If you are wondering what fruit pectin is, you have come to the right place. I have been making jelly and jam all of my life and can tell you everything you need to know.
Fruit pectin is a substance that is naturally found in most fruits and some vegetables, but the highest pectin levels are found in apples, berries, and the skin, membranes, and seeds of citrus fruits. Pectin is usually heated with sugar to cause thickening in jellies and fruit jams.
Pectin is an important ingredient for jam and jelly makers and one that I choose carefully. If you’d like to know more, here are answers to all of the common questions typically asked about pectin.
Where Does Pectin Come From?
Pectin comes from fruits. Some fruits, such as apples, naturally have very high levels of pectin. Other fruits, like strawberries, have very little.
The skin, membranes, and seeds of citrus fruits contain high concentrations of pectin, estimated to add up to 30% weight. Commercially produced pectins are usually made from the skins of citrus fruits.
Other fruits such as strawberries and raspberries, which are often very ripe and easy to mash, contain low levels of pectin.
What Are the Different Types of Fruit Pectin?
There are five different types of pectin for different uses. We will look at the main types of pectin:
1. High Methoxyl Pectin
Also known as HM Pectin, this is the most common type of pectin and is made from apples and from the peels of citrus fruits. It requires sugar, heat, and specific acid levels to be able to jell properly.
- Rapid Set – Used for jellies with other ingredients suspended like hot pepper and marmalade.
- Slow Set – Used for clear jellies such as plum and apple.
- Powder form – The most common brands are Sure-Gel and Ball Fruit Pectin.
- Liquid form -The most common brand of liquid pectin is Certo.
Uses: Is most often used in preserving fruits, jams, and jellies.
2. Low Methoxyl Pectin
Often shortened to LM Pectin, this type is also extracted from apples and citrus peels. Unlike HM pectin that needs sugar, it relies on calcium to become firm. No sugar is needed to form a gel.
Forms: Comes in powder form. The most common brands are Sure-Gel, Ball Fruit Pectin, and Pomonas.
- Low-calorie jams.
- No-sugar jams.
- Jams with any alternative sweeteners including honey, Splenda, and Stevia.
- Pepper and mint jellies.
- Dairy products that don’t require sugar.
- Candies and confections like gummy bears.
It is obtained from apples and is rich in carbohydrates, irons, and dietary fiber.
Forms: Comes in powder form.
- As a thickening and gelling agent.
- As a stabilizer in food.
- As a supplement in medicine.
- As an additive in laxatives.
It is apple pectin and, like LM pectin, it needs calcium to be able to jell, though in small amounts. Pectin NH can be melted and reset after forming a gel as it is thermally reversible.
Forms: Comes in dry powder form.
Uses: Pectin NH is mostly used for fruit glazes and fruit fillings.
Amidated LM Pectin (LMA)
Amidated LM Pectin is pectin that has been treated with ammonia, requires less calcium to gel, and is more thermally reversible than regular pectin, which means they will melt when reheated.
Forms: Comes in dry powder form.
- In culinary applications, the LMA pectins create gels with smooth and creamy textures and great flavors.
- Fruit and vegetable terrines.
- Water gels.
Why Does the Amount of Pectin in Fruit Matter?
The amount of pectin in fruit matters because using the same amount of high-pectin fruit with the same amount of pectin used with low-pectin fruit will result in jelly or jam that is too stiff and hard to spread. That is the reason for always using a well-tested recipe that contains the right ratio of all ingredients.
For example, to make apple, crab apple, or mayhaw jelly (high-pectin fruits), the recipe is 5 cups of prepared juice, 7 cups of sugar, and one box of commercial pectin. But, the recipe for low-pectin fruits such as blueberries is 3-1/2 cups of prepared juice, 5 cups of sugar, and one box of commercial pectin, along with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
All jelly recipes have to be the right ratio of juice to sweetener to acid to pectin to achieve a firm gel. Jam recipes can be a little more forgiving as jam doesn’t necessarily have to jell properly.
The Pectin Levels of Various Fruits
The amount of pectin can vary wildly from fruit to fruit. Knowing which ones contain high levels naturally is important in determining which fruits are best to make certain types of preserves.
To make it easy for you, I split all of the major fruits into three categories:
- Fruits with high pectin
- Fruits with low pectin
- Fruits with very low pectin
1. Fruits with high levels of pectin
The following fruits contain especially high amounts of pectin:
- Sour apples
- Sour blackberries
- Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, tangerines, grapefruits, and limes. It is important to note that the amount of pectin in the skins of these fruits is higher than in the fruits themselves.
- Eastern Concord grapes
- Non-Italian plums
2. Fruits with low levels of pectin
Fruits that contain a low concentration of pectin include:
- Ripe apples
- Ripe blackberries
- Sour cherries
- Grape juice
- Grapes (with the exception of Eastern Concord grapes)
3. Which Fruits Have Very Low or No Pectin?
Some fruits contain extremely low amounts of pectin, and sometimes, none at all. Such fruits include:
- Sweet cherries
- Western Concord grapes
- Italian plums
The amount of pectin in fruit varies from fruit to fruit, and certain parts of a particular fruit may have a higher concentration of pectin than others.
The pectin content in fruit also varies depending on how ripe the fruit is at any given time. There is not as much pectin in green fruit, but the pectin content increases as the fruit ripens until just before it becomes fully ripe. This is when the pectin content reaches its maximum level.
As the fruit becomes fully ripe and continues to ripen, the fruit gradually loses pectin content.
Basic Pectin Uses
Fruit pectin is primarily used as a thickening agent in jelly, jam, and other fruit recipes. By the way, I wrote an article on what I think are the best pectin brands. Be sure to check it out.
Other uses of pectin include:
- Lowering cholesterol levels when ingested with guar gum and insoluble fiber.
- Controlling diabetes and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD often results in acid indigestion or heartburns.
- Preventing heavy metals (lead, strontium etc) poisoning.
- Reducing flushing of the skin in people taking niacin.
- Applying to the skin to protect an ulcerated mouth and throat sores.
- Preventing colon and prostate cancer.
- As an ingredient in some denture adhesives.
- Relieving constipation.
Is Pectin Good or Bad For You?
Fruit pectin has actually been shown to have several health benefits including:
- Slows down the emptying of the stomach, thereby improving glucose tolerance in people with diabetes.
- Helping to maintain weight by making you feel fuller and less hungry because of the slowed emptying of the stomach.
- Helping improve cholesterol levels.
- Helping decrease blood pressure.
- Helping reduce the chances of suffering from heart diseases by blocking the formation of blood clots.
- Reducing diarrhea in children by balancing the gut bacteria microbiome.
- Acting as a probiotic and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria in the colon while enabling the growth of good bacteria.
- Helpful in fighting constipation.
- Helping to increase the effectiveness of gut microbiota transplantation and reducing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
- Helping to reduce vomiting, especially in children suffering from cerebral palsy.
- Helping to manage acid reflux, especially in children with cerebral palsy.
- Helping to reduce radiation damage caused by exposure to radioactive chemical elements.
- Helping in reducing the toxicity of heavy metals such as lead in various body organs.
- Increasing the absorption of iron into the body.
- Modified Pectin can be helpful in reducing the growth of certain cancer cells including prostate, colon, and leukemia.
Pectin Conforms With Many Diets
Is Pectin Vegan?
Pectin is considered Vegan as it is extracted from fruits and is not an animal by-product.
Is Pectin Paleo?
Pectin, as a naturally-occurring element in fruits and vegetables, is consistent with foods approved for the Paleo diet, as long as the food containing the pectin is sugar-free.
Is Pectin Halal?
Pectin is suitable for consumption if you are following a Halal diet, as long as the food containing the pectin is also Halal.
Is Pectin Gluten-Free?
Pectin is Gluten Free since gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley, and pectin is naturally occurring in and obtained from most fruits and some vegetables, not grains.
Are There Pectin Allergies?
Even though it is possible to experience an allergic reaction when taking pectin, such cases are usually very rare. If you are allergic to pectin, your immune system will try to fight it off after ingestion leading to inflammation of body tissues and symptoms such as sinus congestion, asthma, skin rashes, and issues with the digestive system.
Pectin allergies are most common for people who are sensitive to cashews and pistachios.
You can treat pectin allergies by taking oral antihistamines. If the allergy becomes severe, immunology can be of help. Untreated severe allergic reactions can have serious consequences, even death.
The good news is that you can take an allergy test to know if you should avoid taking fruit pectin. A small amount of the fruit pectin proteins will be injected into the skin’s top layer and, if you are allergic, the skin will become red and inflamed within 15 minutes.
Side effects of pectin
Fruit pectin has a few potential side effects, including:
- Some people experience mild diarrhea and stomach cramps when they take pectin.
- Pectin can interfere with some cancer treatments if taken without supervision.
- Pectin may inhibit the body’s ability to absorb drugs such as digoxin, lovastatin, and tetracycline antibiotics.
Can You Make Your Own Pectin?
Homemade pectin is a great alternative to commercial pectin as it saves on costs. You also get to use the best and freshest organic ingredients. Slightly underripe fruits are always the best to use as they contain higher levels of pectin.
There are two types of pectin, dry or powder pectin and liquid pectin. We will look at how to make both types.
How to Make Dry Pectin Powder or Liquid Pectin
For both recipes, the ingredients are the same.
- 5 lbs of green apples (Do not peel or core them). Fruits such as quince and crabapples can also be used.
- 10 cups of water.
- Tapioca maltodextrin powder (Use to make dry pectin powder).
- Stainless steel boiling pot (Click here to learn how to choose one), preferably large and heavy-bottomed.
- Storage containers or jars with lids and rings.
Dry Pectin Directions
- Step 1: Leaving the skin and the cores intact, chop the apples into small pieces.
- Step 2: Place the chopped apple pieces into the cooking pot. Just cover with water as too much liquid will make it difficult to reduce the liquid when extracting the powder.
- Step 3: Boil the mixture for about 40 minutes until the apples have softened and appear to be dissolving. Do not mash the apples.
- Step 4: Strain the liquid into a mixing bowl by using a colander lined with a single layer of cheesecloth. Let the liquid flow out of the apple mixture. Again, avoid mashing the mixture. I wrote a detailed article on extracting juice from fruits, be sure to check it out.
- Step 5: Put the strained liquid into the boiling pot and boil until the liquid reduces by half.
- Step 6: Test for the amount of pectin in the liquid. Stir 1 teaspoon of the liquid into 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. If the amount of pectin is high, a solid gel will be formed. Otherwise, reduce your liquid further.
- Step 7: Cool the liquid. Stir the cold liquid with the tapioca maltodextrin powder until everything turns into fine powder. You now have pectin powder that can be stored for future use. (You can get tapioca maltodextrin powder from restaurant supply stores or specialty grocery stores.
Liquid Pectin Directions
- Step 1: Prepare the fruits by chopping them into small pieces. The smaller the chopped pieces are, the faster they will cook down.
- Step 2: Thoroughly mix the chopped fruits with sugar and lemon juice in a stainless steel pot. Allow it to soak for an hour to enable the acid in the lemon juice to activate the pectin in the fruits.
- Step 3: Put the fruit mixture into the boiling pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent it from scorching. Simmer over medium heat for about 40 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Step 3: Strain the resulting fruit mash through a jelly bag or cheesecloth into a large bowl. The longer you allow it to drain, the more juice you will be able to extract.
- Step 4: Put the extracted juice into a clean pot and boil over high heat until the juice is reduced by half.
- Step 5: The homemade pectin is ready for use and can be placed in storage jars or containers. It can be stored in the refrigerator for approximately two to four weeks. When frozen, homemade pectin can last up to six months.
Can Pectin Get Too Old?
While pectin that has been stored for long periods of time poses no health risks, it’s quality and jelling properties reduce with time. Whether it is liquid or dry pectin, it might not work as it should once it goes past the expiration date.
However, you have options if your pectin has expired and your jelly is runny:
- You can serve it as a topping for pancakes, waffles or ice cream, or
- You can remake it, even though this will be time-consuming.
See my article on “How to Fix Jam or Jelly That Didn’t Set Properly By Reboiling” for more information on what to do if your jelly is runny, but your best bet is to avoid using pectin that is more than a year old.
Are There Pectin Substitutes?
There are various substitutes for commercial Pectin such as gelatin and cornstarch. If you are unable to purchase pectin from your local store, the following options are available to you:
- Fruits rich in pectin – Use natural fruits that have high amounts of pectin such as apples, currants, and cranberries. Note that the addition of apples as natural pectin will not change the taste of your jam.
- Use the citrus pith, peels, and cores as a natural thickener. Orange and grapefruit pith are usually used in making marmalades.
- Cornstarch, usually derived from corn, makes a good thickener when combined with sugar. However, it burns easily and must be stirred constantly. Cornstarch contains fewer calories than Chia but has more carbohydrates.
- Flavoured Gelatin or Jello, gives you the option to add additional flavors to the fruit you are using.
- Gelatin, high in protein.
- Chia Seeds, which are nutritious and easy to use, but can only be used in making jams. Chia Seeds are considered a superfood.
- Homemade Pectin, a healthy alternative but requires access to a good supply of fresh, tart green apples.
- Tapioca, a natural carbohydrate and contains no allergens.
There is more information on pectin substitutes in my article entitled 8 Best Substitutes for Pectin in Jam Making.
What is the Difference Between Pectin and Gelatin?
While both fruit pectin and gelatin are used to thicken and jell food, they are very different. They are derived from different sources, have different nutrients, have different benefits, and are used differently. Here are their differences:
- Pectin is derived from plants while gelatin is an animal by-product.
- Pectin is a carbohydrate while gelatin, on the other hand, is a collagen protein.
- Gelatin dissolves upon heating. Pectin thickens when heated.
- Gelatin is mostly used to jell dairy products like yogurt and foods such as cream fillings. It is also used to jell meat juices. In the medical field, gelatin is used to make medicine capsules. Pectin, because it needs sugar and acid, is mostly used to jell fruit mixtures.
I wrote an article on using Gelatin to make jam or jelly, be sure to check it out.
The commercial fruit pectin that we primarily use when making jelly, jam, and other homemade fruit products is convenient and easy to use, and we can usually count on a good result. It is produced in liquid and either white or light brown powder form.
However, we must keep in mind that the recipe we use is like a scientific equation that must be strictly followed if we want a good result. In order for our jelly to form a good gel, the ratio of fruit juice, sugar, pectin, and acid must be exact. It takes careful measuring and sticking to a good recipe for the finished product to turn out perfectly.
Where can I buy pectin? Pectin is available for purchase at most grocery stores, most retail stores like Wal-Mart and Target, and some hardware stores that carry canning supplies. However, I recommend buying in bulk on Amazon for both ease and finding the best pectin brands.
Are vegetables high in pectin? While most vegetables and legumes contain a certain amount of pectin, carrots are highest in pectin content while tomatoes, potatoes, and peas follow closely.
Is pectin good for joints? Although many people who suffer from arthritis pain use a mixture of Certo, a liquid pectin product, and grape juice as a home remedy for the treatment of arthritis pain due to inflammation, according to the Arthritis Foundation, there is no scientific evidence that the pectin treatment will actually relieve arthritis pain.
Can I make jelly and jam without pectin? Yes, if you use fruit such as apples or crab apples that are high in natural pectin. You can prepare the fruit for jam or juice for jelly, add sugar or alternative sweetener of your choice, and bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for an extended period of time until thickened. The resulting jelly or jam will be soft set and will not have the same color or flavor of jelly/jam made with added pectin because of the extended cooking time.
Image courtesy of Tanantha Couilliard