Preserving Basics: Powder vs. Liquid Pectin

You’re at the store, wanting to get some pectin to put up some jelly or jam while the fruit is in season. You’re in a hurry and just grab one – it doesn’t matter what kind, right?

Well, there are several brands, but I’m not talking about that kind of difference. The biggest difference (in my opinion) is between the powder and liquid pectin. I have seen how not understanding the difference can be the downfall of a batch of jelly. Why? Because they are used just a bit differently. It’s even fooled experienced preservers who always used dry pectin and decided to try liquid, especially as the liquid is often a little cheaper.

If you don't use the instructions that come with the pectin you buy, be sure to use it in the right order with your recipe.

If you don’t use the instructions that come with the pectin you buy, be sure to use it in the right order with your recipe.

The main problem? Using a recipe with directions written for one type and using it with another type. There’s actually a change in the order of ingredients depending on the type of pectin you are using. With the classic powder, you put the crushed fruit or juice in the pan, sprinkle the pectin into it, and stir to ensure it dissolves. Then, you bring it to a boil. THEN you add the sugar and bring it to a boil again.

Liquid pectin, however, has tripped people up. With it, you mix the fruit/juice and the sugar together first, bring that to a boil, and then add the pectin and let it boil again.

So to summarize:
Powder: Fruit/juice, pectin, sugar
Liquid: Fruit/juice, sugar, pectin

Further, it seems to me (though I haven’t researched this thoroughly) that the liquid pectin doesn’t make as big of batches as the powder. If my suspicion is true, this may also cause issues.

It’s a subtle shift that has caused more than one batch of jelly to turn into fruit syrup – though that’s pretty tasty too. So if you’re going to try a type of pectin other than the one the recipe calls for, remember to adapt the procedure.

Happy preserving!