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Homemade Fruit Pectin

August 18, 2011

Last year our apple tree didn’t produce any apples. I’m not sure what happened, as we weren’t living here that spring, but I was overjoyed when the blossoms stuck around and turned into apples this summer. They’re looking pretty small, which makes me think I need to figure out how to fertilize the tree, but they are just perfect for making some homemade fruit pectin for making jam.

I’ve just started making jams this summer, and I’ve hesitated to use pectin so far. After reading the labels and doing a little research I just didn’t feel comfortable with putting it into my food. Many times, as was the case here, I find myself thinking about how women who lived on the prairie couldn’t run to the grocery store to buy pectin in a box, so there must be another way to make jam without the stuff. I read too much Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid.

I’ve read lots of tips on how to make jam without pectin- add more sugar and cook it, through the lemon rind in with the jam as it cooks (most recipes will call for a little fresh lemon juice), don’t do anything and know that your jam will be a little on the runny side (which I actually prefer), and make your own homemade pectin from un-ripened apples.

I found lots of ‘recipes’ on how to do this, but the process really is simple, so I hiked on out to the front yard and pulled off a colander full of tiny, unripened apples. I tried to pick the smallest ones, hoping that the larger ones will actually grow to a respectable size.

To make the pectin:

  1. Quarter the apples and put them, skins, seeds and all, into a large stockpot.
  2. Add water to just cover the apple pieces.
  3. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a low simmer. Cook the apples until they have turned to an apple-saucy mush, stirring every 20 minutes or so. This may take several hours.
  4. Once you have reached the mush consistency, put a layer of cheesecloth over a colander and strain the apple mixture. Just dump it in and  leave it to sit overnight. If you stir or squish it through the cheesecloth it will make the pectin liquid cloudy.
  5. Preserve the liquid in sterilized jars the next days.

I’ve seen a few different guidelines to help you decide how much pectin to use: (1) 5 cups of pectin to 7 cups sugar or (2) Use 2/3 cup pectin to one quart fruit juice.

There is also a very handy post here that describes how to test your pectin. If it doesn’t gel properly when you do this test, simply plop it back onto the stove and cook it down until it’s a thick, gooey syrup.

Let me know if you make some! Do you have any jam recipes or flavors you’d like to try? I just made lavender-plum jam yesterday and I’m anxious to try it.

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