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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Comments

  1. Very interesting article! I’ve been making single jars of jam without pectin for several years. It’s easy to do when you’re making just one jar, but I would think it quite difficult if you’re making a batch of 4 to 6 jars like I use to. Thank you for this educational post!

  2. Caralee says:

    Interesting! I am always looking for new ways to save money! I am brand new to canning and was shocked at the price of pectin at the store, I am going to save this page and refer back to it when I am ready to try my hand at jam! Thank you

  3. This is great! Thanks for the idea. I just planted a crab apple tree this year to aid in pollination in my little home orchard, now I’ll have something to do with the apples! (in 5 years)

    Thanks for joining the Homesteading Link Up!

  4. Fabulous information…I’ve stayed away from commercial pectin and have always wondered how I could make it naturally. Thanks so much!

  5. I wouldn’t leave too many apple seeds in with your recipe, they actually contain a tiny amount of cyanogenic acids…otherwise known as cyanide. The amount per seed is tiny but if you’re leaving several in and working with several apples…that could add up.

  6. Wow thanks for this! I’ve been wondering about adding pectin to my jams and how good that actually was. I’ll definitely try this when we make our jam this year!

  7. Wow! This is great! I’ve always been hesitant to use commercial pectin. Thanks so much for the info!
    New follower from Musings of an Imperfect Mom
    http://musingsofanimperfectmom.blogspot.com/

  8. I canned chokecherry jelly and got chokecherry syrup. Can I use this pectin for this since the sugar is already in it?

  9. Is it necessary to boil the fruit? Could I just mash up my fruit and add homemade pectin to the mashed fruit for freezer jam? I don’t want to kill off any nutrients during the boiling process.

    • That’s a really good question and I don’t know the answer to it! My gut feeling is that it should be cooked to cause it to thicken, but maybe just minimal heating will be enough. If I try it I’ll respond again to this thread! ANd please let me know if you ever try it. Thanks!

  10. Thanks so much for the link!

  11. I know it’s quite an old post now, but was wondering if you’d tried getting pectin from haws – fruit from the hawthorn.

    Haws have so much natural pectin in them that you can make a wild jelly just by pitting the fruit and then mashing the pulp up, then letting it sit.

  12. wew its too hard

  13. Jen Leigh says:

    I know this is an older post, but with more recent responses, so I thought I’d add one too.

    I started looking to make my own pectin, because it is expensive moreso than how it’s made (although now I’m concerned about that). I found a site that tells you how to test the pectin content before canning or freezing. http://www.silysavg.com/tutorials/making_apple_pectin_part5.html Thought this might help some of you.

    Jen

  14. Ashley Rodriguez says:

    It is good to make our own food with as little processing as possible. If you want to make your jams even healthier, try using unrefined sugar, such as sugar in the raw, or organic unrefined sugar. Yes, even the white table sugar and brown sugar is REFINED and PROCESSED. Look it up on wikipedia and see for yourself. Cancer loves refined sugar and the other chemicals they add are probably contributing to the miserable way we feel sometimes. And buying unrefined sugar is as easy as going to the store and selecting it off the shelf next to the refined stuff.

  15. My husband is a diabetic & I was wondering what kinds of sweeteners could be used besides Slenda & the likes of, for jams & jellies? We are both trying to get away from the artificial sweeteners. Could Agave be used?

  16. My husband is a diabetic & I was wondering what kinds of sweeteners could be used besides Splenda & the likes of, for jams & jellies? We are both trying to get away from the artificial sweeteners. Could Agave be used?

    • Unfortunately I don’t know enough about diabetes to advise you on that. You can make sugar-free jams and jellies, or low sugar ones. Check out Pamona’s Pectins.

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  1. [...] Why and How to Make Your Own Pectin from My Healthy Green Family. This is a really informative and interesting article and recipe. For those on the SCD adding pectin is a not allowed. Maybe it’s the processing of the pectin and chemicals left in the pectin that causes it to bother some people… great post! [...]

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