Learn the science behind:
You can use pectin to make gummies, pâte de fruit, a chocolate glaze, jams, and much more. Pectin sets the product. But, using pectin can be tricky. It might form clumps, not become as firm as you expected, or even not set at all.
Apart from choosing the right pectin, it’s important that you also use the pectin in the correct way. Knowing how to disperse, mix, cook and set the pectin well, increases your chances of success.
- Preventing clumping when mixing pectin
- My pectin gel is not strong enough
- My pectin gel set too quickly
Getting stuck with using pectin to make a gel or gummy? We’ve collected some of the most common challenges with some troubleshooting guidelines. Missing your particular challenge? Leave a comment and we’ll add it to the list.
Preventing clumping when mixing pectin
For this section, we’ll assume you’re using powdered pectin. Liquid pectins don’t have this problem as much.
Pectin is good at forming a gel. However, you do not want it to form a gel, before you’ve been able to mix it through. If so, you’ll end up with unappetizing clumps in your final product. It is important that the pectin is dispersed in your liquid ingredients.
Preventing issues with pectin may depend on the type of pectin you’re using. The most important distinction there is using HM vs. LM pectin (read more here). We’ve added HM and LM between brackets of the relevant headings.
Do not add to boiling water
Most pectins need to be activated by heat to set properly. As such, do not add pectins to a boiling pot of liquid ingredients. The pectin will start to set immediately, increasing the chances for excessive clumping.
Pre-mix with sugar (HM)
HM pectin needs sugar to help it set. As such, to prevent clumping of the pectin, it can be helpful to mix the pectin with the sugar. This way, the pectin powder particles are already spread throughout the sugar. This prevents the particles from clumping together, the sugar keeps them apart.
There is a but here though. Do not mix the pectin with all of the sugar. Adding too much sugar at the start will cause the sugar to bind with a lot of the available water, leaving insufficient water available for the pectin to hydrate properly. A good guideline to use is to make a sugar + pectin mixture in which pectin makes up at least 20% of the overall weight. For instance, if you’re using 20g pectin, that would mean you can mix that with 80g of sugar (20 / (20 + 80) * 100 = 20%).
Looking for detailed help in using HM pectin to make a fruity gummy? Reach our dedicated guide here.
Pre-mix with dry ingredients (LM)
LM pectins don’t necessarily need sugar to work. However, you can use the same principle. Mix the pectin with some of the dry ingredients to prevent clumping.
Or, use a blender
Not using any other dry ingredients? Then it’s a matter of helping the pectin disperse quickly. When you’re making small quantities, stirring the pectin into cool liquids by hand can be sufficient. However, sometimes you might need some more power, especially for larger quantities. It is best to add the pectin while vigorously stirring the liquid ingredients. You could use a blender or a high-speed mixer.
My pectin gel is not strong enough
Keep the cook short
HM pectin especially is very sensitive to breaking down. Over time, its esters, which are crucial for the pectins functionality (see choosing pectins) will break down. The higher the temperature, the faster it breaks down. The pH-value also plays an important role. HM pectin breaks down rapidly under alkaline conditions (pH > 7), even at room temperature. Under acidic conditions, it is more stable. It is most stable at pH 4, but at other values, it still breaks down, especially at higher temperatures.
Check the shelf life (HM)
HM pectins especially are quite unstable over time, even as a dried powder. Ensure you use the pectin before the due date.
LM pectins are a lot more stable, both in powder and liquid form.
Increase calcium content (LM)
Sign up to our weekly newsletter to be updated on new food science articles.
LM pectin only sets if calcium is present. The more calcium is present, the stronger the gel.
Increase the pH-value (LM)
LM pectin gels become less strong at lower pH-values. Their strength especially weakens at pH <3. So increase the pH value somewhat to increase strength.
Switch from LMC to LMA (LM)
LMA pectin needs less calcium to form a gel than LMC pectin does. So, if you can’t change the calcium content of your product, switching the type of pectin can help.
My pectin gel set too quickly
Add acid at the last minute (HM)
HM pectin only starts to set when the pH-value is low enough. Generally around 3-3,5. It’s why you should only add the acidic ingredients at the end of the process. Once the acid is in there it may start to thicken and form a gel.
Another reason for adding acid at the last minute only is that pectin will degrade quite rapidly under hot and acidic conditions.
Use the wrong pectin (HM)
Different pectins set at a different rate. For HM pectins, the name will often tell you whether it sets quickly or slowly. A rapid-set pectin does what the name implies. It sets very quickly. If you need some more time to fill molds, pour the liquid, etc. it is best to choose a (very) slow set pectin.
Pornsak Sriamornsak, Chemistry of Pectin and Its Pharmaceutical Uses : A Review, link
Reginald H. Walter, The Chemistry and Technology of Pectin, p. 29, 1991, link