Liquid vs Powdered Pectin?
June 12, 2006 4:20 AM   Subscribe

Does liquid pectin cause jam to set more slowly?

For the last three weeks, I have been making strawberry jam. The first week results were perfect. It was a double batch in which my measurements were not 100%. The second batch, made a week ago, still has not set. My ratio of fruit to sugar to pectin was off. Yesterday's batch also did not set. I made sure I followed the recipe exactly. Batch one was made with powdered pectin. Batches two and three were made with liquid pectin.

This is my second year making jam. The only time my previous jams did not set right away was when I made an apricot/red plum jam and only used one box of pectin for what was essentially a double batch of jam. I had read that plums have a high pectin content and that apricots take forever to set. It did eventually set though it took about 2 months.

So, does liquid pectin take longer to work? When making jam, which version gave you better results?
posted by onhazier to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It could also have been boiling time - they tell you "10 minutes" (or whatever) but what they really mean is that you have to get to a certain temperature. A lot of the gel action is really the sugar - you can make jam with no pectin that gels pretty well.

So if it was a double batch, you might not have cooked it long enough. You can try to re-boil it, which has worked for me in the past when I accidentally made several jarrs of "dessert topping". Think about getting a candy thermometer and watching the temperature instead of the time.
posted by GuyZero at 4:40 AM on June 12, 2006

IIRC, I never had much luck with the liquid pectin and never used it after I figured that out.
We called it ice cream topping and gave it to the neighbors.
What G.Z. says, too, there's some science involved.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:04 AM on June 12, 2006

Response by poster: Boiling time was fine. Once you add in the pectin, you bring it all back up to a rolling boil for 1 minute. I'll leave it in the pantry for a few months to see if it eventually sets.

You are right that some fruits do have a lot of pectin and don't require any to be added. Berries and apricots do not.

I've already passed out a few jars of ice cream topping. I'll know not to use the liquid pectin again. Thanks.
posted by onhazier at 6:57 AM on June 12, 2006

In my jam making experience (I've made at least 10 gallons of strawberry, alone), gelling comes down to sugar, acid, pectin, and boiling.

What I would do to test for doneness is to drop a teaspoon of jam into a shotglass of isopropyl alcohol (DO NOT DRINK). If you can pick up the wad of goo in the bottom with a fork, then it's done.

I've used nothing but liquid pectin. I do not like the powdered pectins because all the major brands contain sugar. My typical recipe for a batch of jam was: 4:3 ratio of strawberry to sugar by volume (the typical commercial recipe is 4:7 or 1:2, which makes my teeth ache just thinking about it), for a typical batch I use 4 C sliced and hulled strawberries and 3 C sugar, a few teaspoons of lemon juice (for color and tartness), a pat of butter (to cut foaming) and 1/2 bag of Certo liquid pectin.

Basically, I cook the fruit and sugar, add in the lemon, boil for 10 minutes with the pat of butter, add the pectin and return to a boil until it clots in the isopropyl alcohol, skim any remaining foam and put into jars. Occaisionally, to improve texture, I would rum a couple big ladles of cooked fruit in a blender before putting in the pectin. This also thickens the mix too.

I have unjarred jams/jellies that have not set and reboiled them with more pectin. No problems. This happened especially with the quince jelly that I really wanted to like, but honestly, it just didn't taste very good.
posted by plinth at 7:12 AM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Boiling time was fine. Once you add in the pectin, you bring it all back up to a rolling boil for 1 minute.

Right. The instructions say that, but sometimes you just have to boil it longer. If you're at altitude, I'm sure the default instructions will not work well at all.

I hear what you're saying about apricots, but as a little thought experiment, if you had nothing but apricots and sugar and you brought the whole thing up to the hard crack stage, it would sure as heck set - into candy! No pectin required. So it's not specific to getting the pectin from the fruit.

I have had liquid pectin work for me before, though I usually use regular granulated pectin, as it's cheaper. I've always assumed liquid pectin is aimed at the no-cook freezer jam set.
posted by GuyZero at 8:02 AM on June 12, 2006

Response by poster: Great additional thoughts. I may just unjar and boil the lot a bit longer.

Thanks for the link to the sugar stages, GuyZero. I greatly appreciate it. I'm not a candy maker by any means, but it helped me understand more about what's happening in my jams.

As I said, this is only my second season for making jam and I've got plenty to learn. I enjoy the process and people seem to enjoy the results. Plus, it is a great way to keep the fruit we get from going to waste. (We belong to a CSA farm and get quite a bit through our share.)
posted by onhazier at 9:49 AM on June 12, 2006

FYI - apricots (and stone fruit in general) have more pectin in them if they're slightly green.

If you want to keep the fruit in another way, consider making fruit leather. Once made, it will keep fairly well at room temperature, up to a year in the freezer.
posted by plinth at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2006

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