The Mystery of Pectin Revealed
by Aimee Stockman

It is my love of jelly and jams that led me to find the answers to these questions on pectin.

 What is Pectin?

 According the London SB University pectin is an acidic structural polysaccharide, found in fruit and vegetables. They are water-soluble polymers of galacturonic acid that forms sols and gels with water, which makes them perfect for jellys. Pectin has a complex structure. Preparations consist of substructural entities that depend on their source and extraction methodology.

The following is a diagram of the location of pectin in cell walls of fruit from the international pectin producers association.

They explain that "Pectin in this state contains a range of neutral sugar molecules, in a complex non-random structure, containing blocks of homogalacturonic acid (sometimes called "smooth regions"), and blocks containing many neutral sugar molecules (rhamnose, galactose, arabinose, and lesser amounts of other sugars) in a highly branched structure (sometimes referred to as "hairy regions").  When pectin is extracted, much of the hairy regions are destroyed, leaving mainly the smooth galacturonic acid regions, with a few neutral sugar units attached or in the main linear chain. The nature and placing of these neutral sugars may vary with the source material, and have some influence on the properties of pectins from different origins. However, the biggest influence on pectin properties is the degree of esterification (DE), which determines, for example, the degree of reactivity with calcium and other cations."

How is pectin extracted?

Pectins are one of the important components of the cell wall. They are mainly prepared from 'waste' citrus peel and apple pomace. In one method, called flash extraction of pectin by steam injection, they use a high-temperature, high-speed procedure that appears to be ideal for extracting high quality pectin.

It is even possible to extract pectin from fruits such as apples in your own kitchen. One method is described by Sam Thayer on a website listed below.

 What is Pectin used for?


Pectin is a "gum" found naturally in fruits that causes jelly to gel. Tart apples, crab apples, sour plums, Concord grapes, quinces, gooseberries, red currants and cranberries are especially high in pectin.

Apricots, blueberries, cherries, peaches, pineapple, rhubarb and strawberries are low in pectin. Underripe fruit has more pectin than fully ripe fruit. Jellies and jams made without added pectin should use 1/4 underripe fruit (LSBU). Pectins are mainly used as gelling agents, but can also act as thickener, water binder and stabilizer. Many recipes call for the addition of pectin.

Pectin is available commercially either in powdered or liquid form. These two forms are not interchangeable, so use the type specified in the recipe. Powdered pectin is mixed with the unheated fruit or juice. Liquid pectin is added to the cooked fruit and sugar mixture immediately after it is removed from the heat. When making jellies or jams with added pectin, use fully-ripe fruit.

It is even suggested by Viable Herb Solutions that Pectin, in the diets of humans and lab animals, has been shown to increase the excretion of lipids, cholesterol and bile acids, and reduce serum cholesterol levels. Pectins operate by binding with bile acids,hereby decreasing cholesterol and fat absorption. In addition to these there are pectin shampoo products, confections, beverages, milk products, ice creams, and dietary products.

If you would like any more information on pectin and it's uses, I compiled a list of websites below.

Resources For any products or information on ordering pectin online.

For more information on pectin Picture of raspberries preserves.html Picture of Jelly/Jams The London South Bank University studies on pectin

More on apples

Sam Thayers extraction method

Another use for Pectin Pectin explanation

Examples of more uses for pectin