Your grandmother used it for jelly, but pectin, a natural gelling agent extracted from fruits, has many uses outside of canned jams. The structure of this agent allows it to bond with water in an acid environment. Sugar increases the chemical’s ability to form these bonds, which has led to its use in jellies and jams. However, our favorite breakfast spreads are not the only application. Here are some other uses for the gel:
Detoxing Pharmaceuticals and Heavy Metals
Over the past several years, many studies of pharmaceutical and heavy metal detoxification have begun incorporating citrus-fruit-based gel as part of a nature-based form of detoxification. Ingesting powdered pectin mixed with fruit juice has shown to lessen symptoms and aid in overall wellness as part of a rigorous detoxification program. This agent can bond with different chemical agents in your body, thickening waste byproducts. This prevents some chemical agents from being absorbed into the bloodstream, effectively blocking your body’s ability to process the drugs.
Preserving Fresh Flavor
Overcooking any food prevents it from tasting as nature truly intended. Fresh fruits often lose their flavor during the cooking process-especially in candies and desserts-causing the finished product to taste dull. Adding this chemical to the fruit during the cooking process can shorten cook time and preserve the fruit’s fresh flavor and quality. For example, a strawberry cake can achieve a fresher and more intense tangy strawberry flavor.
Maintaining Natural Color
Like flavor, natural color is difficult to maintain in food products that require long periods of cooking. Fortunately, in these situations, the gelling agent can act as a preservative. The gel allows for a shorter cook time, giving the finished product the more vibrant, natural color of its original ingredients. A candy made from raspberries and peaches can carry the bright red and orange hues of those fruits without the need for added coloring.
Thickening Soups and Sauces
With the addition of pectin, it takes only a short time to thicken a soup or sauce, regardless of whether the food is intended for commercial use or private consumption. As this chemical is heated, it turns into a gel that binds with the molecules of the food used in the soup or the sauce. If there are simple sugars in the food, this intensifies the gelling process. The end product is a smooth, creamy, thick soup or sauce with a rich, complex flavor.
Making Frozen Foods Creamier
When this gelling agent is added to foods destined for the freezer, it makes them smoother and creamier, as well as preserving their overall consistency. This is because pectin has the ability to retard the crystal formation that occurs at extremely cold temperatures. This allows foods like ice cream and popsicles to have a better rounded and creamy texture.
This is by no means all of the uses for the versatile pectin. This chemical has a myriad of uses in the food and medical worlds. It can be used to make food smoother, creamier, thicker, and even to maintain freshness. The medical applications of this chemical are also still being explored. It will be exciting to see what new uses will be discovered in the coming years.