I have fond memories of helping my mom make freezer jam from berries we grew or bought, including strawberries, black raspberries, and red raspberries.
My MIL makes lovely cooked jams/jellies/preserves, but I wanted to carry on my family’s tradition, so a few years ago, with a bumper crop of red raspberries, I bought some Sure Jell (fruit pectin) and started jamming.
Rewind! Did that recipe call for three cups of crushed raspberries and over FIVE cups of sugar?!? I wasn’t making berry jam, I was making berry-flavored sugar goo. Okay in small quantities, I guess, but not something I really want to consume frequently.
Unfortunately, traditional fruit pectin, like Sure Jell, relies on the sugar to work. If you reduce the sugar when using Sure Jell, you’ll get a runny, improperly jelled jam or jelly, also no good.
A little hunting led me to Pomona’s Universal Pectin. This pectin is activated by calcium, so you can use much less sugar, but still have well-jelled jam.
We have lots of strawberries coming in now, so I took advantage of the opportunity to try my first batch of freezer jam with Pomona’s pectin.
Here’s a comparison of fruit and sugar need to make five cups of jam with the two types of pectin*:
That means that the fruit:sugar ratio is 4:1, or four times as much fruit as sugar, using Pomona’s Pectin, but a frightening 1:2, or twice as much sugar as fruit, when using Sure Jell.
I carefully followed the package instructions for freezer jam that came with the Pomona’s pectin, and I’m happy to report that I have almost six cups of lovely strawberry freezer jam, with 1/4 the sugar (compared to making jam with Sure Jell).
Pomona’s Pectin is noticeably more expensive than other fruit pectins (and less widely available — check with your local health food store or WF; I’m pretty sure Local Harvest Grocery carries it, for StL folks), but it’s worth it to have a final product that is healthier and filled mostly with fruit rather than mostly with sugar! I’m looking forward to testing it with raspberries in a few more weeks.
UPDATE (5/29/14): I went back and sampled some jam after twelve hours in the freezer. Compared to the Sure Jell recipe, the jam made with Pomona’s froze a lot harder (i.e., more difficult to get out of the jar). Scientifically, this makes sense: sugar lowers the freezing point, so the higher sugar Sure Jell jam freezes less hard than the lower sugar Pomona’s jam. I think it’s worth the trade-off for a healthier jam, but I wanted to give a heads-up.
* The instructions with the Pomona pectin gave a range of sugar, from 3/4 c. to 2 c. to use for this amount of fruit. I stuck to the lower end of that range, using perhaps a slightly generous cup of sugar.
Sugar is rampant. This is great. I haven’t tried making jam or jelly, but if I do, I’ll look to the Universal vs Sure.
If you’re trying to avoid the white stuff altogether, the Pomona’s has instructions for using honey, too. Our bodies process sugar and honey similarly, so I don’t get too wrapped up in using one over the other.
I’ve read Sarah Wilson’s posts and book about kicking sugar (gah, so hard) and when I try to give up one, I usually try to give up the other. I find that when I have sweet, I want more sweet, and I consume sweet things (especially drinks) SO much faster. ._.
Hello Melissa, This is a very informative and helpful post that you did. Thanks for trying Pomona’s — so glad you like it. Also, very much appreciate your Green Life goal.