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Old 08-09-2009, 01:03 PM   #1
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Pomona's Pectin: What did I do wrong?

I was so excited to find pomona's pectin at my local health food store and at the prospect of making jam that was lower in sugar. I tried making two batches of jam with this pectin, and they both failed miserably. Where did I go wrong?

The first batch was strawberry. I used a cup of honey to sweeten it (the recipe called for 4 C fruit and 1/2 to 1 C honey). I did a regular "cooked" and hot-water processed jam. It was bland and runny. I figured out that I was going to need to use sugar, at least in part, to get the flavor I was looking for.

The second batch was raspberry. This time I used real sugar - 2 cups of it for the batch (this recipe called for 4 C fruit and 3/4 to 2 C sugar). I also did freezer jam thinking it would be much easier. I was gun shy from my strawberry failure. Well guess what? The raspberry jam is practically inedible. Bland and runny yet again.

So what am I doing wrong? I followed the directions on the package. I even used a little extra pectin based on some recommendations I found online. I don't expect my jam to taste as sweet as traditional jam with 55%+ sugar, but I didn't expect it to be bland and practically flavorless. I used freshly picked berries from the farmers market both times. I've also successfully made both cooked and freezer jam with regular pectin.

Has anyone been successful with pomona's pectin? If so, what's the secret? I should note that I'm off artificial sweeteners, including splenda, but I'm not opposed to unconventional natural sweeteners like agave or fruit juice reductions.

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Old 08-09-2009, 11:16 PM   #2
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I've never had any failures with Pomona Pectin. You did not mention making and adding the required Calcium. THAT is what causes the chemical reaction with the pectin and causes the gelling to occur. Pomona Pectin is so good it will even gel water.
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Old 08-10-2009, 11:30 AM   #3
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I know you are trying to make a lower sugar jam so my reply is somewhat irrelevant. I'm only posting to let you know the proportions I use that have success. 2 cups raspberries to 2 cups sugar.

I've never used Pomona's pectin, but it sounds like mcnerd has and if you left out the crucial ingredient that would do it.

The failed jam makes an excellent topping for ice cream sundaes though!
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Old 08-10-2009, 12:15 PM   #4
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Sorry for the confusion! I definitely added the calcium water. Like I said, I followed the directions on the package. For the freezer jam, the recipe says 4-12 teaspoons of calcium water. I added 12, plus an extra teaspoon of pectin. Unfortunately this jam isn't fit to eat at all. It's not only runny, it's terribly bland. I have no idea how this process actually took flavor out of the berries, but it did. :(
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Old 08-10-2009, 12:29 PM   #5
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As for being bland, that is only because of the lack of additional sweetness for the fruit and should be tasted to achieve the level you want since every batch of fruit is going to have a different ripeness/sweetness level.

I'm amazed that you added that much pectin and calcium off the bat. Definitely not what was recommended in the instructions, especially 4 thru 6, though I am surprised that you did not end up with something like stiff jello that you cut into shapes. The fact that it didn't would (to me) indicate that it was not heated properly for the chemical reaction to occur. Yes, strange taste could be caused by unprocessed ingredients.
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Old 08-10-2009, 12:39 PM   #6
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As I mentioned, this was for the freezer jam, which isn't cooked. I followed the directions, spefically in this case step #6, to a tee. I started with 4 tsp calcium water. It says to keep adding calcium water, 1 tsp at a time, stirring well, until jell appears. I wasn't even getting a soft jell, so I kept adding calcium water. I stopped at 12 tsp because that was the high end of the range.

There wasn't a strange taste, it was just bland. And I mentioned the recipe removing flavor because I tasted the berries before I made them into jam, and they were more flavorful than the end product ended up being.

I know you don't know me, but I am a careful directions-follower for things like this. I read the directions in full before starting, very carefully during the process, and afterwards in an attempt to figure out where I went wrong. Each time I used the exact amounts called for or stayed within the range when there was a range given. I used the maximum amount of sweetener called for depending on which sweetener I used. I simply cannot figure out why it didn't work. If it were something as obvious as not following the directions, I wouldn't have bothered you all with it. ;)
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Old 08-10-2009, 01:15 PM   #7
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I know you are frustrated and I'm trying not to frustrate you any more, but you are the one having the problem so you definitely did something wrong and I'm just trying to help you find where you goofed.

Yes the recipe is "no-cook freezer" but step #4 requires the water to be brought to a boil and the pectin added to heat to heat up and blend before adding to the fruit. Heat is required for the chemical reaction of gelling to occur.
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Old 08-10-2009, 01:33 PM   #8
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I used to make jam with pectin, but I don't like its taste. Last weekend, I made straberry jam with real sugar, and I think it's good.
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Old 08-10-2009, 01:41 PM   #9
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Ah, I see what you mean about the heat. I'm pretty certain I used boiling water for this step as directed, but it's always possible that I didn't and am remembering wrong.

I know you're trying to help, and I do appreciate it. What's frustrating is that I was so careful to follow the directions, I'm really at a loss to pinpoint what I did wrong. I wonder if I somehow botched making the calcium water (although I don't know how easy that would be to mess up) because that's the common denominator between the two batches of jam.

I guess I'm having two separate problems: the texture and the flavor. You're indeed right that I must have somehow messed up with the texture, unless I somehow got a bad batch of pectin, but the chances of that are probably astronomically slim. I guess there's not much for it but to buy another box and try again, using as much care as I can manage.

As far as the flavor goes, I may need some creative suggestions since fresh locally grown fruit + the max amount of sweetener isn't getting the result I want. What kind of sweetener do you all use? I am interested in using a fruit juice reduction and/or an alternative sweetener like agave or stevia in addition to regular sugar, as long as those sweeteners don't give jam an "off" flavor.
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Old 08-10-2009, 01:54 PM   #10
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I sometimes add booze as a flavor enhancer: vodka for grape, red berries, etc, rum for peach preserves, chambroid for raspberry, gran marnier, etc. 1/4 c. poured in at the very end. It really kicks up the flavor.
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