How to Use Pectin in Jam

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Pectin is a naturally occurring substance in fruits that, when heated to boiling for a short period of time, causes the liquid in which it's cooking to gel. Commercial pectin is available in both powder and liquid forms for use in home canning applications such as jam and jelly making. Making recipes with added pectin results in a healthier product, larger yield and less work for you.

Things You'll Need

  • Your favorite jam recipe
  • Fruit (prepared according to that recipe)
  • Sugar
  • Pectin
  • Lemon juice (optional; depends on recipe)
  • 3-gallon or larger nonreactive cooking pot
  • Potato masher (optional; depends on fruit)
  • Long, heat-resistant spoon
  • Read your recipe to determine which type (and amount) of pectin is required. Although liquid and powdered pectin are both available for home use, recipes will specify which one is needed. Commercial pectin is very fragile, and the two types cannot be substituted for one another, so it's important to follow your recipe's directions exactly.

  • Mix your fruit, sugar, pectin and lemon juice (if required by the recipe) in your pot as the recipe specifies. Since you're using commercial pectin, larger pieces of fruit that might otherwise break down through long cook times may need your potato masher's assistance.

  • Boil your jam for exactly the amount of time specified by your recipe. Set a timer to ensure that you do not go over or under the amount of time required. Too long a boil will cause the pectin to start breaking down, which will mean your jam won't hold together the way a good jam should. Too short a boil will mean your pectin won't have the chance to bring your jam to the gelling point.

  • Turn the heat off once the timer has sounded. Proceed with canning your jam as per your usual procedure immediately, while the jam is still hot. It may take 24 hours or more for you to see the jam set up properly as a result of using commercial pectin. Don't be alarmed if you don't see it gelling up immediately; it's completely normal.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your jam doesn't set up properly the first time, most jams can be remade. Manufacturers of commercial pectins (such as Certo and Ball) have specific recipes for remaking jam so that you don't have to discard a whole batch. Check the instructions that came with your pectin, or look on the manufacturer's website.
  • Always make jam recipes with commercial pectin exactly according to directions. Don't double or halve the recipes. Overcooking or undercooking pectin by even a short period of time can ruin a batch of jam very easily. Since the window of time in which commercial pectins do their job is so short, recipes need to be followed to the letter. If you want more jam, make another batch.
  • Commercial pectins have expiration dates. Pay close attention to these and throw your pectin out if it's too old. It won't pose a health hazard if you use old pectin, but you'll be running the risk that it won't work.

References

  • "Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving" (100th Anniversary Edition), Hearthmark, 2009
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