I’ve been canning jam and jelly for 30-some years now. Unlike most recipes, I make low sugar jams, jellies, and preserves using low-methoxyl pectin.
I scavenge, glean, collect, barter, and buy organic fruit. So why oh why would I want to use pectin that requires a inordinate amount of sugar to set? I don’t because that would defeat the purpose if you ask me. So I use Pomona’s Universal Pectin which is made from citrus peels. It uses a calcium solutoin to to set, not sugar.
Here’s the best part: my jams & jellies are not just delicious, they taste like nothing you’ve had before. Why? Others need sugar to set so you think of jam (or jelly) as sweet. My aren’t. They taste like fruit. And unlike jams made by cooking fruit down over low heat for what seems like hours and hours, mine are fruit that happens to be thickened.
Most of what I make is improvised in that I use whatever fruit I have, mixing and matching as I go. So instead of reciting a fixed recipe, let me explain how the process works. Armed with an overview, you too can make them. Rules of thumbs and my experiences (including mistakes) are all you need to get started.
BTW, no matter how modest your efforts or what holiday(s) someone celebrates, you’ll win double bonus points gifting homemade jelly, preserves, marmelade or jam.
What you make is only as good as the fruit you use. You can’t make good food from bad ingredients. Fresh fruit, organic if possible, is the way to start. Underripe fruit has more natural pectin.
Learn how much pectin is in the fruit(s) you use Apples & crabapples have lots of natural pectin so you need to add less pectin to them. You can also mix them with other fruit that’s low in pectin.
Follow the instructions Well, at least at first until you learn how it reacts before you start experimenting, improvising, and making adjustments. Mix the calcium powder (monocalcium phosphate) in water and store it in the refrigerator for future batches. Add the calcium to the fruit before you add the pectin to avoid lumps. Mix the pectin with honey (or sugar) first, then add it to the fruit. Stir, stir, stir to avoid lumps.
Don’t be afraid to use less sugar If you’ve made jam or jelly before adjust your thinking and your recipes. You only need enough sweetener to balance the acid in the fruit and to taste. These jams and jellies won’t be 50-75% sugar. That’s why you use low methoxyl pectin, to avoid excess sugar.
Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. Taste the fruit, not the sugar. Be creative: use low-methoxyl pectin to thicken a dipping sauce for spring rolls. Look for Pomona Universal Pectin in grocery stores, food coops, and wherever you find canning supplies. It can be hard to find so stock up; it stores indefinitely.