Mother Earth Monday – Homemade Pectin


Years ago, I posted on a site about how to make your own pectin. I doubt it ever got much readership and probably still doesn’t, so I thought I would offer the same information here where I know there is an audience with interest in such things. The key here is actually not to make modern pectin type solutions, but instead to create an apple jelly stock that you then add other things to.

I have two versions of this same basic recipe and will provide them both so you can do whichever you prefer or which suit your needs. One is a little more concentrated, but each is effective. If you want a stronger pectin solution, use ‘apple thinings’. These have several advantages. Being young, they have more pectin per ounce and cost very little since they aren’t mature apples. If instead you wish to have a clearer jelly, then mature apples are the better choice. For mature apples, pick those that are just a little less than ripe so that you get the best possible pectin levels. The apples should still be tart rather than just sweet.

Both recipes can be used right away or can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator. It can be canned for later use or it can be frozen easily. This allows for a lot of options in how you use and store the apple jelly stock. The finished stock is used as both the water and pectin for the recipe you plan to use. Be aware that each version will list its rough concentrations at the start of the recipe.

Weaker Homemade Pectin Solution

For every pound of apples, you should end up with one quart of usable apple jelly stock. Every four cups of stock is equivalent to half a bottle of pectin or three ounces of commercial liquid pectin. This solution is done all at once and is a bit more labor intensive, but has little risk of burning the stock.

  1. Wash the apples carefully. Do not peal or core, as these locations have the highest pectin concentrations.
  2. Slice the apples into a pint of water per pound of fruit.
  3. Bring to a boil for fifteen minutes
  4. Strain the juice through a single thickness of cheesecloth without squeezing the pulp.
  5. Return the pulp to the kettle and add the same amount of water as before.
  6. At a lower temperature, cook for an additional ten minutes.
  7. Repeat step four.
  8. Allow the pulp to cool before squeezing the remaining juice from it.
  9. Combine the three sets of juice.
  10. Opt: For immediate processing, heat the liquid to a boil and pour into scalding jars. Seal and invert the jars. Allow them to cool and store until needed.

Stronger Homemade Pectin Solution

2/3 of a cup of this solution is generally enough to set 4 cups of low pectin fruit. Adjust accordingly if the fruit you are using already has a higher pectin content. The concentration of the solution is caused by boiling the product down. Because of this, that step must be watched closely to prevent scalding or burning of the product. Overall, it is a low-labor endeavor.

  1. In a non-reactive sauce pan, slice four pounds of washed, unpealed and uncored green apples. Tart and under ripe apples, not green baking apples like the Granny Smith apple.
  2. Cover with enough water to just barely cover them.
  3. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer until soft. Usually this is between twenty and thirty minutes.
  4. Pour the apples and liquid through a fine sieve into a second pot. Do not stir! Allow to drain overnight.
  5. In the morning, bring the liquid to a boil and cook down to half of the original volume.
  6. Test the pectin content. If it is not the desired strength, continue cooking further.
  7. Process the hot pectin into sterile pint jars. Process for five minutes in a water canner.

Testing Your Homemade Pectin

Testing the pectin levels is actually fairly easy. Fill a teaspoon with liquid and pour onto a plate. Combine this with two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol. The resulting effect when the two are swirled together is that the pectin will clot the solution. The larger and more viscous the clots are, the stronger the pectin content is. Small and scattered clots mean your pectin is still too weak without additional boiling down. If it is weak and your recipe won’t involve boiling down further, you can bring it to a boil and reduce it a bit more. Remember that you are going to have to throw out the portion you tested, as the alcohol renders it poisonous.

Acids and Sugars in Combination With Your Homemade Pectin

When you are trying to work out recipes of your own rather than working from an existing recipe, you will want to keep several things in mind. Generally speaking, one or two cups of sugar is the right amount for two cups of prepared fruit or fruit juice. This can vary a bit based on how strong of a set you want and the nature of the product. Preserves, jams, conserves, jelly, and other products will each have a different set to the finished product.

Depending on the fruit you use, more or less acidity must be added. Often this comes in the form of a lemon juice. It is best to consult a chart when determining how much acidity to use, but here is a general rule of thumb. If you have a low acid fruit, add two tablespoons of lemon juice before cooking for every two cups of finished product you intend to have.

Enjoying Your Homemade Pectin

This is how it was done back before you could just pick up pectin any old place. While some fruits have strong enough pectin to do by themselves (such as apples obviously) others would need to be added to a higher pectin fruit. Since apples tend to blend quietly into whatever stronger fruit they are used with, apple jelly stock became the base pectin for a large number of recipes. Give it a try and see if you like it. Don’t worry about it setting, since it still needs the acidity to cause it to set. Storage times have already been mentioned. Enjoy it and let me know what you thought of it if you decide to try some for yourself.

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