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When You Can’t Find Pectin, Try Gelatin for your Jam

This is the time of year when fruit is super abundant and when you want to preserve it in all its summery glory.

You don’t have to make traditional jam to do so: You can freeze most fruit and then pull it out in mid winter to make a summery tart or pie.

But if you do make jam, I have learned that you need to plan ahead. I usually make one or two batches a year, maybe a marmalade in winter and some peach jam at the end of August.

I now know enough about canning and preserving to realize that at this time of year (even when there isn’t COVID-19), it can be very challenging to find canning supplies such as packaged pectin and small jars that are suitable for making preserves.

I like to use Ball Liquid Pectin, which stores ran out of in about late August — long before I ran out of fruit that wanted to be preserved. As I ran around fruitlessly (haha!) searching for pectin, I began to wonder why no one just uses gelatin to make their fruit “gel” together.

I went online and discovered that people do in fact make preserves with gelatin. And when I tried it myself, I learned that actually, gelatin is absolutely the best and easiest way to make jam from fresh raspberries.

Using gelatin to make raspberry preserves has a couple advantages.

First, it allows you to use less sugar. When you use pectin, they insist that you use lots and lots of sugar and warn that if you reduce it at all, your fruit will make a lovely wet sauce but will not  “jam” properly.

When you use gelatin, that’s not a problem. You can use as much or as little sugar as you like. I used a 2:1 ratio for my first batch (which was delicious) and used slightly less than that for my second batch (which was also delicious). 

Another plus: gelatin allows you to cook the fruit more gently, which is helpful when you’re working with something as delicate as a raspberry. To make real jam, you have to boil it hard before you put it in your sterilized jars.

Using powdered gelatin allows you to boil the fruit just long enough so the sugar melts. This lets you keep the berries intact; otherwise you end up with a lovely sweet liquid that is full of seeds but has no lumps of lovely berry bodies.

Careful readers will notice, however, the downside to this jam: You really can’t preserve it. To do so, you’d need to boil it hard, which would destroy the berries and leave you (again) with a liquid full of seeds. This is a refrigerator jam, so you need to eat it within a month or so. 

But because you’re not using pectin to jell it, you can use berries from your freezer to make this jam. So I’ve put most of my berries in the freezer (be clever and measure out four cups of berries into each freezer bag) and will plan to make raspberry jam (with gelatin) all winter long. 

If you don’t want to use traditional gelatin, try seaweed-based agar agar. 


Raspberry Gelatin Jam 

Adapted from www.oureverydaylife.com

• 4 cups raspberries
• 2 cups sugar (or to taste)
• Juice of half a lemon (or less)
• 1 packet of powdered Knox gelatin (or agar agar)


Mash the berries only very slightly in a nonreactive (e.g. ceramic) saucepan, and bring them to a gentle simmer.  Add 1/4 cup of the sugar, to help bring out the juices, and then take out a 1/2 cup of juice and put it on a small plate. 

Turn off the heat under the berries.

Put the juice in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes to cool it down, then sprinkle one packet of gelatin over the top of the juice. Let it set for about 15 minutes. 

About 5 minutes before the gelatin finishes setting, turn the heat back on under the berries and bring them to a boil, stirring gently so you don’t break up the berries too much.

Add the remaining sugar and cook it for about 5 minutes, so it dissolves into the berry juice. Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice and stir. Gently coax the set gelatin off the plate and into the berry mixture. Stir gently until the gelatin dissolves. 

Spoon into jars or a bowl and put in the refrigerator for about two hours, until it sets. Stir it to keep the gelatin from  getting too firm. You can add additional berries, if you like. This should last for about a month in your refrigerator.

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