How I Preserve Food: Making Jam Without Added Pectin
Learning to make jam and jelly is one of the first canning skills I mastered. Water bath canning is easy to do, inexpensive to begin, and is a great way to get a lot of emergency food supplies saved in a short amount of time (Check out some of our best food storage tips in 10 of our most popular posts on the topic).
Jams and jellies are an important part of your prepared pantry, when Setting up that 3-month food supply. They can be used on more than toast, and let’s face it, the sweetness is essential if you are in a stressful situation.
I have nothing against commercial pectin, health wise. It is considered safe, but it can be expensive when you are making big batches of jam, so I prefer to skip the extra cost and go without, when possible.
If you’re in a “jam” and have fruit to process and no pectin available, you are still in business.
There is no evidence that pectin prolongs the shelf life of your food. Adding pectin to jam or jelly only affects the gelling of the end product. It makes for a thicker spread.
When it comes to long-term food storage, use a water bath to can your jars as normal, or store your jars of jam in the freezer for up to a year.
Some Fruits Have Natural Pectin
All fruits naturally contain pectin; some just have more than others. When deciding on a new jam creation, combine low and high
pectin fruits together for the best results. Pectin needs sugar to work, so, no-pectin jams will not be sugar-free jams.
It’s also a good idea to remember that fully ripe fruit, while delicious, is lower in pectin than slightly under-ripe fruit.
High Pectin Fruits
- citrus rinds
- crab apples
Low Pectin Fruits
Make Your Own Apple Pectin
Apples have the most pectin content in the fall when they are at their freshest.
-// 7 tart apples
-// 4 cups water
-// 2 tablespoons lemon juice (you can reconstitute lemon juice from lemon juice powder – here’s a list of the amazing uses of lemon juice powder around the home)
- Cut the apples into quarters, it’s not necessary to peel or core them. Combine with water and lemon juice in a large stainless steel or enamel pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Strain the mixture through a sieve or place solids in a wet piece of cheesecloth and hang it over a bowl for 6-12 hours to strain. Discard the solids in your compost bin or dehydrate it to use in oatmeal or baking.
- Ladle into hot jars and process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner.
To Use: For each cup of finely chopped fruit, add 1 cup of homemade apple pectin and ¾ cup of granulated sugar. Combine the fruit, apple pectin, and sugar into a stainless steel saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice if you are using a low acid fruit (see the picture above). Stir frequently. Bring your mixture to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly, uncovered, until the mixture forms a gel – about 10 to 15 minutes.
Some interesting jam combinations from the book – The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard:
- Equal parts chopped kiwi and chopped mango
- Equal parts chopped pears and blueberries
- Equal parts chopped fresh pineapple and papaya
Adding homemade apple pectin to fruits which are low in natural pectin will not affect the flavor of the original fruit and will help bring the fruit mixture to a “soft-set” without excessive cooking.
No Pectin – Just Sugar and Lemon Juice
The simplest jams are made the old fashioned way without pectin at all. Using a high pectin fruit, or a low pectin fruit and lemon juice, you can still create a beautifully tasty jam. Use this table as a guide.
|Fruit||Cups Crushed Fruit||Cups Sugar||Tbs. Lemon Juice||Yield (Half-pints)|
|Apricots||4 to 4-1/2||4||2||5 to 6|
|Berries*||4||4||0||3 to 4|
|Peaches||5-1/2 to 6||4 to 5||2||6 to 7|
|* Includes blackberries, boysenberries, dewberries, gooseberries, loganberries, raspberries, and strawberries.|
Spiced Peach Jam without added pectin
from The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader:
-// 8 large peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
-// 5 cups sugar
-// 2 tablespoons lemon juice
-// ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
-// ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Place all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar.
- Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and boil until the mixture passes one of the set tests (below)
- Ladle into sterile jars and allow ¼ inch head space. Cap and seal
- Process for 15 minutes in a water bath canner. Adjust for altitude, if necessary.
How to Tell if Your Jam Without Pectin Has Set
Temperature test: Use a jelly or candy thermometer and boil until mixture reaches the temperature for your altitude (220°F for sea level to 1000 feet and 218°F for 1000-2000 feet). More information can be found in USDA Bulletin 539 “Making Jelly Without Added Pectin”.
Refrigerator test: Remove the jam mixture from the heat. Pour a small amount of boiling jam on a cold plate and put it in the freezing compartment of a refrigerator for a few minutes. If the mixture gels, it is ready to fill.
The sheet or spoon test: Test for gel formation periodically by dipping a cool metal spoon into the hot fruit mixture and immediately lifting the spoon so the mixture runs off. As the mixture continues to cook, the drops will become heavier.
The mixture “sheets” when the drops become very thick and two drops run together before dropping off. It will form a gel on cooling and no further cooking is required.
Thicken Your Jam With Chia Seeds
You can substitute chia seed for pectin to thicken your jam, however, research is not clear about whether you can water bath can jam with chia seed. Until all the data is in, it’s best to use the freezer method for longer storage or make small batches, which will last for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Any mixture of fruit can be used with this simple combination:
-// 1 pound of fruit
-// ¼ cup of sweetener (honey or sugar) more to taste
-// 2 tablespoons chia seeds
Replace Store-Bought Pectin with Lemon Seeds
Lemon seeds are richer in natural pectin than lemon juice. You can either make a concentrate or place the seeds in a jelly bag and let them simmer with the jam. For moderate-to-high pectin fruit, the latter method is best, especially if you add lemon juice to stay on the safe side.
For low-pectin fruit, though, make a concentrate out of 5 to 7 lemon seeds and one cup of water for every 7 oz of jam. Just simmer the seeds with water for 20 minutes or until the water has evaporated down to 1/4 cup. Strain the seeds and add the liquid into the jam as you would with store-bought pectin.
Whether you choose to use chia seeds as a thickener, make your own natural pectin, or forgo the pectin altogether – the process of learning to make jam without pectin is an inexpensive alternative to commercially processed pectin.
It’s time to try a tasty jam experiment.
My favorite preserving books are found at Amazon. (affiliate links!) These are my “go to” books for technique and creative recipes.
Join us as we share different reasons and methods of how we preserve food to create a long-term storage plan for our families. Click on each link to be taken to a new blog with helpful information and tips.
Mom with a PREP – How to Dehydrate Ginger and Make Ginger Powder
PreparednessMama – Make Jam Without Pectin
Mama Kautz – Dehydrating
Busy B Homemaker – Freezer Jam
Ed That Matters – Anyone Can Do It: Fool Proof Food Storage
The Apartment Prepper – Easy Marinated Mushrooms
The Homesteading Hippy – How to Use Your Pressure Canner
Montana Homesteader – Making and Preserving Cherry Pit Syrup
Your Thrive Life – How I Preserve Food: Meals in a Jar
Melissa K Norris – Re-Usable Canning Tattler Lids-Do They Really Work?
Real Food Living – Preserve and Store Grains with Dry Ice
Cooke’s Frontier – Smoking and making peppered jerky
Homestead Dreamer – Water Bath Canning
Evergrowing Farm – How to Preserve Red Chile
Survival Sherpa – Modern Mountain Man MRE’s
The Backyard Pioneer – Fermentation and how to make sauerkraut
Trayer Wilderness – How We Preserve Food
Living Life in Rural Iowa – Vegetable Soup
The Organic Prepper – How to Make Jam without using added Pectin
Homesteading Mom – How I Preserve Broccoli and Goat Cheese Soup
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This is such good information! I will be saving this for this seasons Apples and put up some Apple Pectin. Thanks for the recipes.
Can the sugar be replaced with honey?
Hi Nancy, yes you can replace the sugar with honey. It will alter the taste but they can be substituted 1 for 1.
S THOMPSON says
Can stevia be used instead fo sugar?
Has anyone made hot pepper jelly without pectin? I have a variety of poblano, jalapeno, and serrano peppers that I want to use for the jelly but I do not have any pectin. I have no idea if peppers are considered to have a small amount of pectin in them in or not. Any advice — or a recipe will be greatly appreciated.
I love the idea of not having to use pectin – instead using sugar and lemon juice. Can coconut sugar be substituted for regular white sugar when making jam? I also didn’t see whether you think we still do the hot water bath after cooking the jam to the required temperature or if we just use a funnel and put it into the jars. Thanks for your help.
Renz Robert Eusebio Salvador says
The article that you wrote gives me additional knowledge and information on the lesson /topic that I am doing right now on my Fruits and Vegetable processing. May I ask your permission to use some part of the article for reference?
Rest assured that proper citation will be given..
“May I ask your permission to use some part of the article for reference?
Rest assured that proper citation will be given..” Of course, please do.
Thank you and have a wonderful day!
why do you have to use lemons can you use a small amount of vinegar or any other acidic things instead