Fruit pectin is a cooking and baking aid with various uses, from preserving jams to baking and medicine. Let's explore pectin and what makes it so important in the culinary world.
What Is Fruit Pectin?
Pectin is a naturally occurring starch found in the cell walls of vegetables and fruits. Apples and parts of citrus fruits have a naturally high pectin content.
Pectin is a natural gelling agent and has a similar effect to gelatin. But, unlike gelatin, which comes from animals, pectin is entirely derived from plants.
Pectin comes in dry and liquid form. Both versions are used as ingredients in various foods, from jams and jellies to sweet treats like gummy candies. Pectin can be naturally or commercially produced, and is typically made from citrus rinds.
How Pectin Works
As pectin combines with acid and sugar, it makes jams and jellies turn semi-solid as they cool. Being naturally low in sugar, pectin allows the sweetness of the fruit to come through.
Since there are different types of pectin and many varieties that fall under each category, it is best to use the version listed for the recipe you are making and use exact quantities, as specified in the recipe.
What Is Apple Pectin?
This type of pectin is made from apples and typically comes in powder form. Apple pectin powder is used mainly as pectin for jam and jellies.
This type of pectin is also found in medicinal products such as supplements and chewable throat lozenges. Pectin in apples contains carbohydrates, fiber, manganese, and more.
What Is Pectin Used For?
Let's explore some of the more popular ways to use this versatile ingredient:
#1. Making jams, jellies, and marmalades
Did your grandma make homemade jams, jellies, and marmalades? She probably used pectin.
When you cook pectin at high temperatures with the acids and sugars found in fruit, it will become gelatinous.
This gives the jams and jellies that nice semi-solid texture without losing any of the fruit's sweetness. Special care must be taken when making apple jam. It is best to peel the apples so that the skin's bitterness does not affect the flavor of the jam.
An apple peeler will ensure a nicely peeled apple suitable for making jam and allowing the pectin to bond with the fruit fully.
#2. Baking tarts
Pectin is the perfect ingredient for making tarts or any other baked good that requires a gelatinous, firm texture.
No, nappage has nothing to do with having a nap! It is a neutral, clear fruit glaze used to preserve fruits and make tarts glisten. This is how you make it.
Is Pectin Vegan?
Yes, pectin is very much vegan. It contains zero animal products or by-products and is made from real fruit. Even if the pectin you buy is a commercially mass-produced product, it is made entirely from plants.
Pectin May Have Health Benefits
Pectin is a soluble fiber and is found mainly in fruits such as apples, plums, pulp, and peel of citrus fruits. Pectin in its natural form is not digestible, but in an altered state, it is digestible.
Some studies show that pectin may act similar to oatmeal and psyllium husks to help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) in the body.
Pectin may also help with digestive issues, especially in young children, and, in some studies, it has been linked to slowing down the growth of prostate cancer in men.
Is Pectin Bad for You?
Few side effects are linked to consuming pectin or products that contain pectin. However, this doesn't mean that ingesting it is risk-free. There have been reports of pectin causing mild digestive issues, including diarrhea and stomach cramps.
People who have citrus allergies should avoid pectin made with citrus peels or seeds (also known as MCP). This type of pectin may also interfere with specific cancer treatments. As always, we recommend talking to your doctor if you feel uncertain.
Some reports show that pectin can reduce the body's ability to absorb beta-carotene, an essential nutrient.
How to Make Pectin at Home
To make your homemade pectin, it will take about 24 hours, of which around 60 minutes of active cooking is needed. This recipe will yield approximately 1 1/2 cups of pectin. Before you begin, it's essential to take note of the following guidelines when it comes to choosing your apples:
Choosing the right apples to use
To make the most out of this recipe, the type of apple you choose is crucial - it will determine how effective the pectin is. The best apples to use for making pectin are not too ripe, slightly harder, and will have a tart taste. A riper apple will produce less pectin in the end.
Apple Pectin Recipe
With this recipe, you'll be able to make your own pectin at home.
- 7 large, tart, not too ripe apples
- 4 cups of water
- 2 tbsp of lemon juice
- Wash the apples, don't peel them
- Cut the apples into quarters, and be sure to include the core as well.
- Place apples into a large pot, add the water and lemon juice.
- Bring this mixture to a boil.
- Boil for 40 minutes, stirring at the 20-minute mark.
- Remove the pot from the heat and strain the boiled mixture through a cheesecloth.
- Allow your mixture to strain overnight through the cheesecloth. This is how you'll get the highest yield of pectin.
- The next day, bring the strained mixture to the boil, and cook it until the contents are reduced by half – this should take about 20 minutes.
- Refrigerate if you will use it within four days. If you don't need the pectin right away, you can freeze it for about six months.
Keep in mind that if you're using pectin to preserve food, it's essential to follow the safety protocols of using preservatives.
Substitutes for Pectin
If you need a thickening agent and don't have any dry or liquid pectin on hand, here are some ways you can thicken things up without the use of pectin:
- Citrus peels - The white parts (pith) of citrus peels are a perfect substitute for pectin. They are already naturally loaded with pectin. Perfect for fruit jam, the citrus will give it that extra amount of pectin without adding extra sugar.
- Cornstarch -Cornstarch acts very similar to pectin, which makes it an excellent substitute for pectin. However, the taste is not 100% neutral.
- Gelatin -Pectin is a vegan or vegetarian option for those who want to stay away from animal products or animal by-products such as gelatin. However, if you are not vegan, gelatin is an effective option.
- Extra sugar - If you want to stick to the old-fashioned way of making jams and jellies, then roll out the sugar canister, just like grandma did! Sugar is a perfect way to make preserves like jam and jelly.
However, there is one drawback: using sugar adds extra calories to your products. The process of cooking the fruit and adding sugar means you'll be eating more sugar than fruit. But granny did it, and she knew everything!
Storing pectin depends on whether it is liquid or dry pectin. The powder kind can be stored in the pantry, as long as you use it within a year. If you leave it longer, it won't work as effectively.
Liquid pectin has to be stored in the refrigerator. You must also use it within a week. If you decide to make your own pectin, you can store it in the fridge for about 3 days. To keep longer, store in the freezer, or preserve it by boiling it in a water bath canner and store for a year.
Pectin is Perfect for Preserves!
Pectin is a great ingredient for making jams and jellies. It is also excellent for helping with specific baking needs. The many varieties and forms cover various culinary needs, whether you want to turn a batch of fresh strawberries into a jelly or make a beautiful glazed fruit tart.
This magical ingredient makes it easy to firm up those jams, jellies, and tart fillings. It adds a ton of texture without downgrading the taste at all. So all you'll experience is the fruity flavor of your hard work making a delicious jam or jelly, just like Grandma did!