If you like to make jam or jelly, as I do, then you have probably asked yourself what is pectin made of? I found myself using it often and not knowing what it was. I think everyone should know exactly what goes into their cooking and this is not any different.
So, the question of the hour, what is pectin made of?
It is a type of starch called heteropolysaccharide. This polysaccharide is found in the cell walls of plants, which includes fruits and vegetables. Pectin is what gives these foods its structure, so it makes sense that we use it to give our food texture.
You probably know of gelatin as well, but unlike this product, pectin is plant-based only. Perfect, if you like eating jelly, jams, gummy candies, and more.
Essentially, the pectin we use comes from many fruits and vegetables. Some of the most common ones are apples, citrus fruits, carrots, apricots, plums, berries, and cherries.
Most commercial types come from citrus rinds, and they can be in either powder or liquid form. When I do buy some, I find that it can be fast or slow set and high or low in sugar.
Some of the most common types
- High methoxyl (HM) pectin: which is either a rapid or slow set. They both come from citrus peels. The difference between rapid or slow set HM is the time and temperature they take to set. Rapid pectin will set at higher temperatures but takes less time. Add it to jams and preserves for the best results. Slow pectin takes more time but needs a lower temperature, and it is best when used in smooth jelly.
- Low methoxyl (LM) pectin: this type comes from citrus peels, and it is best in low-sugar and low-calorie jams and jellies. This is because it uses calcium and not sugar to set. You can use this type when making dairy recipes.
- Pectin NH: this is apple pectin that you can use in fruit glazes or fillings. It is a variety of the LM and needs calcium to become gelatinous. You can also use this when you can to be able to reverse the effects, such as melting and then resetting.
- Apple Pectin: this one comes from apples and comes in a powder form. You can use it for gelling and thickening, but it can also stabilize foods. This type is higher in carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.
By now you may be wondering, what is pectin used for?
As you now know, there are various types available and each has different characteristics. While it is naturally present in many fruits, those that are very ripe tend to have low pectin content. That’s why, when I make jelly or jam containing fruits like strawberry or blueberries, I know I must add some.
If you don’t use it, your jelly or jam won’t set and will probably look more like syrup. Otherwise, you will need to use a ton of sugar, which can result in an extremely sweet and unhealthy product.
I use pectin all the time, particularly when I’m making jam, jelly, preserves, and marmalade. Once mixed with acid and sugar, it will form a gel-like texture. Don’t make the mistake of only adding pectin, however, as you need both to get the desired structure and look.
Sometimes, though, I find a fruit that is naturally high in pectin, and in that case, I won’t need to add any extra. Some of these fruits include plums, apples, oranges, lemons, and gooseberries.
Other people use pectin when making tarts and fruit fillings, as it can speed things up and give the desserts a better final feel.
Keep in mind that this shouldn’t change the flavor of your recipes. But in some commercial brands, there may be a bit of bitterness leftover. If you like to make your homemade pectin, the flavor will be of whatever fruit you use.
How do I store it?
This depends on which kind you have. I keep powder pectin in the pantry and use it within a year for better results. If kept longer, it won’t necessarily go bad, but it may not be as effective.
If you happen to buy liquid pectin, store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Homemade ones should also stay in the fridge but will only last me for about 3 days.
Now that you know exactly what pectin is made of and how to use it appropriately, it’s time to start making your jam and jelly at home. I keep mine in 8oz size jars and even freeze them when I want to serve them later.
Don’t be afraid to start making your favorite fruit and vegetable sweets and treats. Buy pectin and use it as often as you need!