I have always liked preparing homemade jams and preserves, especially now in the summer when the time comes when stone fruit acquires a good price to stock up on it, and so I can enjoy it during the rest of the winter months on top of some nice buttered toast.
But on many occasions when making jams, the results I obtained did not satisfy me and I regretted having spent so much time in the kitchen. The jam, still cooking for a long time and adding large amounts of sugar, left me liquid and disembodied, looking more like a jelly. All these problems I have solved since I use to prepare my homemade jams, pectin. But what is it and how is it used?
Pectin is a natural fiber that is found in the cell walls of plants and reaches a high concentration in fruit skins. It is very soluble in water and binds with the sugar and acids of the fruit to form a gel. So, if we add it to our homemade jams, what we achieve is to naturally thicken our preserves, adding less sugar and what is very important by reducing the cooking time, which means that our jam will keep much longer. the taste of fresh fruit.
By adding pectin to replace a very long boiling method, we can get up to 50% more jam with the same amount of fruit, since the loss of this is much less important. But, surely you are wondering, if the pectin was in the fruit, why should it be added to adults? Well mainly because not all fruit has it in large quantity and also its proportion depends a lot according to the state of maturation of this, since the more mature the fruit is, the less amount of pectin it has.
In addition, as I mentioned before, the pectin, apart from reacting with the sugar, also reacts with the acid that the fruit has to form a gel, and since the acidity is not the same in all varieties, it is convenient to add lemon juice to the fruit when it is cooking, since if the amount of acid is low what happens is that the pectin does not work effectively.
Types of fruit according to their pectin
It is important to know before preparing our fruit jams if the variety that we are going to use has a high or low amount of pectin. Therefore, according to these values, we are going to classify the fruit into three groupsIt is convenient if we want to make it only of one variety, to know what type we are facing and if we must add liquid or powdered pectin to make it thicken.
- Fruits with a high amount of pectin: Mainly apples, but also lemons, oranges, tangerines, blueberries, currants, grapes and quinces, among others
- Fruits with medium amount of pectin: Very ripe apples, blackberries, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, figs, pears, pineapple and very sweet oranges.
- Low pectin fruits: Peaches, apricots, nectarines, strawberries and raspberries, pectin should always be added if we want a thick jam.
There is a home test that helps us know the amount of pectin in our compote when we are preparing the jam. To make it, we take a teaspoon of the fruit stew, let it cool down well and add it in a glass jar. On top we pour a tablespoon of alcohol and close the bottle by shaking gently.
If our fruit has a lot of pectin we will see that a firm jelly-like mass in alcohol. If the fruit has little pectin, small particles will form in dispersion in the alcohol, which indicates that we must add external pectin so that our jam thickens.
How to make our own pectin from apple
Surely when our grandmothers prepared jams a few years ago, they did not have specialized confectionery stores where they sold powdered pectin to add to their cooking. That is why they would have to manage so that their jams were perfect obtaining themselves their own natural pectin.
You can also prepare it at home and have it frozen in portions for your seasonal jams. It is a very simple preparation from apples, which have it in large quantities. Look for pieces that are not damaged and not very ripe, about a kilo of apples washed with skin and seeds and put them to cook for an hour and a quarter in a liter of water.
Once cooked, strain the preparation into a container through a strainer where you have put a cheesecloth like those to drain the cheese or a piece of cotton shirt, and let this puree drain overnight. The next day you will have a gelatinous liquid that will be the homemade apple pectin, which as I said you can freeze in portions. The proportion to be used will be 150 milliliters for every two kilos of fruit.
How to use commercial powdered pectin
If you are not determined to prepare it yourself but you like to make homemade fruit preserves, you can get powdered pectin in pharmacies, drugstores or stores specializing in pastry products. It is an expensive product They usually sell in bulk, but it compensates for the result obtained and also because small quantities are needed.
To use it, once you are going to crush the fruit halfway through cooking, sprinkle a teaspoon of pectin for every kilo and a half of fruit and continue cooking until thickened. The best way to avoid lumps is to sprinkle it with a metal strainer over the cooked fruit, just like when we make decorations with icing sugar.
Now that you know a little more about pectin, you only have to get hold of a few kilos of seasonal fruit and prepare your own jams and preserves to enjoy at home or why not, as a great gourmet gift for your friends.
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