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Fruit Pectin

by on August 2011

After writing the article on the Dawn of Tiki, I had about a litre of prepared fruit juice leftover, so I've continued to make the drink from the Philippines. Even though I'm on my sixth or seventh one, the drink still has a peculiar property that makes me enamored with it. I've finally figured out one of the unique properties that makes it so enjoyable: fruit pectin.

First, fruit pectin is an all natural compound found in many fruits, and is  the gelling agent used to make jams. But, you will rarely find it in cocktails because to extract the pectin from the fruit you need to apply heat. Most commercial fruit juices are cold pressed, and there is very little pectin in the juice.

But, if you take certain fruit, and boil it, with the skins and cores, you’ll extract a lot of pectin. Now, if you boil high pectin fruit for a short time, you’ll make a thick, jam like concoction. But, if you boil it for 20 minutes, you’ll break down the pectin chains and the pectin with have less thickening / gelling power. This is good for drinks, ‘cause who wants to drink a jelly?

Anyway, the pectin in this drink seems to contribute to a very smooth mouthfeel that makes the drink unique.

For anyone that attended the Sensory Perception session at Tales of the Cocktail, you may remember that increasing viscosity creates the perception of a sweeter drink and also reduces the “alcohol” flavour.

Pectin is found in most fruits, but certain ones are higher in pectin than other. The skins of citrus fruit (oranges, lime, lemon, etc.) are very high in pectin, as are apples, plums, kiwi, cranberries, and blueberries.

Low pectin fruit include cherries, strawberries, pears, nectarines, grapes, melons, pomegranate and bananas.

Unripened fruit is higher in pectin, and overly ripe fruit is lower in pectin.

So, if you want to create a unique drink, try boiling your high pectin fruit. The shorter the boil, the more thickening action the liquid will have, theoretically. Beware that boiling fruits with their skins can impart a bitterness to the liquid. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but keep an eye on it.

If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of boiling fruit, then you can just buy pectin at your local grocery store. For drinks you’ll need to use liquid pectin and it still requires some prep time, but no cooking. Note that we aren’t trying to make jam, just to increase the viscosity of the drink. This means you need to add only a small amount of pectin to the fruit juice to get some thickening. Adding citrus juice, like lime juice will help with the thickening.

When you add the pectin thickened juice to a cocktail it will give a silky texture to the drink.