Pectin is the substance used to make jam and jelly gel. Oftentimes, people shy away from its use thinking it is not “natural”. Nothing could be further from the truth! Pectin is what is on the other side of the outside peel of many fruits like citrus fruits and apples. There is little pectin found in grapes, strawberries, or cherries.
While pectin is not required to make jam or jelly, I personally believe it is needed in order to get that jelled texture I love so much! Without pectin, most jams or jellies would merely be sweet juice.
I live in a state that has high humidity most of the time so I prefer powdered pectin because I believe it makes the jam and jelly set better. It is also the one that my nana taught me to use. You should use the pectin that you prefer. Or, not use it at all!
If you choose not to use pectin you must cook your fruits longer, reducing by more than half. It works well for apple butter and a few others, but it would be nearly impossible to make strawberry jam without good old pectin! I’m also positive you cannot make jelly without pectin.
Once, I tried to make strawberry jam without pectin. turned out to be big hunks of strawberries in some juice that would soak a biscuit into a soggy mess had I used it. I have also tried to make strawberry jam without pectin or sugar. Not only is it bad textually, it tastes horrible! Turns out it was a spoonful of textually unsatisfying yuk!
So, I use pectin and sugar. I have enough crisis’ going on in the kitchen without a bunch of expensive failures taking up shelf space!
I also have used “no-sugar” pectin with great success! My dad and mother-in-law (both Rest In Peace) were diabetic. They loved my no sugar jam, used as topping for the sugar-free ice cream, especially the strawberry no-sugar jam. Dad used to say it was like a regular ice cream sundae. I don’t know if it was actually THAT good, but it was a great substitute. He used the no-sugar jam on biscuits, croissants, and regular slices of bread.
Pectin is a great thing. You should not shy away from using it just because some pompous, judgemental, elitist tells you that you shouldn’t!