Home Canning Pectin, Gelatin, or Clear Jel?

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Home canning pectin, gelatin, and Clear Jel: Three different products used for thickening foods, but in very, very different manners. All are useful in the kitchen, but they’re used for very different things. Some of them are for canning, some aren’t.

Have you ever wondered what’s the difference among these different thickening products? Let’s discuss how you use these ingredients, which foods they go with, and the proper way to use them in your kitchen. Find out the details here!

Home Canning Pectin, Gelatin, & Clear Jel?

Packages of pectin and Sure Jell sitting on the countertop.


Let’s start with home canning pectin.

Pectin is a naturally occurring fiber in fruit. It’s found in some vegetables, but we usually think of fruits, because we’re making jam or jelly. For some fruits, you can use the natural pectin found in the fruit. You add sugar and acid, usually in the form of lemon juice. That helps form a nice gel.

Pectin is naturally occurring in the fruit. (Apples and oranges have a lot of natural pectin.) There are other fruits that don’t contain much natural pectin. When you’re working with those fruits, use a commercially produced pectin. This is still a natural pectin, but it’s highly processed. They remove the pectin from the fruit and process it into a powder. You use it by the tablespoon. It’s dried, but they also make a liquid pectin, which comes in pouches. You slice the corner open and pour it into your fruit. That helps the fruit gel.

There are regular sugar and low-sugar pectins. Different brands are available, but all of them are used for making jams and jellies. That’s what we want to know today: Pectin is used to make jam and jelly.

A package of Knox Gelatine sitting on the countertop.


Next, let’s talk about gelatin.

Gelatin is also used to thicken products, but it is not for making jam and jelly. Pectin is a plant-based product, but gelatin is an animal-based product. It also comes in a powdered form. Many different products have gelatin in it.

Jello-brand jello is one example; it has gelatin in it. That’s what makes it gel up and jiggle. Knox is another brand of gelatin. This is basically unflavored gelatin. I use this when I make finger jello; you can use this with juices to make jello and different things like that. These are both gelatin products, which are animal products.

When you’re making bone broth, as it cools off, it solidifies and jiggles. That’s the gelatin that you’re pulling out of those bones. It gets in your broth and is very healthy, but it is not used for making jam and jelly. Remember that about gelatin.

Sharon holding a package of Clear Jel over a plate.

Clear Jel

Next, we have Clear Jel.

It comes in a package like this and is very, very powdery, like a powdered sugar. Clear Jel is actually a modified cornstarch. Use Clear Jel for making pie fillings.

There are two types of Clear Jel: a cook type and an instant type. You can use either one of them. If you’re just making a fresh pie and putting it in the oven, you can use either type. However, if you want to can pie filling (e.g., process and preserve it on the shelf), you need the cook type. The instant type won’t hold up to the heat of processing, and you’ll end up with runny pie filling.

Clear Jel is not for jam and jelly, and it is not for jello. It is mainly for thickening pie fillings. If you are just making a fresh pie, you can use several different things to thicken that pie: You can use cornstarch, tapioca, or flour. Cornstarch is the nicest, as it gives the prettiest look to the filling and adds the least amount of flavor.

But like I said, if you are canning pie filling, you have to use a modified cornstarch, which comes under the brand name Clear Jel.

Sure Jell

Lastly, Sure Jell. This is actually just a brand name for pectin. It belongs in that first group (pectin), but I’m bringing it up specifically since a lot of people get Sure Jell and Clear Jel mixed up because of the names.

Sure Jell is a pectin for jam and jelly. You can’t use it to thicken up a pie filling if you’re going to process it for the shelf. You want to use Clear Jel for that.

Packages of pectin and gelatin and Clear Jel sitting on the countertop.

Can You Substitute Pectin, Gelatin, & Clear Jel for Each Other?

Finally, the big question: Can I substitute one of these products for the other? Can I use Clear Jel to make jam and jelly? Can I use pectin or gelatin to thicken up my jam?

If you’re doing the canning process, use each thickener for its proper purpose.

Now, if you’re making, say, a freezer jam and want to try using gelatin to thicken it up, you can do that, because you’re not processing it. You’re not storing it at room temperature on the shelf. You’re making it, and then putting it in the fridge or freezer.

It uses different measurements. I’ve never done it before. I always just use pectin, and it works perfectly. That’s the way to go.

Remember, gelatin is for jello. It’s an animal product.

Pectin is for jam and jelly. It’s a plant-based product.

And lastly, Clear Jel is a cornstarch for pie fillings.

I hope this was helpful. You guys have a great day, and we will see you next time.

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Page last updated: 5/27/2021

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Shea Smith
Shea Smith
3 years ago

Love this!
Thank you