Set jams and jellies with a homemade apple pectin. This homemade natural apple fruit pectin eliminates the need for a commercial powder or liquid product.
The idea of making homemade apple pectin is not something which crosses the minds of many. Why would it when a commercial product is readily available?
Let’s recap 2020. During the pandemic, Americans were eager to know how to grow and preserve food. Shelves across the country were quickly emptied of canning jars, lids, and box pectin.
The shortage of canning supplies caught many seasoned home food preservers by surprise. It was during this time in which many individuals had to look into traditional methods which were modern enough to safely preserve foods.
Natural Fruit Pectin
Commercial pectin has been around for years and quite easy to use. Simply follow the instructions on the box and more times than not, your jelly or jam will set perfectly.
However, for those of us who seek to live a more sustainable life we learn which fruits are naturally high in pectin. Working with real food items can be a bit tricky when you first begin, but in no time you’ll learn the trick behind using these fruits to thicken preserves.
Unlike a powder or liquid pectin, using natural fruit pectin means cooking these items with your preserve. Luckily, the list is abundant and will allow you to find items in season to utilize to set your preserves.
Homemade Apple Pectin
Unlike using fresh fruit as a pectin, homemade apple pectin is much different. Apples can be used as a fruit pectin, however, it can be used as a liquid homemade apple pectin.
Did I lose you? Let me explain.
Unripe apples are naturally high in pectin, and sadly unripe apples are only available during the spring months. It is during this time of the year in which a liquid apple pectin can be made and saved to use throughout the preserving season.
When making a homemade apple pectin avoid using ripe fruit or fruit which is beginning to ripen. The riper the fruit, the less natural pectin it will have.
Gleaning for Apples
More times than not apple and crab apples are harvested from your property or gleaned from another’s property. Here are the best times to harvest the unripe fruit:
- harvest from broken branches
- as your thinning fruit clusters
- gleaning from the neighbor’s abandoned trees
Remember, use parts of the fruit which are not bruised or contain a fungus. Sooty blotch and flyspeck are two types of fungus which live on the surface of the fruit, causing cosmetic damage. Fruits which contain this type of fungus are considered safe to be consumed and preserved.
Apple Fruit Pectin
Using fruit as a natural source of pectin is not a new theory. In fact, our ancestors have been using natural fruit pectin for centuries. It was between the 1920’s and 1930’s in which the concept of a pectin as we know it today began to form.
Apple peels and cores which were being discarded by manufactures who made preserves were transformed into a type of liquid pectin. This pectin was stored in large barrels and then sold back to manufactures who made preserves and small family owned shops.
A Few Tips
There are a few tips one needs to know prior to substituting a homemade apple pectin for a commercial product.
- The consistency of the gel is much different. The setting of a jam or jelly will be between a soft jiggle to a nice firm jiggle.
- A natural pectin works in partnership with the pectin found in the fruits being preserved. For best results it is best to use fruits which are not overripe. Overripe fruits are low in natural pectin. Select fruits which are at their peak of ripeness.
- How much homemade apple pectin needed will vary. Remember the strength of the final product will depend on how unripe the apples or crab apples were.
- Begin by adding 1/4 a cup of natural fruit pectin to 1 cup of fruit.
- Prior to canning, test the jam or jelly to see if it will set. Spoon a small amount of the preserve, place and ice cube on the bottom of the spoon until the preserve cools. If the preserve sets begin the canning process.
- Preserves which do not set during the testing period, add another 1/4 cup of homemade apple pectin to the preserve and allow to boil for another 5 minutes. Test the preserve again.
- Homemade apple fruit pectin can be used with or without sugar. Please note, sugar is a preservative. It helps to hold the texture and color of the item being preserved.
- Canning apple pectin will lose its potency to gel over a period of time. It is best to use it within the same season it was canned.
- Using apple fruit pectin may cause the jam or jelly to take on the tart apple flavor.
Storing Homemade Fruit Pectin
Apple fruit pectin loses its pectinness (not really a word, but I think you get my point) the longer it sits. It is best to use it within the canning season it was made to ensure its strength.
Store the homemade fruit pectin using one of the following methods:
- freezer – use XL silicone ice-cube molds
Instruction on how to can homemade apple pectin is available below.
For additional tip, trick, and recipes on how to preserve foods grab a copy of my book, The Farm Girl's Guide to Preserving the Harvest. Whether you are a novice or seasoned home food preserver my book has something for everyone. Learn how to can, ferment, dry, cure, freeze, and store raw the harvest as a sustainable homesteader would.
Homemade Apple Fruit Pectin
The process for making a natural fruit pectin is quite easy. However, the amount of time it takes the unripe apples to cook down is quite extensive.
Is the process worth it? Absolutely.
- 3 pounds, unripe apples or crab apples, washed and quartered
- water, enough to cover the apples
- 2 tablespoons bottled lemons juice to
Many of the equipment needed for making a homemade apple pectin are everyday kitchen appliances. Listed in the mercantile for our website are specific tools which makes working with apples much easier.
- large stockpot
- measuring cup
- fine mesh strainer
- jar funnel
- 1/2 pint mason jars
- steam canner or hot water bath canner
Before beginning make sure to wash the apples extremely well to remove all bugs and dirt from the fruit. Please keep in mind, the exact boiling time will depend on the apples or crab apples. It will vary with each batch of homemade apple pectin being made.
- Once the apples are washed cut them into pieces by cutting the apples in half across the belly and again into quarters. There is no need to remove the young seeds or the skin as these items also contain a natural source of pectin.
- Place the apples into the large stockpot, add the water and lemon juice.
- Uncovered, bring the mixture to a hard boil and allow to boil for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to a low boil and continue to cook for an additional 2 hours or so. During the cooking process do not stir the apples, doing so will release sediments into the liquid making it difficult to strain.
- Once the mixture has reduced to half test the apple mixture for the level of pectin. Instructions on how to test the batch can be found in the notes section. Upon passing the jelling test move onto step number 5.
- To strain the apples place a cheesecloth into the fine mesh strainer. Using a ladle slowly add the mixture to the mesh strainer making sure to allow the apple pectin to strain naturally. Do not press the apples, doing so will create a cloudy pectin full of fine apple sediment. A cloudy apple pectin can cause jam or jelly to have a cloudy outcome.
- Once the mixture in the stockpot has been strained, boil the clear apple fruit pectin once again for 20 minutes.
- The homemade apple pectin can be canned, frozen, or refrigerated. See instructions on canning apple pectin.
A good patch of homemade natural pectin will have a slightly slimy and sticky feel to it. To test the the best of homemade apple pectin the steps below:
- Allow the pectin to completely cool.
- Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol into a plate
- Add a teaspoon of the cooled pectin to the rubbing alcohol
- A strong fruit pectin will coagulate into a jelly-like mass, and can easily be picked up with a fork.
- If the mixture should fail this test then it will need to be boiled once again for an additional hour. Perform the test rubbing alcohol test once again. Continue this process until the apple pectin passes this test.
Canning Apple Pectin
- In clean, sterilized 1/2 pint mason jars add the homemade apple pectin, making sure to leave 1/2 headspace.
- Wipe rims of jars with a clean, damp dishtowel. Add warm lids and rings to finger tight.
- Process jars in a steam canner or hot water bath canner based on your altitude, see the correct processing times below.
- Allow the jars to rest untouched for 12 hours, check that the lids have sealed and store in a cool, dark location. Refrigerate any unsealed jars and use them as soon as possible.
|Type of Pack||Jar Size||0 – 1,000 ft||1,001 – 6,000 ft||above 6,000 ft|
|Hot||1/2 pint||10 mins||15 mins||20 mins|
Again, canning apple pectin should not sit on the shelf for a year. In order to maintain its strength it must be used within a months after it has been canned.