Are you searching for a healthier way to prepare home-canned jams or preserves? Is your frugal mind intrigued with pectin-free options? Have you been wondering where to begin?
Today is your day! In this post, I share techniques that will set you up for success. Pectin-free canning is so very simple once you understand it!
Today, there are two primary reasons home canners stop using commercial pectin.
Reason #1: Desire for Lower Sugar Content
Home-canners are moving away from commercially produced pectin because in order to activate it, high amounts of sugar are required. Without commercial pectin, sugar content can be adjust to personal preferences. Not only this, but granulated sugar can be substituted for other natural sweeteners.
Reason #2: To Avoid Ingredients Found in Commercial Pectin
Not only are health conscious canners turning away from high-sugar recipes, but some are beginning to doubt the ingredients that accompany commercially produced pectin. If you’ve never examined its contents, do so. Are you comfortable with the ingredients?
Pectin is a Naturally Occuring Substance
In order to avoid confusion as we delve into canning jams and jellies you must understand: pectin is a natural substance found in plant food around us. Both fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of it.
Before it was commercially available, housewives relied on this natural pectin for the thickening of home preserves.
Choosing fruits, they would cook their jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butters for the necessary length of time. Applying heat not only activated the natural pectin, but also evaporated excess liquid, thickening the product and intensifying its fruit flavor.
We’re Going to Combine Modern with Old Fashioned
While I love old traditional methods for thickening fruit-based goodies, I am grateful for modern appliances! We don’t have to haul water in buckets or stand over a hot fire in order to make our home-canned goods.
Instead, we reap the benefits of our grandmother’s knowledge and carry it into our fully equipped kitchens. The 3 techniques I’m about to share with you will ensure successful (and safe) canning with old fashioned flair!
Please note: these are only tips. I share recipes used in our home at the bottom of this post. Each one comes with specific directions for the fruit type.
Technique #1 for Thickening:
Create a Thick Base from Puree
How it works: This technique differs from most you’ll find online. Its simple and quickly achieves a thick base to preserve your fruit in!
Instead of cooking goods to release juices for thickening, pureeing a portion of the fruit allows you to begin with juice and a thicker substance.
Not only this but it simplifies the process! Puree (in most cases) can be heated to a rolling boil. Unlike juice with heavy fruit pieces, it doesn’t need constant stirring until much later.
How to: You’ll need a powerful blender to puree a portion of the fruit with the peel. It ought to be cooked down until it resembles a thin fruit butter. To this substance fruit chunks are added.
The puree method is wonderful for chunky jams and preserves because it allows small fruits (such as berries and cherries) to keep their whole form.
Technique #2 for Thickening:
Combine Low-Pectin Fruits with High Pectin Fruits
How it works: Highest concentrates of pectin are found in the peel, seed or core of your fruit. Some types contain high amounts of pectin (apple, citrus, currant, gooseberry, concord grape, plum, rose hip) while others have very little (apricot, blueberry, peach, pear, strawberry).
When preserving a low pectin fruit, you can significantly speed the thickening process by combining it with a high-pectin variety.
Example: Instead of attempting to make an all-blueberry jam, change the recipe to a blueberry (low pectin) apple (high pectin) jam. When making the base for your combination recipe, always puree and cook down the high- pectin fruit. The only exception is for drier fruits (see technique #3).
Suppose you want an all-blueberry jam? You can thicken the low pectin fruit with an addition of zest, juice or peels from a high-pectin fruit.
Example: lemon zest is high in natural pectin and compliments most fruit. Adding zest and lemon juice to low pectin jam or preserves will speed the thickening process. Ripe (or slightly under-ripe) apple peels may also be added when cooking down the puree. If used, apple peels should be removed before remaining fruits are added in the final stage.
Technique #3 for Thickening:
Combine Dense Fruits with Juicy Fruits
How it works: some fruits, regardless of pectin content, have low water content. Because of this, they make a thick base, opening the door to low-pectin combination recipes. Fruits with low-water content include: apples, apricots, dark cherries, (some) grapes, pears, plums, quince and non-seedy berries.
How to: if the fruit is dense your puree may not need cooking down. It depends on what you are making. If cooking down is required, stir often to prevent sticking. In order to speed the process you can add lemon zest, juice or apple peel as outlined in technique #2.
Other Things You Should Know
This technique throws the door open to creativity and (safe) customized home canning! However, here are a few things you should know about using these 3 techniques:
Avoid Pureeing Seedy Berries
Soft seedy berries (raspberries, black caps, blackberries) should not be pureed. Their seeds break down into small, gritty pieces that will be present throughout your home-canned product.
If making a jam (or preserves) with seedy berries, create a base with a
blender potato masher. Thicken this as you would a puree, using other fruits if needed (technique #2). When desired thickness has been reached, remaining berries may be added for a chunky end product.
Don’t Attempt to Make Small Amounts
Most blenders won’t puree small amounts of fruit (less than 1 C). Adding liquid to enable the blender is counter-intuitive because you’ll just have to cook it off. If implementing these techniques, its necessary to make jam or preserves in normal-to-large sized amounts.
Using Frozen Fruit
I know of more than one individual who freezes fruits until after the summer rush is over. Happily, these techniques work for frozen fruits as well! While ice crystals do add water content, it will take an insignificant amount of time to boil them off. Be aware that soft fruits, when frozen, are less likely to hold their shape and form.
Want to Know More About Pectin-Free Canning?
If you have questions about how pectin-free, home canned jams, jellies and preserves differ from those made with commercial pectin, read this post: 7 Things You Should Know About Pectin-Free Canning.
And now for the fun! Here are a few recipes (directions included) for home-canned goods that we enjoy. They all require a pureed base, are sweetened with honey and simmered down to achieve the desired thickness. Enjoy!
Pear Preserves-golden spiced pear preserves go well on a morning muffin or pancakes
Saskatoon Strawberry Jam-this one is difficult to mess up, so thick and chunky is the finished product
Strawberry Honey Preserves-use as either preserves or jam on your homemade goodies
Sweet Cherry Jam-its a simple, two-ingredient homemade jam that is a household favorite
Sweet Cherry Preserves-use as a topping for waffles, porridge or cake and whole pitted cherries will prove delightful
Thimble Berry Peach Jam-this one requires no pureeing at at, so thick are the thimble berries!
Also see my ever expanding home preserving page for more recipes and ideas!