Using pectin for jam making
Summer is almost upon us, which can only mean one thing – it is time to start thinking about all the lovely jams we are going to make this year. With strawberries ripening by the day and soft fruit growing ever plumper on the bushes in the fruit garden, now is the time to get out your maslin pan, stock up on jam jars, and come up with some creative and mouthwatering ideas for this year’s batch of jam. If you have had variable results with the consistency of your jam in the past, it might be down to the type of fruit you used. Read on to find out why different fruits always set better than others.
What exactly is pectin?
This mysterious substance is a natural gelling agent that occurs in fruits and gives jams their sticky consistency. Different fruits have different levels of pectin, which is why some jams seem to ‘set’ better than others. Apples, gooseberries, plums and citrus fruits such as lemons and limes are high in pectin, whilst strawberries, apricots, blueberries and raspberries have much lower levels. If you want to make jam using one of these fruits, you either need to add pectin or combine your fruit with another fruit to help it set properly. It is also worth bearing in mind that pectin levels decrease in very ripe fruit; therefore, it is worth trying to use fruit that is slightly under-ripe if possible.
How to use pectin for jam making
If you plan to make jam using fruit such as strawberries or raspberries, you will need to increase the pectin levels. Many recipes simply include a liberal splash of lemon juice to provide the necessary pectin; alternatively, you can buy pectin to add to your preserves, either as a liquid or a powder. Check out the home baking section in the supermarket or try a specialist store to see what is available.
You can even make your own pectin from tart apples. As apples are not necessarily in season at the same time as the fruits you want to make jam with, you can always make your pectin and freeze it ready to defrost when the time comes for jam making. Making it simply involves boiling chopped apples with water and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice for about 20 minutes, then straining and storing in sterilised jars. If you are freezing it, be sure to use plastic jars.