Jam 101: All you need is Pectin

Making jam is no rocket science. Pick your choice of fresh fruit, chop them into chunks, and get them to bubble away along with some sugar. In a few minutes, a glistening jam, oozing with flavour is ready to be spread on warm toasts. But, did you know the science of jam-making goes beyond the usual suspects?

To prepare the perfect, spreadable jam for your breakfast table, one has to understand what holds the juices of the fruit together. A jam or a marmalade without any free fluid, semi-solid in texture. One that sets perfectly to give you a mouthfeel of real fruit. Let’s talk about pectin.

The science of pectin
Pectin is nothing short of a chemistry lesson. It’s a long chain of carbohydrates or natural fibre, and is present in the cell walls of fruits, leaves and stems of plants. It’s most dense in the core and skin of fruits. With the help of heat, the cells of the fruit break down, releasing the pectin. On further cooking the fruit, it creates a gelatin-like atmosphere, thereby giving body to the jam. It traps the fluids released by the fruit, and helps to set as it cools.

Types of pectin
In the world of jams, there are two types of pectin. Commercial and natural pectin. Pectin is present in natural form in fruits like apples, guavas, pears, plums, citrus and berries. In fact, pectin levels are higher in the rinds of citrus fruits than the actual fruit. However, softer fruits like strawberries and grapes have less pectin. Commercial pectin on the other hand comes in either powder or liquid form. When making jams and preserves, it is crucial to perfect the ratios of sugar, acid and pectin or else the consistency may go for a toss.

Make your own pectin
Yes, you can make your own pectin at home. For instance, use bitter or unripe apples to make apple pectin. Do not trash those peels and cores yet. Homemade pectin can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks to prepare jams, jellies and preserves. Find a recipe that works for you.

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