Pectin and Safety in jam

bks76February 6, 2012

Hi all,

I am new posting here but have read and learned a ton, thanks!

I have tried to find a definitive answer to this question:

Can I leave out commercial pectin in a jam recipe WITHOUT compromising its safety? I know the gel part, and am willing to play with that and try to get a consistency I like. But I want to make sure I am not impacting safety if I leave out pectin from an approved recipe.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Depends on what kind of jam you're making. Most fruits have enough acid and pectin to gel on their own and even a loose set will be safe. Others (like figs, mangoes, and fruits commonly thought of as vegetables like tomatoes and peppers) don't have enough acid or pectin to set, and you will have to add it (either in commercial or "natural" forms).

What kind(s) of jam are you making?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 2:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks ajsmama.

I am mostly referring to regular fruit jams here, tart cherry, blueberry, peach, apple, strawberry. I have made some strawberry and peach jam successfully without pectin, and want to try tart cherry, blueberry and apple next.

I really was just concerned that there may be a safety issue, I am ok trying to play with the set as long as I won't kill anyone!

The Red Onion marmelade (from my previous post) I will use pectin in.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 4:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know someone posted a link to pH chart here somewhere - you may want to do a search. But tart cherry sounds fine (sweet cherry may be a problem). I've made Blueberry Citrus Jam (will skip the OJ next time and just use lemon & lime) from Joy of Jams, it gelled fine but I like a soft set. Apple jelly definitely no problem as long as you start with apples (or unpastuerized cider) and not store-bought apple juice, I mostly make apple butter but Caramel Apple Jam (from same book) is great. Never tried Apple Pie Jam (not sure if that uses pectin) but search here.

Melly's Peach Vanilla Almond Preserves a la Ferber are heavenly! Again a looser set but that's what "preserves" are known for - I've also made strawberry preserves and strawberry/blackberry jam, cooking the berries and then letting them set overnight with a dish towel to cover really does help them set up (as does adding the blackberries).

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 4:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I made cranberry jam, cherry jam, blueberry jam, strawberry jam, and blackberry jam without pectin. We are still alive :) I'm still newish in the canning world but I always research the type of fruit I am jamming first to see if there are any oddball issues I need to be aware of. I just bought the ball blue preserve book. I don't mind using pectin, but at the same time, I limit sugar I put in my jam and jellies. My neighbor makes jam all the time and she never uses pectin for acidic fruits. It all depends on what fruit you are using.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 5:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Basic instructions and recipes for all different kinds of fruit (with and without pectin) here

Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 5:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
readinglady(z8 OR)

Pectin is irrelevant to safety. You can leave it out of any jam you like, though clearly with some recipes (i.e. certain pepper jelly formulas) you're unlikely to get a gel at all without additional pectin.

Acid can be a safety issue. Pectin isn't.

With fruit preserves, pectin is up to you. Some fruits are high in natural pectin and don't need it anyway. Others, like strawberry, are low in pectin and can be trickier, but a gel is still possible with experience.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 3:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I thought pectin tied up some of the water - isn't safety (of low acid foods, which I thought we might have been talking about to begin with here) also related to water activity?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 9:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This may be of interest, though it sounds like the OP's choice of fruits aren't a concern.

Here is a link that might be useful: Food Safety for Educators

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
readinglady(z8 OR)

Mainly it's the sugar that's tying up the water. Pectin is a soluble fiber and as the sugar absorbs water, it forces the pectin strands to stick together, forming the gel. Acid also plays a role in determining the strength of that bond.

There's been discussion of sugar's role in reducing (though not necessarily eliminating) the risk of low-acid product since it clearly reduces water activity. There have even been some interesting but not definitive studies about sugar-free pickled beets and increased spoilage and health risks. But due to inadequate funding, I don't know that research will ever be thoroughly pursued. It's too bad.

But pectin is present in much smaller amounts and I haven't read anything indicating it plays any measurable role in that process.

Barring new information, I'll stick with my original position.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 4:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I was working with a low acid food (the red onion)but assume the copious amount of apple juice and the vinegar and the cranberries are part of the bringing the acid up to safe levels. It also says to process in BWB for 15 minutes, maybe that is also due to the nature of the onions? I have also made a pepper jelly, but again it is full of vinegar, and yes I used pectin here as well.

I did try a green tomato preserve (From the Joys of Jams, Jellies and Preserves) which I assume is safe because I hear that book is generally considered to have safe recipes. Other than that I am using all "normal" fruits so I think I will see how recipes go without pectin knowing that in these typical fruit jams omitting pectin should not have an impact on safety.

I really appreciate the feedback.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 2:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Since I can a lot of the same things that I don't turn into jam (same fruit/veggie, just little or no sugar and no pectin).

The main issue may be the length of time you process. Most jam is processed just long enough to sterilize and get a good seal, not to get the contents hot enough.

Low acid food needs to be pickled (vinigar added) to be safe, and high acid foods may need a bit longer in the BWB.

I make thick sauces and pie fillings, some are thick enough to use as spreads. Great for pancakes and waffles. Also really great for making smoothies and adding to yogurt.

I've been experimenting a bit with different levels of clear-gel with the sauces. And some with no-sugar added pectin. My concern is the level of sugar, just don't care for things that darn sweet.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
readinglady(z8 OR)

Acidity is one issue which determines processing time but other considerations include (but are not necessarily limited to) density and size of container.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 12:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pattypan(z6b CT)

i found a recipe for blueberry green tomato jam, but would rather not use pectin. we prefer soft jam anyway. i can't find out if green tomatoes have natural pectin. and i'm wondering if some of the water used is necessary for the commercial pectin to work.

5 cups fresh blueberries, stemmed*
4 large green tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 4 pounds)
1 1/2 cups water
5 cups sugar
3 (1.75-ounce) packages fruit pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

    Bookmark   October 5, 2014 at 10:53PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Freezing stuffed peppers?
I have sooo many beautiful sweet peppers and quite...
Sterilizing jars and tools
Hello, I think I'm getting a little neurotic about...
Thanks Harvest Forum
I didn't grow up canning and learned relatively late....
*&%$#@!!! Marmalade!
After the "Key Lime Rubber Marmalade" and...
Making Garlic or Herb Infused Oils at Home
Now that I figured out the new format, I can post this...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™