When it comes to making the perfect jams, jellies, and preserves, there is a secret weapon in every home cook’s arsenal: pectin.
This product is a naturally occurring starch that is found in the peels and rinds of foods such as apples and citrus fruits.
This starch, when combined with sugar and citric acid, helps to create a gel-like texture that is crucial for making award-winning jams and jellies.
But is there a difference between liquid and powdered pectin? Can they be used interchangeably in recipes? If so, how do you do it properly?
So, what’s the difference between liquid and powdered pectin? The biggest difference is that you add liquid pectin at the end of the boiling process once the sugar has been added, whereas you will add powdered pectin to the fruit mixture before the sugar and the boiling.
Read on to discover more about what pectin is, the different between liquid and powdered pectin, how to use them interchangeably in recipes, and more!
What Is Pectin?
Before we get into the difference between liquid and powdered pectin and how to use them, it’s helpful to understand what pectin is.
Pectin is a type of starch, called heteropolysaccharide (you don’t really need to remember that), which is used to thicken things like jellies and jams.
You can find naturally occurring pectin in things such as apple peels and citrus rinds since it helps to give the cell walls strength and structure.
Home cooks long ago discovered that combining pectin with sugar and acid creates a semi-solid gel texture that is great for preserving fruits and making jams and jellies.
You can buy pectin at most grocery or specialty food shops. The commercial type you see at the store is generally made from citrus rinds and comes in either a liquid or a powdered form.
In a pinch, I’ve used boiled apple peels to help thicken up some of my jellies, but the pure stuff works best.
What Are The Types Of Pectin?
While you may have seen liquid or powdered pectin on the grocery store shelves, there are actually a wide variety of pectins that have different uses depending on what you’re making.
The two major types of pectin are high methoxyl (HM) and low methoxyl (LM), both of which have different actions.
The most common kind of pectin you’ll see at the store is the high methoxyl type, which can be further broken down into fast-acting or slow-acting/set.
As the names suggest, one variety will set faster and is best for chunky jams, while the slow set pectic is best for clear jellies.
Low methoxyl pectin is often referred to as low-sugar pectin since it uses calcium instead of sugar to help set your different recipes.
These two types of pectic can come in dried forms and can be used for everything from quick set freezer jam to modified citrus pectin.
Since they all function in different ways, make sure you use the exact type of pectin that is recommended in whatever recipe you are following.
Finally, liquid pectin tends to only come in regular form—that means no low or high methoxyl, quick set, instant, or modified citrus pectin varieties.
It is essentially dried regular pectin that has been dissolved into a liquid for you so that you don’t end up with clumps and lumps in your final product.
How To Use Liquid Pectin
When you’re making jellies, preserves, spreads, jams, or marmalades, pectin can help create a jelly-like texture that is super delicious and satisfying.
When it comes to using liquid pectin there is a specific method you should follow to get the best results.
As you simmer and boil your fruit or juice or whatever you’re using to make a jam or jelly, you will want to add liquid pectin at the end of the cooking process.
The mixture should be boiling and you should only have a short amount of cooking time left.
You don’t want to add liquid pectin until after you have added the sugar to the mix since liquid pectin doesn’t need to be cooked out in the same way that powdered pectin has to be.
Adding your liquid pectin at the end of the cooking process is crucial to setting the mix properly.
How To Use Powdered Pectin
When cooking and preserving with powdered pectin you will want to add it to your fruit mix or juice at the very beginning of the cooking process, before you add your sugar or bring it to a boil.
Unlike liquid pectin, powdered pectin needs to be cooked out in order for it to properly gel.
Always follow your recipe and use the amount suggested for the type and amount of fruit that you’re using.
Some fruits such as apples, apricots, citrus fruits, and cherries, won’t require as much pectin as other fruits since they contain quite a bit already.
You’ll also have to make sure to add your sugar and citric acid so that the chemical reaction can happen that causes your fruit mix to turn into a jam, jelly, marmalade, or preserve.
Can You Substitute Liquid For Powdered Pectin?
Say you’re in the process of gathering all your ingredients for a new jelly recipe when you realize that it calls for liquid pectin and all you have on hand is powdered.
Are all your hopes for a delicious treat thrown out the window? Or can you substitute powdered pectin for liquid?
Fortunately, with just a couple of minor adjustments, you can substitute liquid for powdered pectin and vice versa. Since they work slightly differently there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- If substituting powdered pectin for liquid pectin make sure you use the regular version, not low or no-sugar pectin.
- You will have to adjust the amount of liquid or powdered pectin accordingly. Typically, you will need to use about 2 tablespoons of powdered pectin per 1 packet of 3-ounce liquid pectin.
- You will have to add them at the right time. Liquid pectin has to be added after the sugar to boiling liquid near the end of the cooking process.
- Powdered pectin has to be added to the fruit mixture at the beginning of the cooking process before the sugar is added or it is brought to a boil. Powdered pectin requires more cooking out than liquid pectin, so the timing is very important.
As you can see, with just a few small tweaks to your recipe you can use either liquid or powdered pectin virtually interchangeably without impacting the final taste or texture.
Just make sure you use the right amount, the right kind, and that you add it at the right time.
Pectin is soluble starch that is naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables and provides structure to their cellular walls.
Fruits such as apples, apricots, cherries, and citrus are naturally high in pectin, with citrus fruit being the most common source of commercial pectin in grocery stores.
The main difference between liquid and powdered pectin is that the liquid pectin has been dissolved into liquid to prevent it from forming lumps and clumps in your final jam or jelly.
Liquid pectin also only comes in one form: regular pectin, so you cannot replace it with low or no sugar pectin.
When it comes to adding pectin to your recipe, powdered pectin needs to be added at the beginning of the cooking process before your mixture has been brought to a boil or had any sugar added.
Powdered pectin needs to be cooked out longer, so the timing of when you add it is crucial to the recipe.
Liquid pectin needs to be added at the end of the cooking process, once your mixture has boiled for 10-30 minutes and after the sugar has been added.
Once you add the liquid pectin you should really only boil it another few minutes before transferring it to your sterilized jars.
If you’re replacing powdered pectin for liquid pectin, then you will need to use 2 tablespoons per every 3 ounce packet of liquid pectin required in your recipe.
It is very important that you substitute liquid pectin for only regular powdered pectin, since the low sugar version won’t work the same way.
Have you ever replaced liquid pectin with powdered pectin or vice versa? What were your results? Do you have any extra tips to share? Let us know in the comments!