Pectin
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Pectin is a complex carbohydrate (heteropolysaccharide), which is found both in, and between, the cell walls of plants. Pectin is a gelling agent that helps regulate the flow of water in between cells and keeps them rigid. Plant products like fruits, lose Pectin as they age. You may have noticed that apples left out too long get soft and mushy. It is because of their Pectin loss. When apples are perfectly ripe, they have a firm and crisp texture, due to their Pectin.

Pectin was discovered in 1825, by the French pharmacist, and chemist, Henri Braconnot who also did research on fats and discovered the earliest known polysaccharide (chitin in mushrooms in 1811), discovered Glycine or “gelatin sugar,” published the first method for creating glucose in 1819, and created the first polymer made by a chemist.

Before Braconnot’s discovery, jams and jellies were still made but they were set by including some apple peel in the jam, or by boiling the fruit and sugar mixture for extended periods of time until reduced and natural Pectin in the specific fruit gelled. Apple peel or citrus peel contain the most Pectin, but plums and pears also have decent amounts.

Production

Today, commercial Pectin is made by extracting Pectin from apple or citrus pomace (the discarded skins or peels that are a by-product of juice production) which is then precipitated, washed, dried and packed with a preservative like sodium benzoate. Commercial Pectin is usually sold in two forms: liquid & powder.

Pectin adds viscosity quickly by changing its shape and trapping water in contact with the fruit acids when heated (as short as 1 minute at a full boil). It gives the fruit or juice mixture a more spreadable texture, often with lower sugar levels and lower nutrient-destroying boil times than no-pectin jams or jellies which can boil for 30 minutes. Pectin does not aid in preservation of the jam or jelly which is achieved by preparation in a sterile environment, the proper ratio of acids (typically citric acid) to sugars, content pressure and temperature changes. 

Culinary Uses

Pectin can be found in grocery stores in the baking section. Making Your Own Apple Pectin is also an option. Essentially, you boil under ripe apples (or crab apples) with lemon juice and water, then strain and seal in jars.

Pectin’s most common culinary use is in making jams, jellies and preserves but in cooking, Pectin can also be used as a Thickening Agent. It doesn’t add flavor to the dishes it is used on and it works extremely well. Pectin is found in many commercially produced foods like yogurt, chocolate milk, and commercial baked products.

Nutrition

Pectin has some medicinal uses and was one of the original ingredients in Kaopectate,® until the ingredients changed in 2002. Because they help firm up the gut, apples (or apple sauce) is still recommended for people suffering from irritable bowels or a bout of diarrhea.

Though there are no scientific studies to verify it, some sources claim that Pectin mixed with grape juice, 1 T Pectin to 8 oz. (227 g) taken daily is a home remedy for joint pain. Check with your doctor before considering a Pectin and grape juice regimen. Because many commercial Pectins are preserved with sodium benzoate, there is a cancer risk in consuming too much pectin, though ironically there have been studies linking un-preserved Pectin to cancer fighting properties.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes