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Making jam with or without pectin?

quick question to the jam makers out there. Made strawberry jam with pectin (a brand other than Certo), however, my mother who is a jam junkie, told me to make the jam without the pectin. Her reason is that jam made with this pectin product typically is not good for more than 1 year or so, where as jam made with just fruit, sugar and lemon juice last much longer.

Any thoughts on this? The only difference that I can see is that the jam my mother makes is more like a compote than an actual jam (a little runnier depending on the fruit).

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  1. Humbug. I've been making jam for over 30 years. I use pectin - usually Certo, because it's the brand most widely available here. The advantage to using pectin, in my opinion, is that you can make jam with a much shorter cooking time, which produces a product that tastes fresher. It also gives you a higher yield for the amount of fruit because you're not boiling all the liquid away until it reaches the gelling point. The results are also predictible and generally foolproof. It WILL gel most of the time.

    On the other hand, there is some charm to the long-cooked traditional jam flavour that a pectin-based jam doesn't have. I think that the fruit almost caramelizes and there's a rich undertone to a jam made that way. However, some fruits just don't have sufficient natural pectin to gel properly - and so you either have to boil the heck out of it or be satisfied with a compote-y textured jam. Plus, if I knew that a batch of jam could take me all day to make, I'd never bother to do it.

    As for keeping qualities - make the jam according to the pectin package directions and process the jars properly and it will keep for years. So your mother the jam junkie is wrong there. I have - and still use - jars of jam that I made 2 or 3 years ago that are absolutely totally fine.

    18 Replies
    1. re: Nyleve

      I make several types of jams and conserves each summer and NEVER use pectin. I find the textures just fine, a little runny, so what? Have recently been using honey as a sweetener rather than sugar and the tastes have been amazing!

        1. re: OCEllen

          Honey! Brilliant. What's your ratio for using honey? How much honey to substitute sugar?

          1. re: Antonio2800

            I've never measured. I go by look and taste. Texture comes as a 'result'.
            (But maybe cup for cup as a sweetener ratio?)

            1. re: Antonio2800

              Ball has a syrup conversion chart. I don't know if it will work for jams etc.

              1 cup sugar, 1 cup of honey, 4 cups of water. This will yield 5 cups of syrup.

            2. re: OCEllen

              I think the flavor using honey would be duh bom, but as much honey as you need for jam, if I figure how much sugar you have to use, honey would be very expensive no?

              1. re: iL Divo

                and there's that whole thing about safety -- I don't cook "by the book" for anything EXCEPT jams and jellies. I'm not obsessive about keeping everything pristinely clean -- EXCEPT jams and jellies.

                The health and wellbeing of my family and friends is just too important to leave to "look and taste", and being random, particularly with honey, which is known to carry botulism from time to time, is a recipe for disaster.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  botulism can be avoided by following the directions at the link below. I think it's great to worry about things like that, but within reason.


                  I look forward to trying honey in my strawberry jam!

                  1. re: mom22boyz

                    the poster to whom the conversation referred said "I've never measured. I go by look and taste. Texture comes as a 'result'. (But maybe cup for cup as a sweetener ratio?)"

                    Jams and jellies are just not the right venue to make it up as you go along.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I'm meticulous in sterilizing and processing; my 'experiments' as you might term them have always been delicious and 'safe'. There are lots of recipes for making jams and conserves with honey online. The ratio for substituting honey for sugar is 7/8.

                    2. re: mom22boyz

                      I think I'll still pass on using honey in jams, it'd take too much honey to really appreciate it I think, plus not sure how it'd hold up while cooking.
                      anyone care to post a recipe for jam using honey instead of honey? tia

                      1. re: iL Divo

                        I'd never afford cups and cups of honey, but sometimes I add a splash of honey liqeuer towards the end.

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          "anyone care to post a recipe for jam using honey instead of honey? tia"
                          reading this just now my face is falling.
                          geeez where is grammar check when you need it

                      2. re: sunshine842

                        Hi sunshine - the botulism you fear is in infants,not adults. However, I would avoid it if it has any spores at all. If you use sugar and lemon in low acid fruits, then you are safe with just a hot water bath or actually just putting jellies in sterile jars and not water bath. My grandmother used wax poured over her jams to seal them - and you can't water bath that :-). As for the pros and cons of pectin - I do like the flavor of no pectin much better, even though its more work. For one thing, the evaporation of liquid some people don't like, gives the jams a rich, deep fruit flavor and on top of that you use less sugar. Always add a couple of TBS of lemon to low acid fruits such as figs and things. Hope this helps.

                        1. re: happygoluckyinoregon

                          A good botulinum colony can indeed be strong enough to fell an adult.

                          Nobody, but nobody in the US or Europe recommends using wax any more -- and hasn't for quite a few years now.

                          The only time I had to toss an entire batch of jam (and I'd even picked the fruit!) was by putting it in sterile jars and turning the jars upside down.

                          It is absolutely not difficult, time-consuming, or expensive to water-bath preserves...especially not when balanced against illness or just having to toss out all your hard work.

                          and all jam has pectin -- it occurs naturally in the fruit; there are just some fruits that don't have enough pectin on their own...so we add pectin (and it's made from fruit....)

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Yes, ALWAYS do that water bath process!

                  2. re: Nyleve

                    Agree. Except for crabapple jelly - that had enough natural pectin I didn't need to add the commercial stuff. I've used both Certo and SurJell. Sometimes if I made a mixed crabapple/something else I didn't need the commercial stuff - but for strawberry - commercial pectin for sure.

                    And it never affected the length of time the jelly/jam would keep - at one point, when I was a kid, we had a 3 year back log of jelly and jam, despite being a 9 person household, none of whom were shy about slathering on the jelly. We started giving it away by the boxful to get the backlog down. It was great stuff.

                    Long ago I had a recipe for making your own pectin, but it's long lost. We did use it for several years when I was very young; but then we became prosperous enough to buy the Certo, and used that from then on.

                    1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                      I found this recipe on motherearthnews.com:
                      Fruit Pectin

                      Wash, but don't peel, about seven large tart apples. Cut them into pieces and add four cups of water and two tablespoons of lemon juice. Boil the mixture for 40 minutes, then strain it through a diaper or cheesecloth. Finally, boil the juice for another 20 minutes, pour it into sterilized jars, and seal them.

                      Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-f...

                  3. I made some delicious strawberry jam last weekend WITHOUT commercial pectin. As your mama recommends - just sugar, lemon and fruit. (Plus some water.) In my experience, the keys are including some under-ripe fruit in the mix, as well as sticking to small quantities. The amount of sugar used is also important.

                    After laboriously picking 4 1/2 cups of teeny tiny wild strawberries on Sunday and then just as laboriously hulling them, I had three cups of berries. I added some water and 1 & 1/2 cups sugar, juice from one half of a lemon and half an apple (for added pectin, just in case.) It cooked up in about 15 minutes. Gelled perfectly. Not at all like a "compote."

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: clamscasino

                      This sounds great! I have a question. I usually do my non pectin preserves with equal parts of fruit and sugar and no water. A dash of salt, 1 tsp butter to stop the mixture from bubbling over ( it works) and lemon. The ratio of half the amount of sugar to fruit sounds good to me if it works. Here in Oregon we have tons of blueberries, strawberries, rasberries, etc. I picked up a 5# pack of frozen berries from the farm yesterday to make jam with in the winter for $10.00 !!!

                      1. re: happygoluckyinoregon

                        It seems like your question is about the added water. I checked my book and it says (about jams) that: "Whenever possible they are made without water." I think the water helps fruits that are a little less juicy from scorching at the beginning of cooking. You only need to add a tiny bit.

                        Your frozen berries sound wonderful, but you may need to add some source of pectin, such as the peel from a Granny Smith apple, since the frozen fruit is probably all fully ripe. I always try to include some slightly under-ripe fruit for the natural pectin boost.

                    2. Pishtosh! The addition of pectin does not affect the shelf life of the product.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                        ROTFL. My ex used an expression that his mother used every time she was dismissing something (often)...."pish posh tish tosh!" Your post brought back memories.

                        1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                          I agree that the addition of pectin does not affect the shelf life of jams or jellies. We used to have a plum tree and I made countless batches of plum jam without using pectin. But it took so much longer to make, all that stirring and waiting for it to hit the perfect set. The tree is long gone but I make many types of jams and jellies now, all with pectin. I have used the Sure Jell in the pink box for years because it allowed for using less sugar. I even tried the no sugar needed option once as my husband is a diabetic. That jam tasted fine but an open jar got pushed to the back of the fridge for awhile and when it was found weeks later the product was moldy and had to be thrown out. That never happens to a regular jar of any of my home made jams no matter how long they have been in the fridge.

                          I just heard about Pomona's brand of pectin this month and bought a box at Whole Foods. The instructions say the jams/jellies will last 3 weeks once opened. As this allows making jams and jellies with small amounts of sugar I am wondering if the issue is that very low sugar added jams and jellies simply will not last as long once opened without becoming moldy. I had heard that sugar is a preservative and with my Splenda jam experience I think that might be the issue.

                          I have made two different jams with the Pamona's. The first was pineapple and I only used a half cup sugar to 4 cups of fruit. I think it would be better with more sugar. Yesterday I happened upon a good buy on fresh raspberries so made a batch using 3 cups fruit and one cup sugar. It was quite good.

                          1. re: likes to know

                            I used the liquid Certo for the two batches I just made last week.
                            The instructions call for a huge amount of sugar and I just didn't see a reason to add twice as much, flavorwise.
                            It set up perfectly and the sweetness is perfect far as I can tell.

                            1. re: iL Divo

                              Just remember Sugar can help to preserve so if you change the ratio, keep it in the fridge and use it quickly.

                              1. re: vstock

                                yep. If you're not going to follow the recipes to the letter, don't try to preserve them. Not only could it make you sick, but you might have to throw away all your hard work.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  I've never made for the purpose of preserving, they'll be gone 3 weeks tops.

                                2. re: vstock

                                  hubbys cohort @ work teases him everyday because there's always (for his brekkie or lunch) a PBJ using 1 of the 2 homemade jams. plus I'm eatin 1 every day too-it's just so tasty.

                                    1. re: MsMaryMc

                                      .........well if they're not they should be :-D

                          2. My mother swore by MCP Pectin, but I'm a convert to Pomona's Universal Pectin. It's a different formula--all-natural, but doesn't depend on sugar to gel--so you can use far less sugar, or other sweeteners. This definitely does affect the shelf life--you want to keep your jam in the fridge, or the freezer for longer-term storage--but the way the fruit flavor comes through, it's worth it!

                            Pomona's is a little harder to find, but you can get it at Whole Foods, or many health food stores and natural markets, or online.


                            14 Replies
                            1. re: MsMaryMc

                              I've been making jam w/o store-bought pectin for the past 4 or 5 yrs and haven't noticed that it's runnier. In fact, last year's batch of strawberry got away from me and became a little too thick for my taste. I read somewhere (forget, but maybe Alice Water's Fruit book?), that you actually need MORE!? sugar when using pectin. This seems counterintuitive to me.

                              1. re: cinnamon girl

                                Some tips from the Woman's Home Companion Cookbook:

                                "Tough Jelly: too little sugar for the amount of pectin; also overcooking."

                                "Sirupy Jelly: Too much sugar for the amount of pectin; juice too low in pectin or acid content or both."

                                The book also states that you can test for the amount of pectin in the fruit by gently stirring together 1 tablesppon of the juice with 1 tablespoon of alcohol. If a large mass of jelly is formed, the juice is rich in pectin. If several less firm pieces of jelly are formed the juice is moderately rich in pectin. And if only small flakes form...it is poor in pectin.

                                1. re: clamscasino

                                  Thank you CC: the alcohol tip (both for the jam and the cook), is invaluable. Indeed, I overcooked that jam last summer, no question.

                                  I suppose adding too much lemon would also jack up the pectin level, contributing to "too-tough" jam/jelly. But since the lemon is generally added at the end, there would be time to do the alcohol test; after a couple of summers one could get a pretty idea of how to adjust the amount lemon for the desired consistency.

                                  1. re: cinnamon girl

                                    Cinnamon G: Not sure that lemon "jacks up" the pectin level. Your comment though piqued my curiosity, so back to the Woman's Home Companion Cookbook, (copyright 1942 and has an excellent chapter on preserving). There it says "To make jelly the fruit juice must contain the proper proportions of pectin, the jellying substance, and acid, which gives the jelly its firmness and tenderness." Hmmm firm and tender? Now there's a concept to muddle over...

                                    The last batch of preserves I made (sour cherry) I augmented the pectin with the peel from an apple, as suggested on another thread. And I added lemon juice, which I probably didn't need for the acid with sour cherries. But it all came together wonderfully.

                                    1. re: clamscasino

                                      Thanks CC: Yes that sounds right - why would it generate pectin. As your Women's HOme Companion Cookbook points out the lemon affects the gel. So I'm obviously confusing gel with pectin. What a great book!
                                      I was having trouble posting so hope this isn't in twice

                                      1. re: cinnamon girl

                                        Yes it IS a great book! It went through several editions throughout the 1940's, (at least) and mine is the 1945 one. and according to the introduction was meant to be "a handy kitchen encyclopedia." The recipes are clear and concise and several variations are suggested for many. It's my favorite book for making things like pancakes, dumplings for stew and many other old-fashioned traditional favorites. Since it was a "war-time" cookbook it also has an emphasis on economy and health. The wartime postscript states: "A healthy nation is the best contribution our homes can make to the war effort."

                                        In the preserving section it has numerous tables for processing times by different methods for a myriad of vegetables, proper proportions of sugars to juice for 19 types of fruits, including elderberries and gooseberries, etc., etc. Also, as hinted at above, it has great tips on pectin levels naturally occuring in fruits. A great find among my grandmother's belongings. If you can find it (and copies do come up on the internet) it is well worth buying.

                                        1. re: clamscasino

                                          That edition of the cookbook sells for quite a lot now: http://cgi.ebay.com/Womans-Home-Compa...

                                          Shame, I was hoping to buy one :)

                                    2. re: cinnamon girl

                                      I overcooked a batch of blueberry as well last year - I still have some, did you come up with any good uses for it? I didn't like it as jam but it was good mixed into muffin batter...

                                      1. re: geminigirl

                                        The strawberry jam still tasted fine . . . still tasted of strawberries rather than overcooked sugar. I just prefer it a little looser. Your muffin batter idea is inspired! What abt making blueberry and nectarine pie/crumble/cobbler and using a dollop of it as part of your sweetener? Might it reinforce the blueberry flavour? Of course it wouldn't have to be w/ nectarines but I love the blueberry-nectarine pie filling from Baking with Julia and use it for something every summer.

                                  2. re: cinnamon girl

                                    This is true - look at the pectin recipe - its a couple of cups more sugar. I think maybe because its not cooked down. With no pectin fruit, you cook until the liquid evaporates and get way more intense flavor, and thus you need less sugar. You are still getting probably the same amt of sugar in a TBS due to liquid loss. I will try my no pectin again -how much sugar do you use per fruit/sugar ratio. I use equal amounts.

                                  3. re: MsMaryMc

                                    Thanks so much for the link. I was looking for a way to use less sugar. Will try this product and ordered another box for my friend.

                                    1. re: jammaker

                                      I use Ball Low/No Sugar Pectin. I can control the amount of sugar, no need to cook the fruit to death and when waterbathed, holds very well on the shelf. Just opened a 2 yr old jar of jelly while inspecting and rotating the pantry and the taste/consistency was just fine.

                                    2. re: MsMaryMc

                                      All pectin is all natural. Pomona's uses a citrus source and a different method for creating the gel (Pomona's is a low-methoxyl pectin, which is why you need the calcium; the standard pectins rely on the acid of the lemon juice and sugar to catalyze the gel), but the others tend to be from apple skins. None of the commercial brands (including Pomona's) are organic.

                                      Also, as long as your properly canned (see current, science-based recommendations at http://nchfp.uga.edu/) food maintains its seal, it it likely safe. After a year, the quality, though not the safety, will start to decline.

                                    3. I'm not a jam maker, but my mother was. She didn't use pectin. She made Concord jam every year till she was 80 and simply cooked the grapes in their skins, along with sugar and a little lemon juice, then strained it at the end. Best tasting jam with natural flavor on earth.

                                      1. Different fruits have very different pectin content, and strawberries generally have less pectin. I helped my mom with her preserves and she generally tried to avoid pectin, but I recall that she used it for strawberries. You can include some underripe fruit to raise pectin content, but with strawberries, the underripe fruit can impact the texture, so I would avoid that. You could also add some green apple, but why? There is nothing wrong with using pectin, IMO. It is, as others have noted, better than having to overcook your jam.

                                        In contrast to strawberries, we made a lot of concord grape jelly and she never had to use pectin for that -- just a few green grapes would do.

                                        I'm less clear about when to use lemon juice and how that affects the jam chemistry. I do see it called for with low-pectin fruit jams, but my hunch is that it has less to do with the pectin and more to do with the soft fruit flesh and combining the sugars + ascorbic acid + ?? to contribute to the gel.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: BernalKC

                                          The reason the recipe is calling for the addition of lemon juice is that it helps to keep the fruit firm. This is the reason that it is added in fruit pie recioes as well. Hope this helps :)

                                          1. re: BernalKC

                                            The purpose of the lemon juice is to provide an acid for the pectin's magic to work. Any acid will do, but lemon juice usually contributes a pleasant, and not overwhelming flavor. If you look at the structure of a pectin molecule, it has branches. These branches need to become ionized in order for the pectin's colloidal properties to work. The acid allows the ionization to happen. Once that happens, the pectin chain can start attaching to other pectin chains, which creates pockets that hold onto liquids and other stuff, which in turn creates the gel that we recognize as jam. Someone with a lot of jam-making experience can intuit how to adjust the ratios of sugar, acid, and pectin to optimize the gelling properties.

                                            1. re: bananafishes

                                              Thanks for the explanation. As a geek I like to have some grounding in the physical processes involved in my cooking, and this is exactly the kind of info that helps me intuit correctly!

                                            2. re: BernalKC

                                              Not ascorbic acid but citric acid that can be added to increase the acid for a good set. Ascorbic acid is vitamin C and it's used to prevent darkening of fruits (think Fruit Fresh).

                                              A good jam is a "friendly handshake" between the four components necessary: fruit, sugar, pectin, and acid. If the necessary component is not naturally present, it can be augmented.

                                              There are some excellent texts on the subject, including the venerable Ball Blue Book and the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning. My go-to website is the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) at the U of GA <http://www.uga.edu/nchfp> and I like the U of GA's "So Easy to Preserve."

                                              1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                Thanks for the reply. Very helpful. And kind of cool to get the info almost 3 years later!

                                                Can the increased acid make up for the dearth of pectin? Does it require a different cook time? Guess I might have to pick up one of those books and study it more!

                                                1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                  Fruit Fresh is both citric and ascorbic acid.

                                              2. I have no issues with pectin, but dixieday's strawberry jam is the best I've ever had, without pectin.


                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Junie D

                                                  I am about to make some plum jam - my favorite besides marmalade - without pectin today. This thread made me feel okay about doing so.

                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                    I'm working on a batch of apricot and a batch of blackberry today, but plum is my favorite too. I love the sweet, tart, bitter balance in plum jam.

                                                    1. re: Junie D

                                                      do either of you have a plum jam recipie you could share....I just picked some yellow plums today but stayed away from the red as they were a little soft for me, they would be perfect for jam though...

                                                      The peaches need to ripen some more and then peach butter....

                                                      1. re: geminigirl

                                                        Here's my recipe for jam using the small (1 to 1.5 inch diameter) red plums from the backyard tree. When I have used larger plums, I've had to add pectin.

                                                        Plum Jam

                                                        5 pounds small plums
                                                        1 cup water
                                                        3.5 pounds sugar

                                                        Simmer the plums and water, covered, until plums are soft. Strain through a sieve to remove pits and skins.
                                                        Return puree to pot, add sugar, and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. Skim and pack into jars.

                                                        Makes about 9 cups

                                                        1. re: geminigirl

                                                          I just made a batch of plum jam as well. It's a staple in Romania (where my husband is from), so I used his mom's recipe. It's in metric though. I used "prune" plums, which are oblong with dark purple skin and yellow flesh. It is so good. Here's her method (we halved the recipe and it made about a quart of jam):

                                                          4 kg plums
                                                          2 kg sugar

                                                          Slice plums into quarters (remove pits) into large bowl. Pour sugar over plums and mix together well to coat all the fruit. Set in fridge for 24 hours to let a syrup develop. After 24 hours, pour into large pot and simmer for about 2 hours stirring often to keep from burning. The plums should eventually begin to break down just by stirring and the jam should be thick and deep purple colored. You can then can in jars if you wish. We eat it fairly quickly so it all just goes into a large quart jar straight into the fridge after it cools.

                                                          1. re: geminigirl

                                                            I just finished making a wonderful organic damson plum jam. I kept things very simple and it came out great: used 7beautiful blue/black damson organic plums - pitted and coarsely chopped; added a scant cup of organic dried cane juice (turbinado sugar); a scant 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice. stirred it up in the pot over medium high heat and made sure the sugar dissolved, and kept stirring occasionally until it got thick enough when I put it on a plate I'd chilled in the freezer, and waited about a minute...... put it in a jar, and voila!.......

                                                    2. Every year we end up making some strawberry with and some without pectin. Depends on the day...
                                                      Very little difference, very little.


                                                      1. This is not a true jam but very good on toast. My grandmother always made this.

                                                        mash together slightly
                                                        2 cups strawberries
                                                        2 cups sugar
                                                        Cook for 15 min and spread on a cookie sheet

                                                        I've also used cherries.

                                                        Here is a book I just bought-a little complicated but looks interesting. No pectin.


                                                        1. I have also jumped on the jam-making train and am curious about why some people are against pectin. In my relatively limited experience (I've made about 10 batches of jam so far), pectin seems like a great tool since you cut down on cooking time thereby preserving the full flavor of the fruit, and so you haven't reduced the fruit-sugar mixture to a very sweet, concentrated spread. But I suppose that is exactly what some people want in a jam? Which I can totally understand. I guess we all have a taste memory or idea of what a jam 'should' taste like, or of the way we like our jam to taste.

                                                          As for myself, I am searching for a lighter-tasting, lower-sugar (not for health reasons, just taste!), fully fruity jam where the taste of the fruit at its very peak has been captured as faithfully as possible, with as little boiling/simmering as possible and I guess in my mind, no-pectin, longer cooking jams go in another direction, intensifying the sweetness and almost caramelizing the fruit.

                                                          Then again, I have yet to delve into Mes Confitures by reigning French jam queen Christine Ferber, which has recipes for no-pectin jams that seem to have pretty short cooking times (but always a night or two of maceration). Excited to try them out.

                                                          I get the sense that some people (certain posters here and perhaps Lazar's 'jam junkie' mother) think using pectin is almost like cheating??

                                                          Here's another thread with an interesting debate the different kinds of pectins that are out there: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/634228

                                                          Also: these plum jams all sound amazing!

                                                          And on the subject of plums... here is my recipe for plum-apricot (optional addition of rosemary) using liquid pectin, which I based on a recipe from the book Blue Ribbon Preserves (I also used a 1:1 sugar-fruit ration instead of an almost 2:1 ratio, and I reversed the ratio of plums and apricots used in the book):

                                                          Plum-apricot jam (with rosemary, if desired


                                                          1 1/2 cups apricots, chopped and crushed
                                                          2 1/2 cups plums, chopped and crushed
                                                          2 tbsp lemon juice
                                                          4 cups sugar
                                                          1/2 tsp unsalted butter
                                                          1 pouch liquid pectin
                                                          1 branch of rosemary (or two? depends on how partial you are to rosemary)

                                                          Combine mushed fruit (I chop mine, then crush gingerly with a potato masher) with lemon juice and sugar in a stainless steel pot, cover and let stand for about 30 mins. Uncover (you can add rosemary now, sprigs tied tightly with kitchen string, or in a herb bag or tied in some cheese cloth), bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

                                                          Boil for two minutes, stirring gently. Remove pan from heat, skim foam, return pan to heat, boil again for one minute. Remove pan from heat again and skim foam. Stir in the butter, then once again bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Add pectin, return to boil for one minute, stirring continuously, then remove from heat and skim any foam off one last time. Remove rosemary, if used.

                                                          Allow to cool for five minutes, then stir to re-distribute fruit bits. Ladle jam into hot jars (this worked out to about six 250-ml jars for me), leaving 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) head space. Wipe jar rims then add hot lids that have been sitting in simmering water, screw on ring bands and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (at sea level – more time for higher altitudes).

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Pantry Party

                                                            I, much earlier in this discussion thread, said I never used pectin; my reasoning simply is why complicate a simple and wonderful thing? If one wants pectin I've read that a few apple skins in a cheesecloth bag work fine. I cook my fruits, sugar or honey, sometimes with lemon or orange juice, quite briefly for a 'preserve', more complex mixtures that could be termed conserves, longer, but all without pectin. They are processed in sterile jars for about ten minutes, always seal fine, and are sent around the world.

                                                            1. re: OCEllen

                                                              Speaking as a person who grew up canning and preserving so we would have food to eat through the winter, commercial pectin DID simplify the process.

                                                              And "a few apple skins in a cheesecloth bag" do NOT "work fine". In the first place, where are you getting those apple skins? Because I sure wasn't peeling bushels worth of apples before turning them into jelly.

                                                              We switched to the commercial pectin when we could afford to buy it because it meant more jelly (and jam) in less time from what we had on hand. It was easier, it was quicker (hence less time on the stove) the end product was more consistent. It tasted just as good, sometimes better because (as has been pointed out elsewhere) the product spent less time on the stove having the life cooked out of it. It also meant we could use less sugar - and sugar was something we could NOT grow ourselves.

                                                              We certainly weren't sending our jellies and jams "around the world", but friends, neighbors and relatives who were gifted regularly looked forward to the new year's jelly every year.

                                                              1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                                I completely agree with you on this. I have been making jam for about 40 years and, with a few exceptions, just about always use commercial pectin. It allows me to be creative with my fruit combinations without having to worry about whether the jam will set or not. Yes, sometimes it turns out a bit too stiff - my strawberry-rhubarb jam did that a few weeks ago - but mostly it turns out exactly right. Once in a while I'll decide to go without pectin if I want a long-cooked flavour (pear preserves, for example, and sometimes purple plum) but using pectin results in a fresh-tasting product that hasn't taken me hours to make and is less sweet. I simply can't see the downside to this.

                                                          2. I know this is an old thread, but.....I just made jam (w/o pectin). There's a good explanation of the drawbacks of pectin in Joy of Cooking. The are pros and cons to both methods (with and without added pectin) of course.

                                                            Commercial jam makers, b/c of food safety laws, have to raise the fruits to much higher temps than you do at home. Thereby destroying the natural pectins in the fruit. So they must add it back in. But, then the added pectin requires a lot of added sugar to balance it out. For example (I made grape jam):

                                                            With pectin, the recipes called for 4 cups fruit, and 7.5 cups sugar and pectin.

                                                            WithOUT pectin, the recipe calls for 4 cups fruit, 3 cups sugar - less than half!

                                                            So, if you use pectin, you get a higher yield, and I suppose a 'less cooked' fruit taste. But a LOT more sugar.

                                                            If you don't use pectin (or toss in an apple to augment low pectin fruits) you get a much more concentrated fruit flavor by volume. But less jam.

                                                            The two ways of making jam taste distinctly different. Therefore, people who choose to make jam without pectin aren't just being 'old-fashioned' for no reason. It's usually because they prefer the taste.

                                                            My (no pectin) grape jam turned out sinfully good!

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: MotorCityMiss

                                                              When you boil the fruit/sugar until it gels, you realize you're evaporating off the water - leaving you with a higher fruit to sugar ratio than what you began with. I'm not arguing the preference, it's just that you can't compare one to the other so easily without figuring out what the actual sugar content is in the end product.

                                                              1. re: Nyleve

                                                                Absolutely true. I didn't measure how much of the water boiled off. I'm still rather sure that you end up with at least a slightly lower sugar ratio with the non-pectin version. It tastes that way to me at least??? And based on the yields of pectin added versus without I would also think that to be true...

                                                                Anyway, regardless - my point was that making jam without pectin isn't cuckoo. Both ways have merits / drawbacks. And the results taste different.

                                                                1. re: MotorCityMiss

                                                                  You can also buy pectins that don't require the use of any sugar at all. You can use as much or as little as you prefer. I've made jams with added pectin and 2 or 3 cups of sugar that were very bright tasting since they didn't need to be cooked for so long.

                                                            2. you only need to add pectin to fruit that dont have much natural pectin in them.

                                                              I dont know how they make pectin but for me it feels like im putting a bunch of chemicals in the jam, (i know its all natural from fruit) but you can make your own pectin by making some kind of apple syrup (sorry dont have the recipe here right now)

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. My main issue with using pectin is the price (I'm cheap, OK?), so I avoid it whenever possible.

                                                                I have a couple of tips for you:

                                                                1) Adding some diced rhubarb to your jam works well because the fibre helps to thicken it and it adds a bitter taste component that I love.

                                                                2) A couple of years ago, I started to think "why not use icing sugar in my jam, after all it contains some cornstarch and that should help thicken my jam?" Well, it worked like a charm and I used much less sugar than you would have to with pectin jams. I use a ratio of 2 cups of diced fruit, 1 cup of icing sugar and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice for anything I make.

                                                                What do you think?

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: bogie

                                                                  I'm assuming icing sugar is powdered sugar?

                                                                  1. re: Mrsshirls

                                                                    yes -- different areas of the world call it by different names.

                                                                2. Jumping on an old thread, but wondering about a detail in Susan Hermann Loomis' recipe in On Rue Tatin for Miche's apricot jam. She calls for macerating apricots for 12 hours. An experienced jam-making friend tells me that she thought they would turn brown in 12 hours if I don't add lemon juice. Has anyone macerated apricots without added lemon.

                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                    Are you opposed to adding lemon? If you are, you might mix the fruit and sugar together and immedately press plastic wrap or perhaps a waxed paper on top to keep air out - the exposure to air causes the oxidation and darkening of the fruit. My favorite way to make apricot jam involves heavy lemon with the aps. It is a must-make for a Viennese friend who remembers the jam her housekeeper made when she was a girl.

                                                                    1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                                      Thanks for answering. No, I'm not opposed to lemon juice at all, and I would have expected it in the recipe. But when a recipe comes along that looks unusual like that, I'm willing to give it a try.

                                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                        I think I mis-read your original question; I had it in my head that lemon juice was part of the macerating time and I see now that it is not. I make my jams with additional pectin; the ones I've either made or tasted that were made without pectin are either just thick (by virtue of evaporation) or way too runny for my preference. I have best luck with a nice spreadable jam, fruit in a gel, when I use pectin.

                                                                        1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                                          Maybe I should have rephrased the question. Loomis gives a recipe for apricot jam that does not uses pectin and uses only sugar and fruit and macerates the fruit and cooks it for a relatively short time. The whole recipe looked counter-intuitive. I had just got a case of apricots. But an experienced friend, on looking at the recipe, told me she thought the apricots would turn brown if I did not add lemon to them before macerating them. Is she right? Or are the 'cots acid enough by themselves? I have enough fruit, maybe I should do two batches--with and without lemon.

                                                                          1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                            The aps are not acid enough by themselves. "So Easy to Preserve," put out by the food science folks at the U of GA is my go-to source for canning information. They have aps, blueberries, figs, peaches, pears, and a few other fruits in the Group III: fruits which always need added acid, pectin, or both. FWIW, apricots are known to sometimes take up to two weeks to set.

                                                                            1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                                              That is really helpful. Tomorrow, my day off, I am going to make jam with lemon juice. I'll use a straightforward recipe with pectin. But if I have any fruit leftover, I may try a small batch of Loomis' recipe.

                                                                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                Good luck. Everyone has made "topping" at least once. :-\ You don't want the aps overripe.

                                                                                1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                                                  I made a cherry-pluot jam two years ago that was delicious. But I didn't cook it enough and ended up with a fabulous ice cream topping.

                                                                            2. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                              Have you ever made apricot butter? Divine. I use it as a condiment as often as I use it as a bread spread.

                                                                              1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                                                Our guys aren't much into fruit butters. I would do better making an apricot-jalapeno chutney.

                                                                                1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                  So-o-o-o-o, do you have a recipe for that apricot jalapeño chutney? I stopped at Trader Joe's this afternoon and 2# of nice looking aps yumped into my cart. I could use a good chutney recipe for canning for the state fair.

                                                                                  1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                                                    Actually, no. But not having a recipe never stopped me. A few years ago I got a good Quince chutney recipe from Uncle Phaedrus, the recipe sleuth. What I would do is look up a bunch of similar recipes and figure out how they are put together. My guess is that I would want some fairly firm apricots, the peppers, maybe some onions, vinegar, brown sugar, possibly some dried currants or raisins, and a few spices. When l lived in San Jose 35 years ago, one of our novices made a delicious apricot chutney from apricots in our orchard. But I don't have his recipe. John Taylor, where are you now?

                                                                                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                      Just found what looks like a very good recipe for apricot chutney on eCurry.com. An obvious spice missing in my hypothetical list above was ginger. This recipe uses white wine and lime juice instead of vinegar, and it includes finely chopped fresh mint. I think John Taylor's chutney had mustard seed and clove in it, but I don't remember for sure.

                                                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                        I'm getting way off topic. Elizabeth David's South Wind THrough the Kitchen has a mild apricot chutney recipe. No chilies in it. The main spices are ginger and cardamom. She calls for Orleans vinegar, which is a wine vinegar made by a special process. The Slow Food website gives info and lists U.S. producers of it. I can't see why a really good cider vinegar would not work.

                                                                    2. I'm in the no commercial pectin camp.

                                                                      I do lemon juice & pips, or apple skins & cores. They set just fine and I've never had to cook them more than an hour at the absolute longest, normally less. I don't like to rely on a commercial product for something that I do to kind of commune with the past.

                                                                      I realize how stupid the above sounds. Still, it is how I feel. If I was doing large batches or attempting to sell, I might take a different approach.

                                                                      I admit I've only done berry jams. Clearly jelly, or low pectin fruits would need commercial pectin.

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: rohirette

                                                                        It does NOT sound stupid, rohirette. Not in the least. It is what you learned to do and what you are comfortable doing and it is your personal preference. Not a blessed thing wrong with that. Please do not apologize for your way. I know an Australian bloke who scoffs at the way most (?) Americans make jam — and makes no bones about his disdain for it. And I say shame on him — there's room for different tastes and I don't give a rip about a preference as long as basic safe preserving practices are used.

                                                                        1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                                          Amen to that. It is sort of like making bread with commercial yeast or with a leaven. There are reasons for both.
                                                                          I thought I'd report where my apricot jam query led me. I had several good recipes, besides the one I first looked at from Susan Hermann Loomis. I decided to go with the lemon juice. Time constraints prevented me from having the fruit ready for an overnight maceration. So I opted to go for a simple recipe of cots, lemon juice, sugar. And since I did not want to cook it for a long time, I decided on pectin. I got a couple of jars of Ball's low sugar pectin. Then I discovered that the procedure called for adding the sugar last. I followed the proportions and procedures on the fold-out label. But the day was rather comic. I lost a couple of hours in the morning with some unexpected pastoral work that led to a bonus. The person I was working with volunteered to come and help with the jam. (A real advantage when filling hot jars.) Then we discovered that the burners on the electric stove in the parish offices kitchen (which was formerly a convent) mostly didn't work. Our monastery kitchen was not free, and I thought I would have to freeze the fruit for use later. Instead, the kitchen in the parish hall was free, as long as we didn't mind working around a cleaning crew and they around us. So I got three batches of apricot jam done--a total of about eleven pounds of diced fruit. The cots were from Washington State and were firm and flavorful. My helper and a staff person took home some of the remaining fruit to make jam at home. But with all the comic complications, I didn't get to the plots. I'll dice and freeze them in small batches tomorrow for making jam later. I especially love a pluot and bing cherry combination, and there are still some cherries in the markets. Not local, however, as our weird spring ruined the Door County cherry crop.

                                                                          1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                            Follow up: The apricot jam has gotten rave reviews. That lower amount of sugar brings out the fruit flavor. I made the pluot jam a couple of days later. This time I chopped the fruit with a food processor and followed the recipe on the Ball web site, using the lower sugar option. I got excellent results. So a friend, on receiving a jar of the jam, demands strawberry jam--he's egging me on. I'll do that as a microwave jam next time I have some time in the kitchen. Or maybe I'll use a frozen mixed berry bag. We'll see.

                                                                              1. re: The Tattooed Lady

                                                                                Today I made microwave strawberry jam. It turned out very well.

                                                                                1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                  And I've made two batches of microwave peach-ginger jam, one with fresh peaches and one with frozen, which I wrote about on another thread. Today, I discovered that there are some late apricots from California in the local market. They don't have the extraordinary flavor of the Washington apricots from some weeks ago, but they do have a nice acid tang. Slightly underripe, they have also have enough pectin. So I'll try the Loomis recipe this weekend to the letter. It's what started this thread.

                                                                      2. I am not dogmatic about the use of commercial pectin. I make Zinfandel grape jelly every year from my vineyard, and I use pectin because the grapes are picked at high sugar for winemaking, and I know they don't have much pectin left. I also have a peach tree, and I find that I prefer Catherine Plageman's old-fashioned recipe that calls for the "almond" inside the pit to be simmered in water and slivered and added to the fruit, no pectin. It always sets well. By the way, the using the pit is controversial, because it may contain small amounts of cyanide, but I have never gotten sick, and had nothing but rave reviews from all who have tasted it.

                                                                        I much prefer to risk under-set jam or jelly than to have a product that has to be cut with an axe. Any time I have a failure to set I just use it up as fruit syrup on pancakes, waffles, or French toast. It is delicious!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: dkenworthy

                                                                          Just FYI, Kevin West has a discussion of cyanide from pits in his excellent new book "Preserving the Season." Based on laboratory analysis of the final product, the cynaide content is well below theoretical toxic limits.

                                                                        2. Well, folks, after some delay, I've come full circle. This week I found same late California apricots at a local market. I bought some yesterday, making sure I didn't get overripe fruit and had a few slightly underripe. I macerated them last night, calculating the weight of the sugar at 40% the weight of the prepared fruit. Because these were pretty average cots, not the premium ones of a few weeks ago, I added a scraping of lemon zest to bring up the flavor. As some sugar was left in the bottom of macerating bowl, I swirled some steaming hot water in the bowl--maybe 2 ounces total. So cooking took a few minutes longer than I expected--about 13 minutes. (Also our elevation of 600 feet would have added close to a minute over sea-level preparation.) How did it turn out? There was no discoloration from lack of lemon juice. The color of the finished jam is excellent--actually a bit brighter than the cut up fruit, no doubt because of color from the skin. I got a beautiful set for the jam. The total reduction in volume from the macerated fruit was about 75%. With added pectin, it would have been a wee bit less since cooking would have been slightly shorter. As for flavor, one of our guys told me he liked it better than the first batch made with premium cots, lemon juice and pectin. This batch had a full, bright flavor and no trace of bitterness that he detected in the first batch--from the lemon juice perhaps? (It was fresh squeezed.) So for apricot jam, at least, I'd go with Susan Herman Loomis' recipe. Interestingly, I found an substantially identical recipe in Mary Tregellas' "Homemade Preserves & Jams" which she got from her Czech grandmother. The only difference in the two is that Tregellas gives the option of adding lemon juice. By the way, most of the old ratings of fruit for pectin content list apricots as having insufficient pectin. But a recent study found that the figure for apricots was improperly derived, having measured only one kind of pectin. In reality, apricots come right behind apples for common non-citrus fruits, though I suspect quince may beat out even apples. It's late in the apricot season, and I probably won't have a chance to make more, my time is so limited. But next year, I'll be ready.

                                                                          1. My experience is that non-pectin jam takes longer to cook than pectin jam. Both are pretty delicious and "jammy". You have to test the non-pectin jam on a cold dish (or an icecube on a dish) more to get the right consistency.

                                                                            Home-made jam rarely lasts a month in our house (-:. So, I don't know about the longevity issues. I might as well skip the canning and just store it in the fridge . . . .

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: MickiYam

                                                                              "You have to test the non-pectin jam on a cold dish (or an icecube on a dish) more to get the right consistency." - or indeed hold the spoon sideways over the jam pan and see whether the jam drips off as a single flow (not ready) or from several places (ready).

                                                                              At least the last three generations of my family have made jam in summer/autumn from available fruit - both from the garden and family expeditions to pick blackberries/damsons/etc in the wild. The only flavour (out of about a dozen regular ones) that we're a little wary about w.r.t. pectin is pure strawberry jam - to that we'll add lemon juice or a few apples. Everything else it's simply equal quantities by weight of fruit and sugar, with maybe a couple of tbsp of water to get things started before the fruit releases its juice.

                                                                              Cook the fruit until thoroughly boiling and any apple is softened, then add the sugar (which has been heating in a low oven so that it's both sterile at the correct temperature to add). Simmer until set (using both tests), and then pot up into jars that have been sterilised by sitting in the oven since you started the process. Wax disk and lid (lids also sterilised, but by pouring boiling water over them).

                                                                              Homemade jam does last, if you make it in 15-20lb batches (you need a BIG pan) and make 5-6 of those a year... we pride ourselves on never having to buy jam!

                                                                              1. re: DavidPonting

                                                                                Im looking to go the no pectin route due to allgeries (sulfutes). Pectin can also aggrevate asthma

                                                                                1. re: scrills

                                                                                  all fruit has pectin -- some more than others, but it all has it.