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The (Scientific) Guide to Making HM Pectin Gummies

Using pectin can be a great way to make a gummy – a bouncy, slightly translucent gel-like snack. A good gummy holds its shape and isn’t sticky.

However, pectin can be a finicky ingredient to work with. It is prone to clumping, or it might set long before you need it to. To make a consistent, high-quality products, having a basic understanding of how pectin works, will help tremendously.

We’ll be focusing on gummies made with HM pectin. Looking for tips on using pectin but not focused on making HM pectin gummies? Then our generic pectin tips & tricks might be just what you need.

Choosing your pectin: HM

Within the world of pectins, there is a lot of choice. A major decision factor when deciding to make a gummy is whether to use an HM or LM pectin for your gummy. An HM pectin requires you to use high amounts of sugar (over 50%) and a pre-set level of acidity, or pH level. An LM pectin on the other hand does not need large quantities of sugar but does require the presence of calcium.

Both work differently when making a gummy. To keep things simple, in this article we’ll only focus on gummies made with HM pectin. That is, gummies that contain plenty of sugar, and no (added) calcium.

Not sure whether your pectin is LM or HM? Look at the instructions. If it requires using calcium, it’s of the LM type. If it requires high amounts of sugar, it will be of the HM type. Still not sure? Read our extensive pectin choosing guide.

HM pectin sets with sugar & acid

To make gummies, you need pectin molecules to form a ‘gel’. In a gel, pectin molecules form a complex structure that enables them to hold onto water. This prevents the water from moving freely. As a result, you have a gel of a fixed shape, instead of liquid water. The liquid in the gel can no longer flow freely.

HM pectin doesn’t automatically form such a network. On the contrary, the individual pectin molecules will not want to interact with each other due to repulsive forces and their love for water. This is where the high sugar content and fixed pH-value come in. In order to have the pectin molecules come closer to each other to form a gel network, they need plenty of sugar and a low pH-value.

Note, HM pectin is also the type of pectin you’d use to make a ‘regular’ fruit jam, that is, one that is high in sugar. If you want to make a sugar-free jam, you’d use LM pectin.

HM gummy experiment, varying temperature and pH-levels

Pectin sets differently than gelatin

Pectin’s main ‘competitor’ on the gummy market out there is gelatin. You will find gelatin in a lot of gummy-like products. Gelatin is a very unique ‘gelling agent’. It can form a gel that’s very bouncy and even a little stretchy. It’s what enables a wobbly panna cotta, and a squishy marshmallow.

A gel made with pectin on the other hand won’t be as bouncy. But, unlike a gelatin gummy, it’s easier to cut a pectin gummy into pieces. It will have a cleaner cut. Even though the differences may seem vague when explained on paper, you’ll definitely notice the difference when eating the two different types.

How to make a fruity pectin gummy

It’s not easy to find recipes for pectin gummies. This is because making gummies with pectin isn’t as straightforward. For one, there are a lot of different types of pectins that all work just a little differently. A pectin from one supplier may work very differently from that of another. Also, it is quite important to control the acidity of the gummy carefully. This can be very challenging without a proper buffering system or pH-meter.

So, keep that in mind when continuing the article. You might need to tweak things here and there. Nevertheless, this article should serve as a good starting point for making your own.

No clue what a pH-buffering system is? It’s a set of ingredients that can hel pto stabilize the pH-value of a product. These are ingredients that will react with their surroundings when it gets too acidic or alkaline, that way re-balancing the system. If you’re looking at larger scale manufacturing you will most likely need an ingredient that can work as a pH buffer.

The ingredients: sugar, fruit, pectin & acid

To make an HM pectin gummy we need the pectin and we need a lot of sugar and at least one acidic ingredient.

Of course, to make it fruity, you’ll also need a source of fruit. Your best bet is to use a pre-made fruit puree, one that doesn’t contain any seeds, skins, etc. since these would all interfere with the gummy making process. If you want to be able to replicate your gummy-making skills, it’s best to use a commercially available puree. That way, you can be quite sure that the composition is very similar time and time again. If you decide on making your own, you may need to tweak things slightly every time you make them depending on the sugar content of the fruit you’re using and its acidity.

Keep in mind that some fruits naturally contain a lot of pectin, think of apples and cranberries. If you use these ingredients, you might be able to use less pectin, while still achieving a similar texture.

For our fruity pectin gummy, we decided on using regular white sugar, a commercial raspberry puree, and some powdered citric acid. Once you’ve got your ingredients, you’re ready to get going!

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Step 1: Mix the ingredients

Pectin powder is very prone to clumping when added to water. Once clumped, it’s very hard to ‘unclump’. Which is why it’s best to prevent it ;-).

When making small batches, the easiest way to do so is by pre-mixing the HM pectin powder and the sugar, before adding it to the fruit puree. It’s also best to add pectin to fruit while it’s still cool. Pectin will start to thicken when heated, making it harder to mix in.

Do NOT add the acid at this point. HM pectin forms a gel once there is enough sugar AND it’s sufficiently acidic. As long as either of the two conditions aren’t met, it won’t set. This is why you should only add the acid at the far end of the process. Adding it any sooner will cause the pectin to set right in your pot.

Step 2: Heat & stir

When making a pectin gummy you need to ensure:

  • the sugar concentration is high enough
  • the moisture content is low enough
  • the pectin is ‘activated’.

You do this by cooking the sugar + fruit + pectin mixture.

To make a good gummy, it is crucial that the moisture content is on par. If there’s too much moisture it won’t set. If there is too little moisture, it will be too thick. A good way to control the moisture content is by watching the temperature of your sugar + fruit solution. Once it’s boiling, the temperature serves as a measure for the amount of sugar present. The higher the sugar concentration, the higher the boiling point. This is a crucial concept, used for many making candy-making processes. Once you’ve reached your target temperature, you will automatically also know the sugar concentration of your sugar solution.

Don’t forget to stir at all times during this step. The fruit solution contains a lot of sugar and is prone to starting to caramelize on the bottom and the sides. By stirring regularly, you can prevent this from happening.

Using vacuum to improve quality

If you have access to professional candy-making equipment, using vacuum cooking pans will improve the quality of most gummies. In these pots, you apply a vacuum to your fruit and sugar mix. As a result, the boiling point of the mixture is a lot lower. This allows you to evaporate moisture at a lower temperature. As a result, flavors, vitamins, etc. which would normally be broken down by the heat, aren’t impacted.

Step 3: Add acid & Pour

Once you’ve evaporated enough moisture and hit your target cooking temperature, it’s time to set the pectin to work. So far, you haven’t added any acid, except maybe some acid that’s naturally present in the fruit. The lack of acid prevents the pectin from truly setting. Once the acid has been added, the pectin molecules will quickly start to form a gel. Just how quickly depends on the type of pectin you’ve used and on how fast you cool the mixture down. But, be prepared to work quickly here!

Once the acid has been mixed in, pour the gummy mixture into your molds. Leave it to cool to set completely. Be patient here. It can take a while for the pectin gel to have gained its full strength. Wait at least a couple of hours before trying to remove the gummies from the molds or before cutting them into pieces.

Most HM pectins work best at a pH-level of approximately 3.3. You can use a pH-meter to check the pH of your mixture, though this can become tricky once the mixture starts to set. Even though it is often said that only one specific pH-level can work, most pectins to have some leeway a few percent points up or down.

It’s an irreversible process

Once you’ve made your pectin gummy, that’s it. There is no way to ‘fix’ things later on. Whereas you can re-melt a gelatin gummy, you can’t do so with HM pectin. The way the gel sets is an irreversible process. It won’t melt or turn soft again.

This of course is an advantage if you’re planning to store your gummies at higher temperatures. A major disadvantage though is that cleaning equipment with some leftover gummy material takes a little extra effort. It won’t dissolve as easily as many other purely sugar-based candies would!

pectin gummy experiment
HM raspberry pectin gummy experiment

Troubleshooting fruit pectin gummies

Even though making a fruit pectin gummy requires a lot of precision, you still have quite some leeway in order to make just exactly the gummy you desire. We’ve done a range of experiments in which we varied the cooking temperature of the fruit, sugar, pectin mixture and we experimented with changing the pH-level by varying the amount of added citric acid.

All five experiments made pectin gummies that tasted good, but, we did notice the following:

  • Leaving out the acid gives a noticeably softer gummy. It wasn’t truly a gummy, more a firm fruit puree. This showed in the fact that it couldn’t be cut into smaller pieces as smoothly and it had a noticeably different mouthfeel.
  • You can make up for a lack of pectin by increasing the cooking temperature. The lower moisture content has a very big impact on the overall gummy texture.

Overall, it showed that yes, making pectin gummies can be tricky. But, once you understand your product and process. There are ample ways to tweak it, to make it to your liking.

Raspberry Pectin Gummy

Raspberry Pectin Gummy

A bright, tart and juicy raspberry gummy.

Ingredients

  • 100g raspberry puree
  • 80g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp slow set HM pectin
  • 1/8 tsp citric acid

Instructions

  1. Mix the sugar and pectin powder.
  2. Add the sugar + pectin and raspberry puree to a pan. Do NOT add the acid, this will cause the mix to set immediately.
  3. Bring the fruit mixture to a boil and continue cooking until it has reached 110°C (230°F). Stir continuously to ensure the mixture doesn't start to caramelize at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Once it reaches the target temperature, immediately take it from the heat.
  5. Add the citric acid, stir, and immediately pour it onto a tray. Glass trays work very well.
  6. Leave to set. Ideally, leave for a couple of hours, it takes a while for the pectin to do its work.
  7. Carefully remove from the tray and cut the slab into pieces. You can coat them with some sugar for added crunch, or enjoy them as is.
  8. Store in an air-tight container. Humidity from the surroundings may make them sticky.

Resources

edited by Reginald H. Walter, The Chemistry and Technology of Pectin, p. 29 & 30, 1991, link

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