For successful jellied products, a proper ratio of fruit, pectin, acid and sugar is needed.
Fruit provides the characteristic color and flavor to the jellied product. It also furnishes at least part of the pectin and acid needed for a gel. The fruit should be just at the ripe stage for best natural color and flavor. Fruits of irregular size and shape can be used as long as they are good quality, since they will be cut up, mashed or made into juice.
Canned or frozen fruit or fruit juice can be used to make jellied products. If you use commercially canned or frozen products, select those that have no added sugar. It's best if canned fruits are canned in their own juice. Because commercial canned or frozen products are made from fully ripe fruit (which are lower in pectin than under-ripe fruit), pectin must be added.
If you can or freeze your own fruit or fruit juice, use some slightly under-ripe fruit (usually ¼ slightly under-ripe and ¾ fully ripe is recommended). Then if the fruit naturally contains adequate pectin, none will have to be added to products made from that juice. Can fruit in its own juice. Do not add sugar, or if you do, note on each jar how much sugar it contains. Then you can allow for that sugar in the jelly recipe.
Pectin is the substance that causes the fruit to gel. Some kinds of fruits have enough natural pectin to make high quality products. Others require added pectin, especially when they are used for making jellies, which should be firm enough to hold their shape. The highest quality pectin is found in just-ripe fruit. Pectin from under-ripe or over-ripe fruit will not form a gel.
Commercial pectins are made from apples or citrus fruit and are available in both the powdered and liquid forms. Be sure to follow the manufacture's directions or tested recipes when using commercial pectin. The powdered and liquid forms are not interchangeable in recipes.
Commercial pectins may be used with any fruit. Many consumers prefer the added pectin method for making jellied fruit products because: 1) fully ripe fruit can be used, 2) cooking time is shorter and is set so there is no question when the product is done, and 3) the yield from a given amount of fruit is greater. However, because more sugar is used, the natural fruit flavor may be masked.
Commercial fruit pectin should be stored in a cool, dry place so it will keep its gel strength. Use pectin by the date indicated on its package. It should not be held over from one year to the next.
There are special pectins available to use for making jellied products with no added sugar or with less sugar than regular recipes. Specific recipes will be found on the package inserts, and directions should be followed carefully.
Acid is needed both for gel formation and flavor. The acid content varies among fruits and is higher in under-ripe fruits. When fruits are low in acid, lemon juice or citric acid may be used.
Sugar is an important ingredient in jellied fruit products. It must be present in the proper proportion with pectin and acid to make a good gel. Sugar is the preservative for the product, preventing the growth of microorganisms. It also contributes to the taste of the product. Never cut down on the amount of sugar a recipe calls for unless syrup is the desired end result.
Granulated white sugar is usually used in homemade jellied fruit products. Sweeteners such as brown sugar, sorghum and molasses are not recommended since their flavor overpowers the fruit flavor and their sweetness varies.
Light corn syrup or light, mild honey can be used to replace part, but not all, of the sugar. or best results, use tested recipes that specify honey or syrup.
Artificial sweeteners cannot be substituted for sugar in regular recipes because the sugar is needed for gel formation.
Pectin and Acid Content of Common Fruits Used to Make Jelly
|Group I:||If not overripe, has enough natural pectin and acid for gel formation with only added sugar.|
|Group II:||Low in natural acid or pectin, and may need addition of either acid or pectin.|
|Group III:||Always needs added acid, pectin or both.|
|Group I||Group II||Group III|
Grapes (Eastern Concord)
Plums (not Italian)
Grape Juice, bottled
Grapes (Western Concord)
This document was adapted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.