What is Pectin? The Scoop Behind This Food Ingredient
If you’re the type of shopper who reads the labels on everything they buy, chances are you know what pectin is. Before you run off and Google the term, there’s no need. We have had plenty of people ask about pectin in our products, so we thought we would take a closer look at this common food ingredient, including what it’s made from and its uses.
What is Pectin?
Pectin is a complex starch found in fruits and vegetables that is used as a gelling ingredient in foods such as jams, jellies, preserves, especially those made from fruits like strawberries. Why? Soft fruits, like berries, are naturally low in pectin, while hard fruits like apples are high in pectin. Making jellies or jam out of fruits low in pectin requires adding a lot of sugar and cooking for excessive time to get the jelly or jam to set up correctly. However, combining pectin with the right amount of sugar and acid (based on the recipe you use), pectin will thicken these fruit-based foods, plus glazes and fruit pies. Even gummy candies commonly have pectin to help them hold their shape. While some might find natural pectin a bit bitter it will take on the flavor of whatever it is blended into. Pectin is also an ingredient in non-food items such as throat lozenges and laxatives.
You’re probably wondering if pectin and gelatin are the same things? Yes and no. They both have gelling properties. However, pectin is vegetable-derived, making it a vegan product, whereas gelatin is derived from collagen.
What Are The Different Types of Pectin?
There are five types of pectin used in the food and medical industries.
- High methoxyl (HM) pectin requires sugar, acid, and heat (about 210F degrees) to activate it. This is the most common type of pectin found in grocery stores. It might be labeled slow set or rapid set pectin. The slow set is best used for fruit-juice clear jellies, while the rapid set is excellent for chunky preserves as it can help evenly suspend the fruit pieces throughout.
- Low methoxyl (LM) is common in commercial food production and works for low-sugar or sugar-free jellies because it doesn’t require sugar or acid to gel.
- Pectin NH is pectin from apples that you can heat and chill repeatedly, which is why this type of pectin is ideal for fruit glazes.
- Apple pectin comes from apple peels and cores. This type of pectin is used for medical purposes.
- Instant pectin comes as a fine powder that doesn’t require any heat to gel. The best application is freezer jam.
Where to Buy Pectin & How to Store Pectin
If you’re ready to take a crack at making your own preserves or glazes at home, you might be wondering where you can buy pectin. You can purchase pectin in larger supermarkets near the canning section, Walmart, Target, Amazon, and online specialty grocers. You can find pectin in powder or liquid form in canisters and pouches. Use powder pectin within a year and store it in a cool, dry place like your pantry. On the other hand, liquid pectin should be refrigerated once open and used within a week.
Here at Texas Pepper Jelly, we take pride in using pectin in our famous Texas Pepper Jelly and our world-famous trademarked glazes (Rib Candy™ and Bird Bath™). Many of our competitors rely on honey and sugar as a thickener which can cause issues like a thinner consistency and crystallization upon refrigeration.