Pectin’s Role in Making Jam and Jelly

There are different types of pectin that can be used in jam and jelly making. Understanding how pectin works, and its proper use assures a quality product.
Pectin’s Role in Making Jam and Jelly - Videos


Pectin occurs naturally in fruit. Pectin along with sugar, acid, and proper cooking are necessary for gel formation. Commercial pectin products are available for use to help reduce cooking time and assure good gel formation.


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- Martha, what is pectin?

- Pectin is a thread-like carbohydrate.

It occurs naturally in fruit and is concentrated in the skins and cores and is activated when it is heated.

This is what it looks like when you buy it commercially from the box.

Those pectin threads must get close together and cross-bond to form a gel.

The correct amount of sugar and acid are necessary to form those bonds that the pectin provides.

- Why add pectin if fruit naturally contains it?

- Fruit contains varying amounts of natural pectin.

Cooking time can be reduced by using commercial pectin.

When using regular pectin, also referred to as classic pectin, or traditional pectin, a careful balance of ingredients is required.

That's why it is so important to find, to follow research-tested recipes such as the inserts that come with the commercial pectin boxes or containers.

- Are there different types of pectins?

- There are many different types of pectins.

We're going to talk about regular pectin here and about low-sugar pectin in another video.

Commercial pectin comes in two forms.

The liquid pectin found in a pouch like this, and powdered pectins.

And compared to long-cooking jams, they yield higher amounts of jelly per measure of juice, and they allow you to use fully ripe fruit.

But it does require more sugar.

This extra sugar may mask the flavor of the fruit, but because the cooking time is shorter, the fruit flavor is still good.

No doneness tests are needed when you use commercial pectin.

Generally, uniform results occur resulting in a high-quality product.

However, the ripeness of the fruit and the jelly-maker's techniques can cause variations in results from one time to the next.

- Which is better, liquid or powdered pectin?

- It's a matter of individual preference.

However, one form cannot be substituted for another.

When a recipe calls for liquid pectin, use only liquid pectin such as Certo or Ball liquid pectin.

When the recipe calls for powdered pectin, use only the powdered form such as Mrs. Wages, the Ball Classic, or the Sure Jell.

I repeat, liquid pectin and powdered pectin are not interchangeable.

The order in which each is added to the other ingredients differs, and adding them at the wrong time will result in failure.

- Is there anything else I should know about pectin?

- Yes, pectin is heat sensitive.

Overcooking destroys pectin.

And undercooking does not heat it enough to form a set.

Over time, the gelling capacity of pectin breaks down.

Look for the use by date on the pectin on the package.

- I've also seen recipes using Clear Jel or Jell-O.

Could you comment on those?

- Sure.

Don't confuse these products with pectin.

Their thickening ability is based on something other than pectin and are not suitable for canned jams for long-term storage.

Modified food starches are not the same as pectin.

Clear Jel and Therm-Flo are modified food starches and cannot be substituted for powdered pectin.

There are no USDA recipes for jams and jellies using Clear Jel or Therm-Flo.

In fact, using instant Clear Jel for a canned jelly would be unsafe and could cause a foodborne illness.

Likewise, there are no USDA recipes for canned jellies using gelatin like Jell-O.

Jellies and jams made with any of these starches or gelatin should be refrigerated and used promptly or frozen for long-term storage.

In summary, selecting the correct form of pectin and following directions for combining it with the fruit should give you the jelly and jam that you want.

- Thanks, Martha.

- You're welcome.


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