Five Alternatives to using Pectin or Certo:
Pectins, Pomona and ChillOver Powder for Jams and Jellies
Many multiple chemical sensitives are allergic to jams and jellies because of the sulfites within the gelling products. One of the challenges in this arena is that there are few organic alternatives and the organic alternatives are quite spendy. We do carry Food Additive Detox Drops for sulfite allergies, but if you don’t have to use them, and you make your own jams and jellies, then why not start out sulfite free? Here’s what’s available so you can make your own choices. Happy canning season!
Most pectins have preservatives, including sodium or potassium benzoate. Preservatives are what are known as biocides. Organic farmers and/or consumers don’t want biocides in their food. According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_benzoate “in combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C, E300), sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate may form benzene, a known carcinogen. Heat, light and shelf life can affect the rate at which benzene is formed.” Since the goal of pectins is to preserve things so that they last longer, this seems to be a challenge and contradiction when it comes to benzoates.
Pomona brand low methoxyl (LM) pectin has no preservatives but Pomona pectin is made, just like its preservative-laden cousins, from the by-products of processing non-organic fruit. Low Methoxyl (LM) pectins are chemically modified so they gel with the use of calcium rather than sugar. I tried Pomona Pectin this last year during jam and jelly season and I found it a bit tricky to work with. The package directions were not that understandable. Some jams set really well, but with others I couldn’t seem to figure out how much to put into the batch and it ended up not setting well at all. Also of note, once a bottle of jam is opened it needs to be used up within a shorter time than jams/jellies preserved with other pectins, so if you’re eating for one or two, you may want to can your jams in 4 oz. jars instead of larger jars. Another downfall is that Pomona pectin seems overpriced. It costs between $4.50 and $5.00 per ounce. The cheapest price on-line for 1 lb. bulk Pomona is $47.95 (http://www.canningpantry.com/pounpe1lbbup.html).
Gel-EZ Lite LM pectin. You can purchase this for $13.95 a pound http://www.kitchenkrafts.com/product.asp?pn=IN1521), but it contains preservatives. Gel-EZ Lite also contains maltodextrin, a sugar, so you must use twice as much to get the same jelling action.
Making your own pectin from organic fruit. Since unripe apples have the most pectin and some of these fall to the ground, or can be easily picked, making your own pectin might be an idea. Other fruits (apricots, rhubarb and Italian prunes) are high in pectin as well. If you add a few unripe fruits to your batch of jams, this will assist a good gel. Here are some links for making pectin from unripe apples:
Hawthorne berries are also high in natural pectins. The seeds however are high in cyanide so you don’t want to eat those. The claim to fame for Hawthorne berries is that they are high in pectin, so they have been added to other fruits to make jelly. Hawthorne berry itself often has little apparent taste. However some hawthorns are tasty enough in their own right to be made into jelly. Just ripe berries have the most pectin:; overripe berries the least. http://www.eattheweeds.com/the-crataegus-clan-food-poison-2/ Hawthorne is used by herbalists to strengthen the heart muscle. Just don’t eat the seeds.
ChillOver Powder from www.maryjanesfarm.com ChillOver powder is made from Agar-agar Kanten and makes superior jams. It can be purchased in bulk. It is also used as a gelatin replacement, to make homemade yogurt–anything that needs to be thickened. To purchase: http://shop.maryjanesfarm.org/store/p/65-ChillOver-174-Powder.aspx
Did you know that commercial jams and jellies also contain corn syrup to prevent the product from crystallizing after it has been opened and refrigerated?
Helpful Links for Pectin from this site:
Other non-pectin foods containing sulfites: http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/diet_nutritionsulfites.htm