Within a year after discovering how much I enjoyed making jams and jellies, I had found a pectin that didn't depend on sugar for the gelling process. Pomona's Universal Pectin (http://www.pomonapectin.com/) depends on calcium (derived mainly from orange and other citrus peel) instead, opening up the jam-making process to varying amounts of sugar rather than several cups per batch that had to be EXACT amounts.
It really bothers me that jam you buy at the grocery store is so loaded with sugar and typically has other unnecessary additives. It bothered me even more when I started making jam that I had to add so much sugar. Therefore, when I found out about Pomona's, I felt as if the possibilities were endless. I began making low-sugar jams and jellies without any problem with setting. I discovered that rasberry jam tasted like rasberries, not a raspberry-flavored sugary snack. I fell even deeper in love with the jam-making process, and with encouragement from friends and family, decided to try and sell my product.
Last fall I sold several jars just to people I knew online, before I listed anything on Etsy. Once I listed on Etsy, I sold a few, but due to the shipping costs (which can't be avoided), interest was low. I'm admittedly not very good at promoting online, which I'm trying very hard to improve.
For Christmas last year, I received a fabulous book by Linda Ziedrich called The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves (http://www.amazon.com/Jams-Jellies-Other-Sweet-Preserves/dp/1558324062). I love the books by Linda, as she not only provides a LOT of recipes, but loads of information on the why of things. I always do better at something if I know why it works, and her information on gelling, the different pectins, and how gelling works is indispensable. It's worth noting that her book on pickling is just as good!
In the book, Linda provides information on how to extract your own pectin from apples, oranges, and other fruit. I'm currently working on a transferable degree in biology to OSU, and last spring I was completing the last general chemistry course in the series. For my final, I had to research and present a subject, using what I'd learned in the last year. I decided to do a presentation on pectin; if I thought I knew what I was doing before... I learned loads more doing this research! Pectin is used in almost all processed foods and many things we eat every day -- like milk!
All in all, these last few years I've spent making jams and jellies have been quite rewarding. My biggest hurdle now is to get a handle on promoting online; I'm not very outgoing and I'm not the 'salesman' type, so it's definitely challenging. I'm currently looking into fall and winter craft shows, how to become visible with Google, and using social networking sites to promote.
Thanks for reading! Be sure and take a peak at the newest addition to my Etsy shop (pictured above): Healthy and delicious red currant jelly (http://www.etsy.com/listing/81247626/red-currant-jelly-8-oz-jar)