Friday, December 4, 2009

Food Science Friday: Pectin Power

We're adding this to the must-make list for next year. This tangy cranberry-ginger relish is easy to make and really perks up your roast turkey either on the plate or in a sandwich. But, when we made this recipe, we were really taking advantage of the natural pectin that is present in cranberries to create a gel.

When you buy jam or jelly in the store, you often see pectin in the ingredient list. Pectin is a carbohydrate that acts as a thickener or gelling agent. Fruits have varying amounts of natural pectin. (Click here for a link that classifies fruit by its pectin content.) For example, citrus peels have high pectin content while in soft fruits like strawberries or raspberries, there isn't enough natural pectin to make a firm gel in a jam or jelly. In those cases, additional pectin can be added if a firmer gel is desired. The combination of pectin, with sugar to bind the water, and an acid like lemon juice or vinegar to adjust the pH- can create the conditions for pectin chains to bind to each other and form a gel. Cranberries have enough natural pectin such that we didn't need to add any extra and they are naturally acidic as well.

There are five simple ingredients in this recipe: sugar, water, cranberries, red wine vinegar and ginger. For the recipe, click here.

1. Start this recipe by grating fresh ginger and rinsing the cranberries.

2. Combine them in pot with sugar and water. Bring to a boil and simmer until most of the cranberries have burst, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.

3. You will see the mixture has visibly thickened and if you make this ahead of time and put it in the fridge, it will have completely gelled into a delicious accompaniment for your turkey or pork!

So forget the canned cranberry, use the power of natural pectin and make your own next year!