This video shows a technique that was featured as project 39 in my 52 Food Preservation Techniques book from Skyhorse Publishing.
Pectin is a natural complex enzyme that, when heated with sugar, creates the thickening effect that is essential for jams and jellies.
While you can buy pectin at almost any grocery store, it is also quite easily made with tart green apples. Crabapples work best—or Granny Smith if you don’t have a crabapple tree—but really any small green and immature apple is likely to work.
This used to be a common skill for homemakers, as making jam and jellies was the best way to preserve fruits for the winter and commercially made pectin was not available.
One thing that the home pectin maker needs to know is that pectin levels vary from plant to plant, and from day to day, so this technique needs to be tested so you can know how much pectin to use in a recipe.
We list a method of testing pectin at the end of this article.
There are two things that work in harmony to make jelly jell: the amount of sugar and the strength of the pectin. If you have a low concentration of pectin you will have to use more sugar.
The fruits you are making jelly with also plays a role—if you are using fruits with a small amount of natural pectin you will need to boil the mixture until it reduces to almost the same amount of jelly as you started with with natural pectin.
There is definitely a learning curve when using natural pectin, but I find that if you just cannot get something to jell, process it anyway. I use a spoonful of the “jelly” in a glass of water to make a delicious fruit punch.
As I write this I am enjoying a glass of blackberry/blueberry/strawberry punch over ice and I may intentionally start canning fruit juice concentrate rather than jelly.
- 3 pounds sliced and washed green apples
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- Measuring Cup
- Cheesecloth or jelly bag
- Clean/Sanitized Mason Jar, lid, and ring
- Wash, but don’t peel, the green apples.
- Cut them into pieces and place in a pot.
- Add four cups of water and two tablespoons of lemon juice.
- Cook on low medium/low until it reduces to a slimy mush. Don’t get impatient—this takes a long time.
- Strain it through cheesecloth or a jelly bag. You can press it to make it drain faster, but that will result in a cloudy and/or apple-flavored end product.
- Pour it into sanitized jars and can or freeze if desired. It is easy to get a year’s supply of pectin in one shot this way.
Yield:This is an inexact recipe, because the fruit enzyme levels will vary. A general guide is that the riper the fruit, the lower the pectin level. To determine proper use, you will need to perform a jell test.
Bonus Jell Test:
When you are making jelly and get to the point where you are about ready to fill the jars test them. Remove a spoonful of the jam and cool the bottom of the spoon with an ice cube. If the spoonful sets, then your jelly is ready to be put in jars and processed in the canner.
If the spoonful does not set, add another cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of lemon juice and more of your extracted mix. Bring to a full boil for 1 minute and test again. Store your pectin in a sealed jar in the refrigerator, freezer, or water bath can as you would jelly.
How to Test Homemade Apple Pectin
Making your own pectin is important if you plan to make jellies and jams without buying store bought pectin – whether you don’t want to or can’t.
But with homemade you don’t have the advantage of knowing exact amounts to use as the process is not as exact as commercially produced pectin.
Because of this we will need a method of testing homemade pectin.
To test you will need a glass, a spoon, a fork, some rubbing alcohol, and of course your apple pectin.
Drop a spoonful of cool pectin into a cup of alcohol and it should gel.
If you can pull the pectin out with a fork in a jellied mass then the pectin is strong enough to jell.
I hope this tip was helpful to you, I know I thought it was pretty neat when I learned of it as I was researching 52 Unique Techniques for Stocking Food. That is why I added it in as a bonus chapter.
I find this old school common knowledge is dissapearing, which is a shame because it is so neat.