[NAFEX] Pasty Pectin

Don Yellman don.yellman at webformation.com
Thu Jan 11 21:18:16 EST 2007


We have been using Pomona's pectin for about 20 years, and have done considerable experimentation with varying the amounts of pectin and sugar in the mix.  We switched to Pomona's from the Certo and Sure-Jell brands because of their frequent failure to jell and the high quantities of sugar required.  With Pomona's, we can use exactly the amount of sugar we desire for taste, and always enough to impart the desired qualities of sugar in retaining color and flavor of shelf-kept jams and jellies.  We found that using the full amount of Pomona's suggested on the insert resulted in a jelly that was on the stiff side and difficult to spread, but if we lowered the amount to 2/3 of that recommended the product was nearly perfect in texture.  Pomona's requires no sugar at all to jell, but we use about 1/2 cup sugar per cup of juice (Certo and Sure Jell used to require cup-for cup), which is still much less than commercial jellies and sufficient to provide a shelf life of about 2 years
.  In addition, some quantity of sugar must be mixed with the pectin before adding to the hot fruit juice or the pectin can ball up.  I don't know why anyone would describe Pomona's jelly as "pasty" unless they made some serious mistake in it's preparation.

When you make jams or jellies for shelf storage, it is essential that the product be boiled at least a few minutes to kill bacteria, and that the jars and lids be pre-sterilized if you are going to hot pack.  Strictly speaking, USDA would probably recommend a further 20 minutes in a boiling water bath, but we do not do that, and have never lost a jar to bacterial contamination.  However, when we used lower amounts of sugar than 1/2 cup per cup of  fruit or juice, we have noticed a color loss in jams like strawberry after a year or so in storage.  If you are making freezer jams and jellies, any type of pectin can be used since it does not have to jell at room temperature, nor do you have to worry about its shelf keeping qualities.

In addition to its uses as the growth medium in laboratory petri dishes, and as impression material for dental work, agar has been used for many years in tropical countries where refrigeration is uncommon as the base for fruit jells.  It's principal advantage is that it will stay set up at room temperature after minimal heating.  While Helene seems to love it, I don't care for the agar texture, which I would compare more to gelatin than pectin.  It is usually slightly grainy, which may be another way of saying pasty.  So go ahead and try some agar if you like, but also try Pomona's, bearing in mind that you have to follow the basic rules for canning to produce a product that can be stored on the shelf.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA 

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