Jams, Morabbas, Squashes and Sauces IV

(Contd. from pervious posting)

A simple test for checking if the jam prepared is ready to be packed and sealed. Take a spoonful of the jam, and place it over a small dish. Keep the dish in the freezer for 2 minutes. If it sets well you can ahead. If not, add more sugar, a little more citric acid crystals or lemon juice and pectin depending on the thinness and setting time.

Boil for a minute, cool and test. Continue this process till you get satisfaction. By trial and error you can learn the exact quantities of ingredients.

Before we proceed further let us discuss a few valid points about pectin, an important ingredient very much needed for jams and jellies to set them well.

WE are aware that to thicken jams and jellies we need pectin which is present more in just ripening fruits than in ripened or too ripened ones.

Pectin can be made at home and bought from market as well. Commercially two types are available – Sugar rich pectin and no sugar pectin. If you add sugar in the recipe and if the fruits are rich in pectin content, better go for no sugar pectin. If not, go for sugar rich variety. Similarly pectin is available in powdered form as well as liquid form. The quantity of pectin needed has to be determined by what is printed on the container/packet as well as by experience achieved through trial and error. Generally commercial pectin is made from unripe apples, crab apples and citrus peels.

Pectin acts well in an acid environment with water. Sugar is very much needed for pectin to gel better and the texture as well as the consistency of jams and jellies improve when they cool and set due to sugar. You’ll need to follow the directions that come with the pectin, but generally, the lower sugar pectin recipes call for about 3.5 cups of sugar per box, and the regular pectin calls for 7 cups of sugar.

Though the fruits have natural preservative, yet that will preserve for a shorter period only. Hence, we add citric acid and other chemical preservatives like (SB) Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Meta-bi-sulphite (KMS).  

Please read the following carefully since it guides you whether you need to add pectin and citric acid for preparing jams and jellies. Keep a note of it for ready reference: 

Just ripening Fruits (No pectin or citric acid but sugar only needed for )


Fruits needing addition of pectin or citric acid  Fruits that need both citric acid and pectin


Sour Blackberries

Sour Crabapples
Grapes (Eastern Concord)
Plums (not Italian)
Citrus skins (oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, limes, etc. – the pectin is high in the skin but low in the fruit)



Apples, ripe
Blackberries, ripe
Cherries, sour
Grape Juice (Eastern Concord)
Grapes (California)




Cherries, sweet
Grapes (Western Concord)
Plums (Italian)


The pectin content in all fruit is also generally higher when fruit is just barely ripe and diminishes as it matures from fully ripe to overripe. When the fruit starts ripening, it breaks down the pectin and in result, the fruit starts becoming soft and is generally not considered too fit for jams and jellies unless just ripening fruits are included.

Even though we can buy pectin in the shops, it is better to have knowledge as to how it can be made at home.

Types of Pectin

Method I

Take apple, crab apple, citrus peels, strawberries or blackberries which are not ripened but tart and just ripening. Wash these gently and cut into pieces. For each kilogram pieces take 1.25 litres of water. Boil the pieces in water and once the boiling starts, simmer the flame and cook for one hour. Put off flame. Place a clean cheese cloth, muslin cloth or diaper over a jar and keep these over so that the liquid drops drip in slowly into the jar. Keep the contents for overnight or till the dripping stops. You could stir them lightly to get a few more drops, but don’t press them. That will make the pectin cloudy.

In case you think that the dripped liquid is too thin you can boil it for another 20 minutes, cool and then store in a bottle.

Method II

Either you can have 1 kg of green apples with sour taste or small, green and unripe crab apples. Wash these without peeling. Take a vessel with thick bottom. Cut the apples and keep them in the vessel. Add 4 cups of water and 2 tbs of lemon juice. Boil till the contents are reduced to half the quantity (This may take about an hour). Put off the flame and strain through fine muslin or cheese cloth. Boil the extract for another 20 minutes. Let it cool and store in a sterilised bottle leaving at least one inch headroom below the lid for expansion, if any, and refrigerate.

To test:  

Pectin can be tested for quality as follows. Never use warm or hot liquid but only after it is cooled well. Take a spoonful of pectin and mix it with 2 tsps of rectified spirit or absolute alcohol on a dish. After a minute or two slowly lift the lift the dish in a slanting position and observe:

If there is a single clot of jelly the pectin is of the best quality.

If 2 or 3 clots are formed, it is of medium quality.

If more than 3 clots are formed, it is of low quality.

In case of the last two qualities, you may have to boil the extract a few minutes more after simmering the flame. Caution: DO NOT TASTE THIS MIXTURE. IT IS HIGHLY POISONOUS.

Whenever you make jams or jellies, first check if the fruits need any pectin or sugar as per the table already provided. If they are needed, then read the instruction on the packet/container of the commercial pectin as to how much sugar and pectin you need. If you use homemade pectin, then it depends upon its quality and thickness. For sugar, you need to use your prudence upon the sweetness of the fruits you use and the amount of sweetness you prefer.

In case your recipe mentions liquid pectin but you have dry variety only, then use the following conversion:  

1 cup of dry pectin=2 pouches of liquid pectin

1 small package of dry pectin = 1.75 oz=3.5 tbs

If you use:

Liquid pectin, you need not dissolve it again but it is costlier as well as once the container is opened, you cannot store the excess unused quantity for future use.

Dry, regular pectin, you need a lot of sugar to make jam or jellies.

Dry, pectin with lower sugar formula, there is no problem in making good jams and jellies. It uses needs less sugar to thicken.

Dry pectin with no sugar, makes firm jams and jellies but they will not be very bright and very thick. For this you need to add a little more sugar and/or fruit juice and boil for a few minutes under moderate flame.

(To conclude)

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