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New to canning

So I'm thinking about starting canning this summer as a way to eat local unseasonal foods when it's cold out. I've decided to get a pressure canner (any suggestions about which model?). I started looking at recipes and I'm having trouble finding what I want. I'm looking to can without the use of processed sugar and without commerical pectin. I'm hoping to use juice concentrate or stevia, etc for a natural sweetener and I'm open to adding some apple (or whatever fruits are naturally high in pectin) to avoid the boxed stuff. I tried looking online and looking in some books for sugar and pectin free recipes, but I guess it's not so common! I've looked at some of the old posts here, but it seems most of them mention only eliminating either processed sugar or boxed pectin, not both. There's some mentions of making your own pectin from unripe apples. Do you think I could use apple juice concentrate for both sweetening and gelling? Do you guys have any recipes or tips for me?


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  1. I've substituted homemade pectin for store bought pectin when making wine jelly (to serve with cheese platters) ... see recipe http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em... You won't be able to use apple juice concentrate as a substitute for the pectin since much of the "magic" comes from the core and peel ...

    2 Replies
    1. re: CocoTO

      Hm, what's the conversion rate for homemade pectin to the powdered stuff? Does it have to be a specific kind of apple? Or just any unripe kind?

      And does the canning process remove the alcohol from the wine in wine jelly?

      1. re: jewel460

        I've never used powdered pectin, only the liquid kind and I've simply substituted one for one. I do believe the kind of apple can make a difference, although all apples have pectin. I used the granny smith as recommended. And some of the alcohol cooks off, but not all of it ...

        (sorry, don't know the answer to your newly posted question below as I simply use the water submersion method in a big pot)

    2. okay, i have another question. hot water canners can do high acid foods, and pressure canners can do low acid, right? so can you do high acid with a pressure canner?

      1 Reply
      1. re: jewel460

        Yeah. It's just that it ISN'T generally safe to can low-acid foods in a hot water bath.

      2. the presence of sugar is not only to make things sweet, but to inhibit the growth of pathogens. Stevia won't do the job.

        While I totally admire your desire to get away from processed foods, remember that by canning you are making a processed food -- and that it's one of the rare areas of cooking where you really do need to follow the recipe like it's written. Screwing up a pot of soup is no big deal, but screwing up a batch of jam or pickles can land somebody in the hospital.

        I would recommend that you take a class from your local county extension -- this would teach you the discipline and the hows and whys of the chemistry and the hygiene. THEN you could go on to search out and try the recipes that are more in line with your desire to stay away from what you want to avoid.

        If there isn't a county extension near you, at a minimum buy the Blue Ball Guide to Preserving (about $12-15 at most stores, or from Amazon) and read it well.

        It will explain most of the things you're puzzled about, and will teach you the basics.

        4 Replies
          1. re: jewel460

            take a course...it sounds like you really need a good introduction to the basics. THEN you can ask them if they give supplemental courses or could guide you toward resources for the rest of it.

            1. re: sunshine842

              I'd second taking a course. A friend canned tomatoes without much instruction, only to have the glass jars explode about a month later.

            2. re: jewel460

              The Blue Ball Guide to Preserving has a section on canning for diabetics that should give you some recipes that have substitute sweetening ideas.

          2. if you scroll down the page below the last response you will see ten home cooking discussions about canning - you may find some answers in those topics.

            1. Get a new copy of the Ball Blue Book and follow it religiously. It will guide you expertly through the ins and out of canning of anything cannable. Don't improvise, deviate or stray from their instructions until you have achieved expert level. You don't want to poison anyone including yourself and it is possible to do or you can make someone very very sick. You don't want to do that either. Pickles are a good place to start then jams, jellies, and tomatoes. Get those down and you'll be ready to graduate to other items that really need expert care.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Candy

                While I completely understand why you guys want me to buy a Ball Blue book until I'm good at canning, I'd rather not have to start with weird powdered ingredients since I don't plan on using them permanently. So I'm looking for an alternate beginning book. One that is very strict about what is safe and very good at explaining how to not make mistakes. I've come across a book on amazon that claims to dwell in the world of natural canning. I thing it has a very extensive safety section, the entirety of which is included in the "look inside!" preview. What do you guys think? It says to never ever use a recipe that hasn't been tested by the USDA, it explains all the science going on in canning, it talks about safety relevant to all of the supplies...

                1. re: jewel460

                  <<weird powdered ingredients>>

                  The powdered pectin you purchase in the store isn't "weird". Commercial pectin is made of pectin extracted from apples and citrus with citric acid added. That's it. You should read morwen's post (the last one) on this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/763067 . It explains pectin, sugar, and their interaction really well. But you can also follow that thread (among others) to see what others are doing w/o using commercial pectin.

                  And I concur with what others have posted. When I began canning, I started with the Ball Blue Book; it is an invaluable resource.

                  1. re: LNG212

                    Agreed, LNG.

                    I am very anti-weird-ingredients and my general rule of thumb is not to use something my great-grandmother wouldn't have recognized, but you can bet your sweet bippy that my great-grandmother and yours would have leapt at the chance to use the same pectin they used, but in a measurable, reliable form. :D

                    1. re: LauraGrace

                      In conversation with the owner of a canning supplies company many years ago, she said something that has stuck with me and that I have quoted over and over and over: "When our grandmothers and our great-aunties canned, they did it using the most current information available to them at the time. And we should do no less." She was referring primarily to the current recommendations for heat-processing sealed jars for self storage vs. the "open kettle" method no longer approved by the food scientists who do the research on safe food preservation. Pectin is a natural substance, a carbohydrate, I believe, present in fruits in varying levels. Sour apples and citrus pith and pips are highest in natural pectin. Green fruits are higher in pectin than ripe fruit.

                  2. re: jewel460

                    I use the Ball cookbook and have never used commercial pectin. There are a ton of recipes in the Ball cookbook that don't use pectin.

                    1. re: jewel460

                      I have a compromise suggestion. Why not just NOT use pectin a few times? Make a marmalade, a sauce, a berry jam that requires NO pectin?

                      There is nothing weird about commercial pectin, but it needs a lot of sugar to work. I myself don't use it anymore - just homemade pectin or no pectin. Maybe try something not pectin dependent on for size. Check out Punk Domestics or Food in Jars or Saving the Season or Tigress in a Jam or Tigress in a Pickle. Tons of inspiration.

                      1. re: Vetter

                        ....no *added* pectin....all fruit has pectin, and that's why most no-added-pectin recipes have apples, red currants, etc., in them -- because of the high pectin content in those fruits.

                  3. Hi again, Jewel460 ... I was just thinking that with your desire to stay away from too much added sugar and store bought pectin, maybe you'd like to try a fruit butter instead. The link here has a recipe and canning procedures http://www.simplebites.net/canning-10...

                    1. I know you want someone to tell you that canning is just chucking a bunch of stuff in a glass jar and that it will all come out beautifully, but there's no one here who is going to tell you that, because it isn't true.

                      It also isn't true that home-canning requires a bunch of weird artificial ingredients -- those of us who can choose to do so BECAUSE there aren't any weird artificial ingredients in our home-canned food!

                      Canning needs to follow fairly strict rules in order to keep the chemistry balanced correctly in a very clean environment. If the chemistry and the hygiene goes off, you open a very wide door for all sorts of microscopic bad guys to go forth and multiply. You'll be on target -- botulism is 100% natural and organic, but it's not an ingredient you want.

                      Go get the Blue Ball book and use it. Make jam a couple of times with commercial pectin -- if you don't want to eat it, donate it or give it away -- people LOVE gifts of jams and jellies.

                      Buy all the organic produce you want to make the recipes -- many of those of us who "put up" our own harvests are canning with organic produce. The HUGE majority of the Blue Bell book doesn't have ANY "weird powdered ingredients" -- and if you'll read the links given here and on the Blue Bell site with an open mind, you'll find that commercial pectin is pretty much just homemade pectin...it's only adjusted enough to keep it consistent across batches. (Because I guarantee that the first time you have one batch of jam come back the consistency of concrete and another come back like thick juice, you'll be back here wanting to know what's wrong with your homemade pectin.)

                      When you have the concepts down, then you can wander out to natural pectins (which commercial pectin is simply a pre-prepared version of) and you'll have enough education and experience to start to be able to intelligently make the substitutions you're talking about...but the Blue Bell book has been the go-to Bible of canning for more generations than is represented in this discussion, and we recommend it because it really is the only place for a beginner to start.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: sunshine842

                        I guess I should have explained my motivation to begin canning. I am trying to move my family to an all local and therefore cruelty and pesticide free diet. I want to can produce from the farmer's market all summer long so that I can eat local during the winter. My objection to commercial powdered pectin is less that it's a powder that I think is odd because I didn't produce it myself and more that it wasn't produced locally and I don't know how the fruits used were produced. I don't know how the workers were paid and I don't know if any pesticides were used. I realize now that I'm probably going to have to learn how to can using commercial powdered pectin, I started this thread to try to find a long term alternative. In fact, I started this thread precisely because I am aware that canning is much more than "just chucking a bunch of stuff in a glass jar". I was planning on taking a free class at my local food co-op about canning, and now that I know about it, I will take a class with my county extension office also. For the record, I already have the USDA pdfs about canning, I just haven't read through them yet and didn't think they would address less conventional canning, hence my asking here. I was also avoiding the Ball book because I hadn't heard that many reviews for it, and since they sell canning equipment, there is a chance that the book will neglect to illustrate canning methods that do not involve their products. Also I couldn't find an amazon.com book preview and don't want to buy a book until I'm sure it's what I want. Based on recommendations here, I'm much more likely to buy the book now.

                        1. re: jewel460

                          If you want to preserve your summer produce but don't want to add sugar or pectin, why don't you just chuck your fruits and vegetables in the freezer? That's how I store berries, peaches, tomatoes, peppers, and other things that I don't want to add stuff to. We eat them all winter.

                          1. re: jewel460

                            I think you will find that canning is very satisfying. There is nothing like pulling out that wonderful jar of chutney to go with dinner, or enjoying last summer's peaches in February. And I applaud your desire to eat locally, know where your food comes from, etc. However, I think that in the attempt for eating purity, people sometimes don't see the forest for the trees. Feeding your family better is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. "Locavores" can choose to drink coffee or use vanilla, or choose to use pectin or sugar, attempting fair-trade, cruelty-free, etc. Eating better can be done thoughtfully, and doesn't have to be perfect.

                            I can my home-grown, as well as farmers-market, produce and fruit (scroll down this article for a picture of my pickles, applesauce, peaches and tomatoes in Shannon Hayes' article http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/... I dry home-grown figs and apples. I buy beef, lamb, pork and goat from growers I know, and freeze it. I have foraged olives curing on the counter and homemade pancetta hanging in the garage right now. Blah, blah, blah. The point is, I know a thing or two about eating responsibly and close to home. However, I don't know the provenance of every single ingredient I use. I'm too busy with all the work it takes to eat this way to do it perfectly. I guess my message to you is: lighten up, you can only do so much. And, if you try to do everything perfectly, you are more likely to get frustrated and give up.

                            A couple of notes: absolutely agree with the_MU about freezing produce. It often makes much more sense than canning. And, you definitely don't need pectin for a lot of things. Scroll down this post for Dixieday's amazing strawberry jam http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/278415 This thread includes my no-pectin blackberry jam http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/310292

                            1. re: jewel460

                              There is a flexible pectin sold in naturla food stores that works based on Calcium, not on citric acid/sugar level combo. It is called "Pomona Universal Pectin", and can be used with many different sweeteners, including locally derived fruit juice you pressed yourself.
                              I taught canning at PCC natural Markets here in the Seattle area for a couple of years (I have canned all my life, and my mom used to use no/reduced sugar methods when possible, even in the 70's). I have done alot of research and testing for those classes, which from the first included locavores, vegans, etc. I do NOT know the source or manufacturing conditions of this product, but I believe you could do some research and probably locate someone at the company to email with your questions about this topic. The product is geared to you as an audience, so I imagine you could do some checking, and find that this product would work for sweet canning and meet your needs while being reliable.

                              1. re: jewel460

                                The Ball Blue Book is just about everyone's canning text, especially for a beginner. The current edition carries at least a 2009 copyright date. It's a good basic place to start and it is inexpensive to acquire. I daresay any class you take will refer to it and recommend it as a reference text.

                            2. I'm a little confused. You're contemplating a pressure canner for jams? Back when I canned jams, I never canned them under pressure; they're typically done with hot water bath. (And when I did use pectin, I never used the powdered stuff.)

                              And honestly, I can't think of anything I would pressure can using pectin - these days, I primarily can stocks, tomatoes, and, occasionally, sauce (though I found I prefer sauce frozen rather than canned).

                              Definitely pick up the Blue Book - and I also rely on the handbook that came with my canner ("All American" brand - http://www.allamericancanner.com/alla...) and guidelines from the USDA - http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications...

                              1. Sunshine's rec of contacting your local county cooperative extension is right on. They offer FREE classes every year for beginning home preservers. They also have a program called the Master Preserver/Food Volunteer which goes into more depth on more subjects and while free, requires you to donate hours back to the community helping with extension sponsored projects. Unfortunately every extension doesn't carry the MP/FV program but they all do the introductory canning classes.

                                American pressure canners are the Cadillac of pressure canners and accordingly pricey. I lust after one. I'm using a Rival that I got online for $70 and it's serving me very well. BTW, the extension also does free pressure gauge testing to make sure your gauge is reading right. You want to do that at least once a year. You need the pressure canner to do low acid foods like veg, some tomato products, stocks, soups, and meats.

                                Water bath canners are used for high acid foods: jams, pickles, fruits, condiments, etc. It doesn't have to be an official water bath setup. You can get away with any large pot and a McGyvered rack to raise the jars off the bottom. I've used zip tied jar rings in the past as a rack. But the pot has to be deep enough that it can hold enough water to cover the jars by 2 inches.

                                No matter what "they" say, pectin is pectin is pectin. All fruits have it in varying amounts. If a recipe says to add lemon but doesn't call for commercial pectin, when you add the lemon you're adding pectin. It's not unnatural in boxed or liquid form, it's just convenient. If you want to get away from copious amounts of sugar or use another type of sweetener, use a low/no sugar pectin like those made by Ball or Kerr, or Pomona pectin. Both use calcium to trigger jelling but the Ball and Kerr brands already have the calcium mixed in. Pomona needs to have it added separately. I'm a huge fan of Ball low/no sugar. Convenient and easy.

                                Definitely pick up a copy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: http://www.amazon.com/Ball-Complete-B... Not just the Ball Blue Book which is offered as an annual and available in grocery stores. The first book has far more information for beginning canners (and experienced ones as well) and you will use it over and over, while the annual is usually just a redaction of a few recipes and instructions contained in the complete volume. I consider the annual more of a marketing tool for Ball.

                                Another book I can't recommend highly enough is Preserving Summer's Bounty By Marilyn Kluge: http://www.amazon.com/Preserving-Summ...
                                Do not get it confused with the Rodale book of the same name. The Marilyn Kluge book is superior. It's also becoming hard to find so snatch it up while you can.

                                The National Center for Home Food Preservation ( http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/ ) is the go-to website for the most up to date information on how-to, safety, and approved recipes. An incredibly valuable resource.

                                Home preserving is intimidating at first, but as you get more familiar with the methods it becomes a joyful chore. Just start out keeping true to the safe basics and in time you'll learn what parts of a recipe can be safely tweaked to customize products to your tastes.

                                1. I agree with almost everything that has been posted here, except I am going to gently push back on the views that state that commercial pectin is just like homemade pectin. I am reading off a Certo box right now (which I bought and subsequently didn't use because of the ingredients) and the ingredients include Sodium Benzoate which has been cited as a concern about cancer because when mixed with the additive vitamin C it causes benzene, a carcinogenic substance. So it appears not all pectin is created equal ... maybe there are other commercial brands that are SB free, but as jewel460 points out, what pesticides etc. might also be in there.

                                  I think your objective is fantastic, jewel460 ... and I suspect that some of the advice you've received is because your post is called "new to canning" and then you cite certain objectives like using juice concentrates and stevia and we all know, you included it now seems, that canning requires certain ingredients/interactions to make it a success and, more importantly, to make it safe. So enjoy and be safe -- which is all we posters want for you!

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: CocoTO

                                    ((sodium benzoate))

                                    Is your Certo liquid? I use powdered pectin and I've never seen that ingredient on any of the packages (Ball, Sure Jell, etc.). But in browsing ingredients on the web, it looks like that is an ingredient in liquid pectins.

                                    1. re: LNG212

                                      ... yes, it's liquid in pouches ...

                                      1. re: CocoTO

                                        I tried the liquid pectin once this year and was not happy with the results. I'll stick with the powdered kind. And no sodium benzoate which I didn't even know about. So thanks for pointing that out.

                                        1. re: LNG212

                                          I'll agree with that -- I've used both liquid and powdered pectin, and I'll choose powdered just because I've never been all that pleased with the results from the liquid.

                                          Here in Europe you can buy sugar with powdered pectin already in the bag...and I've gone back to powdered pectin because the sugar/pectin mix is VERY inconsistent.

                                      2. re: LNG212

                                        Exactly what I found as well LNG. I couldn't check the liquid ingredients because having little call for it, I don't keep it on hand.

                                        Jewel, please don't assume that just because something's "local" or sold in a farmers market that it's automatically "...therefore cruelty and pesticide free...". Buying local does give you the advantage of investigating the sources of your food and making educated decisions about your purchases. While the vast majority of vendors will be fair and honest, nearly every farmers market has a story about a vendor trying to pass off produce bought from distributors as local and/or organic. Organic doesn't always equal pesticide-free either. Your local organic farmers may be using OMRI-approved pesticides and products in order to bring their crops and livestock to market. You can find PDF files of those products here: http://www.omri.org/omri-lists/download
                                        While these products are approved for organic use some of them are or can be downright nasty by themselves or if used too often or incorrectly applied. Some of them can accumulate over time in the soil and cause problems down the road if used regularly in home gardens.

                                        As far as pectins go, you don't *need* to use commercial pectins. You can learn to make pectin from citrus and/or apples, but making pectin is an entire canning project in and of itself and the resultant jars of pectin eat up valuable storage real estate that, in my opinion, is better spent on food storage. Home made pectin from strictly organic citrus and apples will also cost you far more in time and money than commercially made pectin but if you have those two items in abundance or access to free organic produce, that issue becomes nearly moot.

                                        So what it all comes down to is getting yourself really, really informed, making educated decisions, and sometimes, unfortunately, choosing between the lesser of two evils.

                                        One other note about low/no sugar pectin: this type of pectin besides requiring very little sugar or sweetener (and you can use it to make jams with no added sweeteners at all), reaches the set stage in only a few minutes leaving you with a fresher, fruitier tasting product that is lower in sugar and higher in nutritional value (for whatever that's worth in a condiment) than the heavier sugared, longer cooking pectins and "pectin-free" recipes.

                                        If you haven't come across it yet, "Mes Confitures" ( http://www.amazon.com/Mes-Confitures-... ) is about canning without the use of added pectin. But it is heavy on the added sugars and the long cooking times. Ms. Ferber also is not big on waterbathing but from what I've seen there's no reason why you can't make her recipes if you choose and then give them a 10 minute trip through the water bath for added safety.

                                        1. re: morwen

                                          <<a fresher, fruitier tasting product>>

                                          I definitely agree with that! I tried some no-commercial pectin recipes and the amount of sugar required really surprised me. In addition, I found the result to lack that bright fresh taste that I like and that really highlights what I try to focus on -- whatever the great crop of fruit is that season (for me this past summer it was peaches). Instead, the no-commercial pectin recipes ended up with a really "cooked" and overly sweet flavor.

                                          Don't know if that helps the OP at all, though. That's my experience.

                                          1. re: LNG212

                                            Wow! Yeah, last summer's peaches and nectarines were in-effing-credible! I haven't had any that good since the summer I was pregnant with my son in '81! And now the jars of that juicy goodness are dwindling down... sad morwen :-(

                                            1. re: morwen

                                              ha yes. I made so many peach things this year canning. And usually I give away a lot of stuff as gifts for the holidays. But this year I kept saying, "no I want to keep that" and "no not that either". DH finally got a little frustrated and said "We can't keep it all!" I gave 2 jars of a spiced peach jam to a friend and she "confessed" to me that she just ate it with a spoon right out of the jar! I just loved that.

                                              1. re: morwen

                                                Yeah, the canned peaches in winter:) I give some away at Christmas and a friend of mine sweetly said she would be willing to take any extra jars off my hands, the thing that made me laugh was she said I'll even take the floaters! And as a fellow peach canner I know you know what I mean!

                                      3. Gourmet Preserves Chez Madelaine by Madelaine Bullwinkel is a cookbook that uses homemade pectin stock for jams and jellies. I don't use pectin of any type for my jams. With the exception of the cranberry raspberry preserves (cranberries are high in natural pectin) they are pretty runny but they taste great. No one I have given them to have complained.

                                        1. Oh dear! There are so many factual errors in so many people's posts I don't know where to begin. But I will do my best....I am a canning instructor and I only teach USDA approved methods, so you can take what I say here as factual and thoroughtly researched. I'm glad you are taking up canning!

                                          -I recommend starting out with boiling water bath (BWB canning) to start because it's lots easier. You can make any high acid (>4.6 pH) food, which is all fruits and pickles. Tomatoes are not a high acid food - to BWB can them in salsas, on their own, or in sauce, you MUST ADD ACID, like vinegar, lemon juice, etc.

                                          -you can't get botulism from canning high acid foods, so start with them. Botulism is very, very rare. You are much more likely to die of other food borne pathogens from cooking in your own kitchen or eating out.

                                          -sugar DOES NOT ACT as a preservative in home canned foods. You can can fruits without sugar, but they won't taste very good. You can certainly use juice and juice concentrates, but a little sugar or honey definitelly helps the taste. Artificial sweeteners and stevia can have aftertastes that are magnified in canning. You do need sugar for jams and jellies to have them set up properly.

                                          -Pomona pectin IS NOT "Natural". I'll share how to make your own in another reply

                                          - My favorite canning book is the "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving" by Judi Kingry. It will have lots of interesting recipes for you to try and it gives a much more thorough treatment of techniques than the trusty Ball Blue Book, which is really just a magazine about canning. It will teach you how to make your own pectin, too. Stay away from Mes Confitures - even though it is an interesting book, it is difficult for a beginning canner to use. I use it mostly for inspiration for flavor combos, day dreaming about France and looking at the pictures, which are beautiful.

                                          -once you've mastered BWB canning AND become comfortable using a pressure cooker to cook meals, then you might want to venture into pressure canning. I covet this one http://www.allamericancanner.com/alla... but I own a cheaper Mirro model.

                                          -How about trying out canning right now to learn? Citrus is a great thing to can in winter - many people like marmalades, but I like to can citrus to eat out of the jar. YUM! Would you like a recipe?

                                          15 Replies
                                          1. re: momskitchen

                                            "Pomona pectin IS NOT "Natural"."
                                            I have to disagree.

                                            From Food.com's Kitchen Dictionary:
                                            "Pomona's Universal Pectin is a sugar-free, low-methoxyl citrus pectin that is activated by calcium.

                                            **Pomona's Universal Pectin is derived from the peel and pulp of lemon and lime, and to a minor extent orange and grapefruit.**

                                            Citrus peel is a by-product from juice and oil pressing and contains a high proportion of pectin. Since it does not require sugar to jell, jams and jellies can be made with less, little, or no sugar (making it perfect for diabetics and low-carbers). Some other possible sweeteners are honey, fructose, sucanat, concentrated fruit sweetener, maple syrup, agave, frozen juice concentrate, stevia, xylitol, Splenda and other artificial sweeteners. The only drawback is that the shelf life of jams and preserves without sugar is considerably shorter. The obvious benefit of using Pomona's pectin is a healthy, intensely fruity, and consistently gelled jam."

                                            From Oregon State University ( http://food.oregonstate.edu/glossary/... ):
                                            "PECTIN, LOW METHOXYL PECTIN (Pomona Pectin, Ball or Sure-Jel low/no sugar pectin), SODIUM PECTINATE... is a gum which is water soluble pectinic acid of varying methyl ester content and degree of neutralization.

                                            **It is obtained from citrus peel and apple pomace.**

                                            It forms a gel in systems of low pH (pH 2.8-3.7) and high sugar (55-80%) levels. The gel sets at 55-99C and melts above 70C.

                                            **Pectins are characterized by rapid and slow set types. The high methoxyl pectins (Ball or Sure-Jel regular pectins, home made pectins) have a degree of methylation (DM) greater than 50% while those of less than 50% degree of methylation are termed low methoxyl pectins.**

                                            The low methoxyl pectins gel in the presence of calcium ions and do not require a certain level of acid or sugar. It is used in beverages at 0.1 - 0.2%, in jams and jellies at 0.1-0.4% and in confectioner jelly at 0.8 - 1.5%."

                                            I've added the above parantheses and asterisks for clarification.

                                            Ball, Sure-Jell, and Pomona pectins, regular or low/no sugar, are all made from citrus and/or apple, as is home made pectin.
                                            The only difference in pectins, commercial or home made, is their degree methylation and the low/no sugar pectins use of calcium (which is not unnatural) to trigger the gel set.

                                            I too, am a canning instructor and a week away from certification as a Master Preserver/Food Volunteer. I teach only USDA approved methods in beginner classes. In advanced classes I teach how to SAFELY tweak recipes within USDA guidelines and how to test for acidity levels to students who approach me about it because they want to go where the USDA guidelines won't take them. Every advance class has at least one of these students. You know they're going to go down that road despite discouragement. Arming them with knowledge of acid testing is about the only thing you can do in hopes that they stay safe.

                                            I agree that "Mes Confiture" is not a book for beginners but it is a fine collection of preserves with no added pectin. I do not own or use the book but I have read it and I remember noting that the recipes in there could be safely water bathed.

                                            1. re: morwen

                                              Fair enough - I guess if you wanted to say that because boxed pectins start out as something from nature and that makes it "Natural", I guess you could. I'm more of a "granola head" type of person that doesn't go for all that processing. A pectin factory receives apple residue or citrus peels from juice factories. It's mixed with acid to get all the pectin out of the sludge. The solids are separated and then alcohol is added to precipitate the pectin out of solution. Ammonia is added to some kinds to make it work without added sugar normally needed (those expensive brands of pectin that allow you to make jams and jellies without adding sugar), and then it's mixed with dextrose or sugar to stabilize it.

                                              For the no/low sugar kinds of boxed pectin like Pomona's, it's even more of a science project. It's made in the same way as regular pectin, but then some amide groups are then introduced into the pectin molecule during the process of de-esterification (a process by which the pectin is changed from high-methoxyl to low-methoxyl). High-methoxyl pectin requires a sugar concentration above 55% to gel whereas low-methoxyl pectin gels in the presence of calcium ions. So, users of this style of pectin have to make a calcium solution and add it to the fruit. So instead of sugar, you're adding calcium ions, so preservers can use other sweeteners like Splenda. I don't care if they sell Pomona's pectin at Whole Foods, I don't think I want to eat anything that requires "de-estrification" or adding calcium ions. I'm not interested in using sugar substitutes, so I will just stick with my home made stuff.

                                              BTW, here's another GREAT canning book that doesn't use boxed pectins....it is Linda Ziedrich's Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Sweet Preserves ...also her Joy of Pickling is great, too.

                                              1. re: momskitchen

                                                There's no Whole Foods or Trader Joe's within 100 miles of here that I'm aware of so I'm just lost when people refer to those places.

                                                While I found information on the process to extract pectin from the sludge (and frankly I don't have a problem with apple and citrus sludge. They're getting one more use out of the pomace left over from juicing. I make fruit leathers and cheeses out of the sludge/pomace left in my jelly bags.) I somehow missed, or the information wasn't included about the ammonia step. I would need to read that. Ammonia (for example Baker's Ammonia), like lye, has been used for hundreds of years in the making and preserving of some foods and the initial thought has a tendency to squick people out. The fact that pectin is mixed with dextrose (a form of sugar) or sugar for stabilization doesn't bother me at all. Because after all you are going to add more sugar in some form to it when you make your jam or jelly.

                                                GASP!! I LOVE Sure-Jel low/no sugar pectin. Heresy, I know! I buy it by the case. Because the calcium is already in there and I don't have to futz around measuring and making a separate solution to add to it like Pomona. I control the amount and type of sugar added. The cooking time is short and has less impact on the fruit both in taste and nutrition. It's convenient. The added amides and de-estrification process described really doesn't bother me. And I'm introducing calcium ions every day into my body on the recommendation of my dr, in the form of a 1200mg calcium tablet. I always recommend Ball or Sure-Jell low/no sugar pectin to beginning canners because it's very forgiving and unlike Pomona, regular, home made pectins, and no added pectin recipes, it is all but guaranteed to get a set. They really have to eff it up to not get a set. It's important for their first jars to be a success. It encourages them to try more. With more experience down the road they can move on and experiment with the pectin of their choice or "no added pectin."

                                                So while I may be a "granola head" in some respects, in others, if I understand and am ok with the process used in a product that makes preserving a little more convenient, tasty, and nutritious, I'll use it.

                                                1. re: morwen

                                                  Well no nationwide off beat health food stores like Trader Joes or Whole Foods... but is there a good old fashioned Health food store in your area? probably carries similar stuff but not nearly as over priced and yuppified.. lol...

                                                  Yes i am finding Pomonas a little bit tricky... but I do like the fact that I do get to be in charge of altering the proportions of calcium to the "pectin".. I finally moved to trying Pomonas.. mainly because of the sugar quantities i was using when just using the naturally occuring pectin (mm my pepper jelly made with apples, cranberries and peppers jelled perfectly and i used no additional pectin or coloring.. was very proud of myself.. but wanted lower sugar content.

                                                  I did make my own citrus pectin, with the leftovers of trying to master marmalade... still at a stand still about how effective either experiment is(still fussing over consitency)... but i have 16 individual cups of home made citrus in the freezer...

                                                  1. re: sapperangel

                                                    Oh yeah, we have an also overpriced health/gourmet/natural foods store, but we have something even better - a Mennonite bulk foods store. All kinds of pectin there, and everything else, at the lowest prices around.

                                                    1. re: morwen

                                                      Mennonite bulk stores rock! I miss my old fave (Echo Hill Country Store, in Dryville, PA)--used to go when I lived in PA Dutch country (and even after I moved to Delaware for grad school--less than 2 hours away). Don't have that here in my part of Indiana. I still make a shopping trip there when I visit the family.

                                              2. re: morwen

                                                Morwen, that's fantastic about your certification! Our extension no longer offers that training here in Michigan. I have the same experience with tweakers as you in my advanced classes, too. I spend part of my class talking about safe tweaking. My problem is trying to convince folks that they have to add acid to tomatoes, because no one's grandma ever did.

                                                1. re: morwen

                                                  WOW!! Dueling USDA canning instructors.

                                                  1. re: al b. darned

                                                    LOL! And not only that but friendly dueling USDA canning instructors!

                                                    MK-yeah, that and using bottled lemon juice for acidity consistency ("but fresh MUST be better")are the thorniest issues. Next is "Mom and Gramma used paraffin seals, turned jars upside down to seal, canned in the oven, (and my personal favorite) canned in the dishwasher and we never got sick" Yeah, well Mom & Gramma and food science didn't know this stuff back then. And if you say, "Remember that case of the trots and low grade fever you had a few hours after eating "whatever" way back when? That was probably mild food poisoning.", they get all offended.

                                                    1. re: morwen

                                                      How about the microwave canning method? I hear about that one every once in a while. I'm not quite sure how that one was supposed to work.

                                                      1. re: momskitchen

                                                        omg. All I can see is exploded glass.

                                                    2. re: al b. darned

                                                      Nah, I'd never duel with Morwen! She rocks!

                                                      1. re: momskitchen

                                                        **looks up from opening knife roll**

                                                        ...at least I found that flanged mace I used for a meat mallet... now where's my epee... oh! what? right. no dueling.


                                                    3. re: morwen

                                                      I am late to this exchange - thanks Morwen, for sharing your expert knowledge. I am printing your post on the details of pectins to use in my classes:) - with your permission I hope?

                                                      1. re: gingershelley

                                                        You're welcome and yes by all means use it, especially if you link to here: http://eatingfloyd.blogspot.com/2011/... to credit it.

                                                  2. Please try the Ball Canning Books, and this is their website. They also have bulletin board: http://www.freshpreserving.com/. Most recipes must be followed exactly for safety reasons.

                                                    1. Add me to the Ball Blue Book fan club. I tried to teach myselt to can based on info from the internet. I accidentally came across the Ball Blue Book at the store, purchased it, and read it cover to cover one night. It was like someone turned on the lights. It is an incredible resource.

                                                      1. I can't add much to what's already been said, but...

                                                        I have canned my own stuff for over 25 years. While that doesn't make me an expert, I feel that it gives me the authority to say "RTFM!" I am not a go-by-the-book sort of person, but when it comes to canning I do...religiously.

                                                        In addition to the Ball book recommended so many times here, I have relied on "Putting Food By" for all of my canning years.


                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: al b. darned

                                                          "...I have relied on "Putting Food By"..."

                                                          Yes! Another fine book. The ex got that one. I really need to replace it.

                                                            1. re: al b. darned

                                                              Took me several months but I finally figured out "RTFM". Duh. Really, I'm not slow. I like to call it "thorough".


                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  Would that be "The Manual of Acronyms for Dummies" ? Nah, don't need it. I live with a veteran.

                                                                  1. re: morwen

                                                                    Mrs. ABD married one, so she is getting used to the acronyms.

                                                              1. Here's how to make your own pectin for jam....
                                                                You can make jams that rely on a pectin rich apple and lemon puree that thickens the jam without making it too sweet. The puree is made from boiling:
                                                                5 tart apples, stems and blossom ends removed and chopped coarsely, cores intact
                                                                1 or 2 lemons or limes, unpeeled and chopped fine *
                                                                *number and type of citrus depends on the the fruit type, some need more pectin than others
                                                                Boil apples and citrus in enough water to prevent sticking for 20 minutes until soft. Force through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon to make 2 cups puree.
                                                                Fruit and sugar needed to make different kinds of jams:
                                                                Blueberry - 4 cups berries, 3 cups sugar, use 1 lime in puree
                                                                Raspberry - 4 cups berries, 5 cups sugar, use 1 lemon in puree
                                                                Red Currant 6 cups currants, 5 1/2 cups sugar, use 1 lemon in puree
                                                                Peach - 6 cups pitted peeled and chopped peaches, 5 1/2 cups sugar, use 2 lemons in puree
                                                                Plum - 6 cups pitted chopped plums, 5 1/2 cups sugar, use 1 lemons in puree
                                                                Add fruit and sugar to puree in a deep pot, bring to a boil and stir frequently over medium heat. Boil for 20 minutes until mixture thickens and reaches 220 F. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.


                                                                1. Have you looked at Pomona's Universal Pectin?
                                                                  It's an excellent pectin that allows you to choose the amount of sugar. Very nice.

                                                                  I have the ball home canning guide and I think its a good starter.
                                                                  But there are a plethora of canning books out there nowdays.

                                                                  Best of luck!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: carlymae

                                                                    My favorite source for other sugars and pectin choices and options are the food bloggers... all sorts of reasons why they cook other than conventionally... so many different types of sugars and gluten alternatives... totally addicted to food blogs....

                                                                  2. How did you fair with your canning ? I hope you attempted after all these interesting replies and they did not scare you off. Hats off to keeping it local! Canning is easy, fun and heallthy. Generally, anything like jams and jellies and foodstuffs with vinegar: pickles, chutneys, etc., can be done in a hot water bath; straight canning of vegetable or stocks go into a pressure cooker. If you keep everything clean and sterile and process for the correct amount of time you should be fine. If you ever pop something open and it smells or bubbles - throw it away. Canning and preserving is fun for the whole family - get the kids involved. I learned from my mother, who learned from her mother , and so on! Love to hear how you fared.