Make your own pectin.
Pectin is a naturally occurring substance found in berries, apples and other fruit that acts as a ‘setting’ agent for jams and jellies. To be a successful jam or jelly maker you don't need know any more than that or how it works but if you are interested you can find out more about the chemistry of the gel here.
What you do need to know is that different fruits have different levels of natural pectin concentration. That is why we need to add pectin to some fruit to make jam or jelly set but not others. This useful table showing pectin concentrations in fruit and vegetables explains all.
Making your own liquid pectin is easy. (Of course you can buy prepared pectin which is an extract from apples with added citric acid and it is completely safe and natural and doesn't alter the flavour of the jam or jelly you are making at all.)
It requires no special knowledge, just apples. The best apples to use are the small under ripe ones that are sacrificed from the tree in early summer to allow those left behind to grow larger and healthier. I like the idea of using something that would have gone to waste being used to help preserve other fruits. Crab apples, also high in pectin, can be used too, as can the part of the apple you may otherwise throw away such as the skin, the pips and the cores . You can collect these bits, one set at a time and stash them away in the deep freezer till you have enough to make a batch of home made pectin.
Home Made Apple Pectin Recipe
What if things go wrong?
Every time I make a batch of jam or jelly the outcome is different because there are so many variables that cannot be entirely controlled. Thanks to Pick your Own for suggesting some of the reasons why my jam and jelly is not always as successful as I wish it to be.
Too stiff or lumpy jam
If gel formation is too strong, due to way too much pectin, the jam becomes stiff, lumpy or granular in texture.
Cooking too long, but not at a high temperature, can boil off water, without breaking the pectin down. This results in jam that is too stiff.
This also occurs if the temperature is too high, for too long, or the jam is not stirred frequently.
Using underripe fruit, which has more pectin than ripe fruit, with the same amount of pectin as the recipe requires for ripe fruit, also makes stiff jellies and jams. FYI, commercial pectin is intended for use with fully ripe (but not overripe) fruit.
Undercooking (it must hit a full rolling boil for ONE minute) or too little pectin or sugar leads to runny jam.
Overheating - that is too high temperatures or uneven heat distribution builds excess heat which causes the pectin to break down. This is why you shouldn't make double batches - due to inherently uneven heating of home cookware - commercial canning equipment is design to heat more uniformly.
The most important point to remember is "have a go"! It doesn't matter if your strawberry jam is a little soft set, pour it over ice cream. Or if your gooseberry jam sets hard, serve it with cheese on a cheese board. That's the beauty of home made preserves. Each has a personality of its own!
Happy Jam and jelly making. Please visit my website and like and share this post if you have found it useful.
With Thanks to growyourown.org for information on Pectin.