Why and How to Make Your Own Pectin

Last year I made several batches of jam without using pectin.  It involves  boiling the jam quite a bit to thicken it, and adding lemon peel to produce a natural pectin.  The jam turned out pretty well, but the kids weren’t so appreciative of the bits of lemon peel in the jam, and the actual process of boiling down fruit does remove quite a bit of the original nutrients.  I could have just used commercial pectin.  But I didn’t want to.

Why would I want to avoid pectin?  It’s just from apples or oranges, right?  Yes… and no.  You can’t just sqeeze an apple to get the pectin out.   There is quite a bit of processing that goes into the production of commercial pectin.

Wikipedia explains:

The main raw-materials for pectin production are dried citrus peel or apple pomace, both by-products of juice production. Pomace from sugar-beet is also used to a small extent.

From these materials, pectin is extracted by adding hot dilute acid at pH-values from 1.5 – 3.5. During several hours of extraction, the protopectin loses some of its branching and chain-length and goes into solution. After filtering, the extract is concentrated in vacuum and the pectin then precipitated by adding ethanol or isopropanol. An old technique of precipitating pectin with aluminium salts is no longer used (apart from alcohols and polyvalent cations; pectin also precipitates with proteins and detergents).

Alcohol-precipitated pectin is then separated, washed and dried. Treating the initial pectin with dilute acid leads to low-esterified pectins. When this process includes ammonium hydroxide, amidated pectins are obtained. After drying and milling, pectin is usually standardised with sugar and sometimes calcium-salts or organic acids to have optimum performance in a particular application.[9]

Since one of my primary reasons for making my own jam in the first place is to avoid processed food, why am I adding a highly-processed product to my minimally-processed jam?  Good question.  I also haven’t been able to figure out where commercial pectin is produced, yet.  I have my suspicions that it isn’t local.

So…. I googled how to make my own pectin.  Naturally, it involves more effort than buying it from the store.  But just like most things, it isn’t hard, it just involves a little bit of time.  You can make a large amount, however, and can it so you don’t need to make it very often.  You can also freeze it.

How to make pectin:

I used crab apples to make my pectin.  They are extremely tart, which means they have a lot of pectin.  You can also use green (unripe) apples, and you can make it from citrus fruits too.  You want to keep the peels on and cores in the apples because much of the pectin is in the peel and core.  So, simply wash and quarter about 18 crab apples (or 8 regular, green, unripe apples).  Cores and all.  You can remove the apple seeds if desired.  Place them in a large pot with 4 cups of water and 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes or until reduced to about half.  Strain through cheese cloth and boil for another 20 minutes.  Pour into sterilized jars and seal them.  Boil them in a hot bath for 10 minutes to properly preserve them.  Store in your jam cupboard.

How to use the pectin

This part is tricky.  Because you don’t know the concentration of pectin in your apples, you can’t just throw in a particular amount and expect it to work.  For a batch of jam (6 cups of fruit) I’d start with a half cup of pectin.  Prepare your fruit and bring to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Add sugar or honey and stir for a minute.  Add pectin and stir well for another minute.

Pick Your Own explains how to tell if your jam will set:

As you make the first batch, and are ready to fill the jars; first remove a spoonful of the jam, and hold an ice cube against the bottom of the spoon to cool the jam. If the spoonful sets to your liking, you can fill the jars, seal them and process them in the water bath canner.  If the spoonful does not set, add another cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of lemon juice and more of your pectin, bring to a full boil for 1 minute, and test again! Then do the pectin test.

Tips:

For a complete, cooked jam recipe from Mother Earth News using homemade pectin click here.   For more information on pectin and making your own, click here.

Here is another recipe using homemade pectin.

I would love to hear your stories on the adventures of making your own pectin!  Success?  Failure?  Let’s hear it!

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This post has been linked to Frugal Days Sustainable Ways #34 and Farmer’s Daughter’s Homestead Link Up.

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