I also wanted to keep my recipes as basic and natural as possible. Everything I read called for pectin to cause the jam to gel. I wondered what was in commercial pectin that you buy at the store? What kind of fruit did it come from? Did it come from fruit or was it some concoction manufactured in a lab? How "natural" is it? I couldn't find answers to my satisfaction so I decided to forego using pectin in my recipes.
In my search for recipes, I also found tips on testing for gel point if you're not using pectin. I hope you find this information useful.
I can't take credit for this information about gel point. It is from the Ball Canning and Preserving web site. If you need detailed information, this is a wonderful site with downloadable PDF's and a great FAQ section. I highly recommend it.
I can also tell you that after you do a couple batches and get the feel of it, you will simply know when your jam or preserves have reached the gel point.
COOKING GRAPES to REACH GEL POINT
1. TEMPERATURE TEST
Cook the soft spread until it reaches a temperature of 220°F, or 8°F above the boiling point of water. Measure the temperature of soft spreads with a candy or jelly thermometer. Always insert the thermometer vertically into the soft spread and ensure that it does not contact the surface of the pot.
2. SHEET TEST
Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread. Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally with edge down so that the syrup runs off the edge. As the mixture cooks, the drops will become heavier and will drop off the spoon separately but two at a time. When the two drops join together and “sheet” off the spoon, the gel stage has been reached.
3. REFRIGERATOR TEST
Chill two or three small saucers in the freezer. Place a teaspoonful of soft spread on the chilled saucer and place in the freezer for 1 minute. Remove the saucer from the freezer and push the edge of the spread with your finger. A mixture that has reached the gel stage will be set, and the surface will wrinkle when the edge is pushed. Note: To prevent overcooking or scorching, remove the soft spread from the heat before performing this test.
If the test you performed shows that the gel stage has not been reached, return the mixture to the heat to cook for a few minutes longer, then retest the soft spread.
For comparison, below are the ingredient lists for store bought jam and homemade jam.
As always, thanks for reading,
INGREDIENT LIST FROM HOMEMADE GRAPE JAM
Sugar in the Raw (Turbinado sugar)
INGREDIENT LIST FROM TYPICAL STORE BOUGHT GRAPE JAM
High Fructose Corn Syrup