In short, nothing – the longer answer is more involved and does explain why I try to avoid it when possible.
We’ve posted a lot of our recent jams and jellies and have mentioned frequently that we haven’t used pectin in them. While we’ve explained this in the past, I thought it would be a good idea to readdress now as it may have enquiring minds wondering and we’re likely to start using it in some of our coming recipes as we head away from fruit and into the world of jellies based on veggies (such as peppers).
Pectin is essential in thickening jams and jellies. Pectin occurs naturally in fruits (in varrying strengths dependant on the type of fruit and the specific harvest on your table) and occurs in it’s greatest amounts in skin, seeds and stems of most fruit. Apples have in in abundance, peppers have low amounts and raspberries can vary wildly.
Making pepper jelly demands adding pectin. Apples rarely do. Raspberries are hit and miss.
Tasting pectin will instantly explain why we try to avoid it – it is extremely bitter. The more pectin added, the more sugar needed. More bitter and more sweet equals less natural flavor of the final preserve (as well as hightened sugar intake). In small-batch preserves, pectin can increase the amount of required sugar by more than double!
We use it when we need it, avoid it when we don’t and run the risk when it’s a close call. We’ve never had a problem with raspberry (or strawberry jam) but our blueberry jam did not set completely last year. We ended up with a half jam, half syrup that was awesome on pancakes. It was also my Uncle John’s favourite of everything we made. In other words, even our defects are tasty!