruit, sugar, pectin, acid.

              2. I don't know why people have a negative attitude about adding pectin to fruits that require it for a proper set.

                What the heck research did you find that makes you skeptical of using less-sugar-required pectin? Practice good canning habits and it'll be fine—and you say that you do.

                There is nothing wrong with using commercial pectin for jams and jellies. Pectin is a carbohydrate and is present is most fruits, moreso in some than in others. Slightly underripe fruit has more of it than does fully ripe, which is why some recipes advise to make about 1/4 of the measure of berries for making strawberry jam slightly underripe—it will help the set of the jam.

                Our great grandmothers often combined apples (sour apples are high in pectin) with low-pectin fruits to make jam. One can make homemade apple pectin but it's not my idea of how to spend an afternoon. :-) Some folks look down their noses at jams made with additional pectin. Those jams take far longer to cook to the gel point (8 degrees above the temp for boiling water at your altitude) than when using added pectin and, frankly, I don't like the "dark" taste I've experienced doing it that way — from caramelizing sugar, I suspect. YMMV. And I've noted one "artisan jam-" maker's site that includes a statement about flavor being chosen over set. Sorry, but I think that sounds like sauce, not jam. Jam is thick and it is spreadable, not pourable. And some fruits, when cooked thick enough to be spreadable also become 'sticky' or 'gummy', without the sparkling jell that is characteristic of a fine jam.

                I've had excellent success this summer with an apricot jam (picture attached) made with Ball's "no sugar required" pectin. It's not as sparkly as a full sugar jam; that's one of the trade-offs of using a low methoxyl pectin. You can use it without sugar or you can add up to three cups sugar. I believe it also has info about sweetening with artificial sweeteners.

                I hope this helped and gives you encouragement.