Pectin vs. Gelatin for Making Jam

My Raspberry Freezer Jam

Christina of Ramey Ranch Review (check out her post on Making Mozarella) writes:

Pectin for Making Jam: I have heard pectin and gelatin content are about the same. While I’m not a vegetarian or anything, I do try to feed my family as wholesomely as possible. Animal waste products are not high on my healthful list! There are some alternative (vegetarian) jam pectins out there, but they are pricey. We live on a ranch and grow most of our own fruits and veggies. I preserve lots of food every year. I am looking for an economical alternative to pectin since I make 12 + batches of freezer jam per year. I would prefer to not cook and can the jam. I did find a product from Mary Jane’s Farm http://shop.maryjanesfarm.org/store/p/65-ChillOver-Powder.aspx. I heard a rumor you could use it for jam. I’m going to try to find out. If you find anything on this topic, please let me know.

Way to go, Christina, on growing the majority of your own fruits and veggies! That has got to be a huge amount of work in and of itself, not to mention the preserving. Your family is undoubtedly reaping the health rewards of your labors!

Pectin is a vegetarian product found in the cellular structure of fruits and veggies, and often sourced from citrus peels or apples. It can be pricey, particularly in small retail packages. In bulk from Azure Standard, a 1lb bag costs $42. 90; this makes about 320 cups of jam.

Gelatin, on the other hand, is an animal product, and most gelatin is made from pork carcasses. Chicken broth and beef broth (made from bones/carcasses) are marketable products, but pork broth doesn’t have much of a market, so this “waste” product is made profitable in the form of Jello, jams, and jellies.

Although this is a waste product of factory slaughterhouses (and that’s a disgusting thought with their sick animals and unsanitary practices!), gelatin in general is a very healthful and nourishing food; this is the main source of nourishment in bone broth (read Bone Broth: Body Builder) and gelatin can even be purchased in capsules as a nutritional supplement for joint problems.

So to find a clean source for gelatin . . . I thought briefly about whether you could make your own from bone broth; gelatin powder must be just dehydrated bone broth. However, I can’t imagine going to that amount of effort (and I didn’t find anything coming up when I googled making your own gelatin powder). I did find some other options, though: certified organic porcine (pork) gelatin, which is more expensive than the pectin above. The bulk size of 2lbs of powder should gel about 200 cups of liquid (perhaps it would be less in making jam?), with a current price of $53.10.

Some people prefer to avoid all pork products, organic or not, in which case beef gelatin is available, and quite a bit cheaper at $7.25 for 1lbs. This is from Azure Standard, a supplier of natural foods, so it is unclear to me if this is gelatin sourced from naturally raised beef or from conventional/factory farming, but a call to their customer service should clarify this. There is no information given on how much would be required to make jam, but I would think it would be 1:1 with the porcine gelatin. If this truly is naturally sourced gelatin, I think this would be an excellent, healthful addition to homemade jam, and an economical option too!

Chill Over Powder

I have no experience with this, although it sounds really interesting. I wonder what’s actually in it? I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary Jane is marketing her own brand of fruit pectin, similar to the one above, in which case you just need to compare the yield/price against the price at Azure or another bulk supplier of natural products.

[Christina writes back: I found out what Chill Over Powder is made from. Ingredients: Agar-agar kanten, an odorless powdered sea vegetable with superior gelling qualities—a MaryJanesFarm exclusive.]

Read Raspberry Jam for my recent experience on using both pectin and gelatin. Good luck in all your summer preserving!

Bone Broth: Body Builder

Homemade broth has become a lost tradition of good cooking, and good health. Bullion cubes, with their dubious list of ingredients (hydrolized fat, lots of salt, chicken “flavor”?), and watered-down boxed broth, are in common use for instant flavor in soups and other recipes, but they boast none of the amazing health benefits of their predecessor, true bone broth.

Centuries of chefs have prized a good stock (their term for broth) as the basis for soups, sauces, and glazes, and centuries of mothers and grandmothers have prized it as the best immune-boosting food for the sick and invalid. Chicken soup used to be known as the “Jewish penicillin” as it was standard treatment for the ill in the Jewish community.

But bone broth is not just for the sick; it’s for building healthy bodies and strong bones. By slow cooking bones over several days, the mineral elements of the bones are leached into the broth and broken down for easy absorption by the human body. If the bones being cooked have cartilage attached to them, this is also broken down into easily absorbed gelatin, which directly nourishes the intestines, and then the joints of the body. Marrow inside the bones dissolves into the broth, providing nourishment for the immune system and building blood.

And the good news is, bone broth is easy to make in a crock pot, and is made from ingredients which you are likely already just throwing away!

Bone broth can be made from any bones: red meat, poultry, or fish. I have not made a fish version, but I plan to with the next “whole” fish I have (and then I’ll delve into oriental soup). Chicken and Beef broths are my staples, as these meats are the most common in my home (turkey broth only gets made once or twice a winter, when we have a holiday feast).

Obviously, the more nutrient-dense the animal that you are cooking, the more nutrient-dense the food will be. So bones from organic free-range poulty, and organic grass fed beef/lamb or wild shot game will yield a better broth.

Poultry Broth
Read my recipe for Poultry Broth, which is the basis for innumerable soups, or can be thickened with potato starch or wheat flour to substitute as “cream of chicken soup” in casseroles.

Beef Broth
Read my recipe for Beef/Game Broth, which is the basis for beef flavored soups, including my favorite, French Onion Soup, and can be used for sauces, glazes, and gravies.

Beef or Game Broth

Each year, we invest in a quarter of beef from a local ranch which humanely raises cattle on a grainless diet (grass fed). The butcher offers the bones to us, and I always say yes, as these “discards” are my little nutrient goldmine! The bones, all shank or knuckle/joint bones, are cut into 2-5 inch lengths and bundled in bags.

Maybe you’ve had similar bones in your freezer, and you’ve wondered what on earth to do with them. Here’s what you do:

Place one large, or two small, beef bones into a large crock pot. Fill with enough purified water to cover bones by 1 inch (3-5 qts?). Add 2 Tb. red wine (vinegar can be used, but I find that it fights the beef flavor); this acidifies the water and causes more leaching of minerals from the bones.

Turn the crock pot on high. After an hour or two, when you notice that the water has heated thoroughly, turn down the crock pot to low, and let slow cook for 24-48 hours. If you see skum form on the top of the broth during cooking, carefully skim away and discard. If the marrow of the bone is exposed from the bone cut, you will notice after a day that it has become soft. Scoop it from the bone, mash into the broth, and continue to cook it down.

When the broth is finished, you should notice that the bones have seemed to shrink slightly in size, and that they appear quite porous as so much of their minerals have been leached into the broth. Remove bones with a slotted spoon, and discard. Place a sieve over a funnel fitted into a quart size glass canning jar. Ladle broth through sieve into jar, leaving about 1.5 inches at the top. Continue to fill additional jars until all broth is stored; cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, you will notice a hardened white layer at the top in each jar; this is fat, and may be removed with a spoon and discarded. As you remove it, you’ll notice that the broth under it is actually Jello-like in consistency. This is caused by the minerals and gelatin which are suspended in water.

Freeze all the jars of broth which you will not use within the next 2 days. Defrost in the refrigerator 1 day prior to use.

Beef broth is the basis for beef flavored soups, including my favorite, French Onion Soup, and can be used for sauces, glazes, and gravies.