Peach Jam: Try a No-Pectin Variety

Tap into the natural pectin in peaches for a "stand up" jam.
Make perfect peach jam without commercial additives.

Make perfect peach jam without commercial additives.

Pectin is a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in ripening fruit. Some fruits, like apples and citrus fruits are loaded with the stuff, while others, strawberries, for example, have much less. Why do we care? Pectin has a quality that comes in very handy when preparing jams and jellies for canning. Combined with heat, sugar and acid, it’s the thickener that puts the gel in your jelly.

The pectin one buys commercially is usually made from what is left after juicing those high pectin fruits. Available in powdered or liquid form, it gives home canners a quick and consistent way to make certain homemade jam doesn’t have to be re-classified as homemade fruit syrup. 

I like commercial pectin. I use commercial pectin. But in many cases, adding commercial pectin isn’t necessary to produce thick, flavorful, glorious jams and jellies at home. Drawing out the naturally occurring pectin is often enough to get the job done, provided one is willing to spend a little extra time standing at a hot stove.

Depending on altitude, the gel point of pectin (that magic moment when it becomes thick and will stay that way at room temperature) lies between 210 and 220 degrees. It usually takes 25-30 minutes to get there when cooking jam on the stove. A candy thermometer is helpful for making sure you’re in the ballpark. but when relying on naturally occurring pectin and variances in sugar, a test is in order to ensure the jam will set.

Using a cold plate, it’s easy to confirm the set point has been reached. Before getting started, put a plate in the freezer. When it looks like the jam might be ready to go, take the plate out and drop a small glob on the plate and wait a minute. If a “skin” forms on the surface, the jam is ready to go (if you’re uncertain, poke it. If it wrinkles, you’re set).

Peaches are relatively low in pectin, but with time and attention, a thick and flavorful jam can be produced without the  added expense of commercial pectin. I know it gets hot in the kitchen this time of year, but don’t wander off. Keep stirring. Jam burns quickly at 220 degrees.

No (Added) Pectin Peach Jam

  • 6 pounds peaches
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar

Peel, pit and chop peaches and place in a large pot.

Add lemon juice to peaches and mash using a potato masher.

Stir in sugar and bring to a boil.

Continue to boil and stir until a temperature of 210-220 degrees is reached and jam thickens (25-30 minutes).

Test thickness by dripping a little jam on a cold plate (if a skin forms after a minute, jam is ready. If not, continue cooking until “set point” is reached).

Transfer jam into sterilized canning jars.

Cap with lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

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