Canning without Adding Pectin

Not all recipes require the addition of extra pectin. Some recipes cook the fruit mixture for a long period of time, which reduces the liquid in the mixture to achieve the desired consistency.

When processing spreads without adding pectin, you need patience and the knowledge of what to look for when testing your cooked spread. Basically, you need to know what the spread's gel point is. (Gel point is the cooking point at which jelly is considered done.)

The gel point temperature is 8 degrees above boiling at an elevation of 1,000 feet above sea level or lower (220 degrees). If you're at an altitude higher than 1,000 feet above sea level, you can determine the temperature of your gel point by bringing a pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, check the temperature on your thermometer and add 8 degrees. This is the gel point for your altitude.

You can use any of the following methods for testing the gel point.

  • A candy thermometer: This is the most accurate method for testing the gel point of your spread. Use a thermometer that's easy to read. One degree over or under the gel point makes a difference in your final product.

    It's a good idea to have two candy thermometers. They are inexpensive and critical for perfect jelly making. If one breaks, you'll have a second one for backup during canning.

    For more information about selecting the best candy thermometer and how to test it for accuracy see Candy Temperature.

  • The spoon, or sheet test: Dip a cool metal spoon into your cooked fruit and hold it so the fruit runs off the spoon. When the temperature of the fruit approaches the gel point, it falls off in a couple of drops. When it slides off the spoon in one sheet, the fruit's done. Proceed with your next step.

    This test takes a bit of practice to master. Until you master it, use a candy thermometer in conjunction with this test. When the temperature of the fruit climbs toward the gel point, you'll be able to see the changes in the liquid and compare it to the sheeting from the spoon.

  • The plate test: Place about 1 tablespoon of cooked fruit onto a chilled plate. Put the plate in the freezer and cool the spread to room temperature. If the fruit is set and doesn't roll around on the plate, the mixture is done. Proceed to your next step.

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