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Adding pectin to help jam set
11:20am Wednesday 18th April 2012 in Questions and Answers
Q I am relatively new to jam making and find some fruits such as strawberries, difficult to get to “set” I've been told to add pectin but where can I find this and will anything else do the job?
Pectin is necessary to the process as it is this that gets the jam to set. It is a natural gum-like substance found in varying amounts in seeds, pips, cores and skins of fruit. When fruits are crushed and heated, the pectin is released and mixes with the natural acids to produce a jelly- like set.
Fruits vary in pectin so if beginning jam making, start with a fruit high in pectin for almost certain success! As a general rule fruit with a firm skin such as black, red and white currants, damsons, gooseberries, citrus fruit and apples are all high, apricots, early black berries, most plums, raspberries and Morella cherries are medium while strawberries ( perhaps the most sought after jam!), elderberries, peaches and so on are low.
If using low pectin ingredients you can either add pectin in the form of freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 tablespoons to or citric acid at one teaspoon per 1kg (2lb) fruit. You can also buy Pectin from most supermarkets and health food shops.
Sugar is a consideration. Jam or preserving sugar contains pectin and dissolves quickly but it is more expensive than other sugar.
Testing for pectin - you can test fruit for the pectin level by cooking until soft and then putting a tea spoon into a container of methylated spirits. Swish it round and if the fruit is high pectin, the fruit will go into a solid ball, medium will go into two or three clots and a low pectin will have lots of little blobs or no clots at all. This will tell you if you need to add a source of pectin.
Why not make your own?
Pectin stock - once made this will keep for a week in the fridge or freeze it for up to about three months for future use. Roughly chop 900g (2lb) cooking apples including cores, peel and pips. Boil and then simmer for around three quarters of an hour or until extremely soft and then strain through a jelly bag over a bowl.
This can take two to three hours to go through the bag. Then boil the juices again for around 20 minutes to reduce the volume by a third. Allow to cool and either freeze or store in the fridge as above - defrost before use. A teaspoon of this will improve the set of a jam.
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