Pectin From Scratch





Introduction: Pectin From Scratch

Pectin causes jams and jellies to gel. When using a pectin poor fruit, pectin must be added or the result will be nothing more than a fruit syrup. I refuse to use store bought pectin because I think it takes the craft out of jam and jelly making. Usually I just add apple skins and cores to whatever I'm making, but I thought I'd give making my own pectin a try.

The basic method is to take a pectin rich fruit and extract the water soluble pectin by boiling it, then concentrating the liquid. Apples are a good source of pectin because they both contain a lot of pectin and have a relatively neutral flavour (as opposed to orange peels for instance).

Step 1: Ingredients and Tools

Pectin is concentrated in the cores and skins of all apples, and is especially strong in tart green apples. Using the cores and skins left over from making a pie is a great way to upcycle your scraps. For this instructable I used crabapples that didn't have enough flavour to bother with crabapple jelly.

3 lb Apples
4 cups Water
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Unusual Tools:
Jelly bag/cheese cloth and strainer

I am using the basic method from, a website with a lot of very helpful information.

Step 2: Cook Apples

If using whole apples remove any imperfections that may impart an off flavour, and cut the apples into quarters or so. Place into a large pot with the water and lemon juice and simmer until the apples are completely tender, but not disintegrated. This could take between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on your apples and how large the pieces are.

Strain the results through a jelly bag to extract only the liquid. If you are concerned about cloudiness don't squeeze the bag. If you don't have a jelly bag (though I highly recommend getting one if you plan on making jelly) you can line a strainer with a few layers of cheese cloth.

Step 3: Reduce Liquid

To concentrate the pectiny goodness, boil the strained liquid until reduced by half. Stir occasionally to avoid getting a film.

If you want to test the level of pectin in your reduction, put a few drops into rubbing alcohol and the pectin will gel almost instantly. Obviously this should not be eaten.

Step 4: Store and Use

To store the pectin you can can it as you would any other preserve, but I think it is more convenient to freeze it. I froze mine in an ice cube tray and transfered the cubes into a ziplock bag. You can now use the frozen pectin cubes in jams and jellies made from low pectin fruits.

Step 5: Example of Use

This spring (2 years later) I used some of my frozen pectin cubes to make rhubarb jelly. Because your pectin concentrate and project will be unique this is just an example to get you started.

First I extracted the juice from the rhubarb by boiling and straining it.

I added a few cubes of pectin and tested the pectin level using a method that I found in Joy of Cooking: All About Canning. To test the amount of pectin I placed 1 teaspoon of juice in 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol then fished out the congealed pectin with a fork. A low pectin mixture forms loose strands of pectin while a high pectin mixture will form a single gooey ball.

Once the pectin level was looking good I carried on as usual, adding sugar and cooking the mixture until it passed the jelling test.

Remember that it can take 1 to 3 weeks for jams and jellies to set.



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    27 Discussions


    6 months ago

    Can this be made into a powdered form so there is no need for freezing or refrigerating?

    I apologize, I've posted earlier that there are incomplete steps how to make Pectin. I haven't noticed that there are further steps with the "Next" arrows down.

    Thanks for posting how to make Pectin. Though I wonder why didn't you write the whole procedure how to make it. I mean, how to boil it? How long to boil it? and generally how to make it..
    It has to be strained through a cheesecloth..
    Thanks anyway.
    We donate, therefore we are.

    Your best bet is to use under-ripe crabapples from a tree that blooms white in the spring. Red blooming crabapple trees will have cherry sized apples, and so you'll be picking and slicing for hours. Pick your apples off of the tree sometime in early to mid August (for Michigan and Upper-Midwest states). You'll want green apples that haven't fallen, size between a golf ball and a tennis ball. Pick a few bushels and cut them each in half or quarters. You need to boil out the pectin within a couple of days of picking them. Once you've boiled off the apples, the resulting liquid can be refrigerated and finished later.

    for anyone else with OAS, if you cook fruit that you're allergic to, it denatures the protein that makes you react and you'll have no problem. so pectin from apples will not cause any problems.

    This is great! If you use whole apples, can you make applesauce from the "mush," or is too much of the flavor leached out? Or maybe as a fat substitute in lower-calorie baked goods (I've heard of this but never tried it).

    I made some marmalade, however I used only juice and peel so there wasn't enough pectin for the marmalade to set. If I make pectin using your instructable is necessary that I use the lemon juice in the recipe as I have already added it to the marmalade and the flavor is perfect I just need it to jell. Thanks.

    This looks interesting, but I wonder if it would cause problems with my apple allergy. Any ideas?

    3 replies

    If you are allergic to apples my guess, would be that you have a Salicylate allergy. Can you take aspirin without any problem? If not, that would confirm your allergy. In this case you would not want to use apple pectin.

    There is a pectin on the market that is totally organic in nature, made from citrus fruit (you can call them and see if there are any salicylates in the product)can be used with any type of sweetener (it does not require sugar to cause the jelling - it uses calcium) so you can use as little as 1/2 cup of any type of regular sweetener per batch like, agave, honey cane sugar, stevia, etc. It is called "Pamona's Universal Pectin" and is absolutely wonderful! It can be purchased in health food stores or you can buy online in bulk which is what I do. No more 7 cups of sugar to make the jelling take place, you don't even really have to use sweetener if the fruit is sweet enough for your taste, and you can make multiple batches all at once saving you lots of time. Comes out with a perfect jell every time. Give it a try. Here is the link You will probably have to copy and paste to your address bar.

    Hi Betty,

    It's been years since I've had aspirin, but my allergy is actually OAS - oral allergy syndrome. It's a crossover from tree pollen allergies (extreme in NY this spring), where suddenly I would have a bad reaction when eating fresh apples, peaches, pears, mulberries, cherries, dates - a whole bunch of tree fruits, but not all. The pectin sounds really nice, but I did buy some sugar-free pectin from Bell that sounds very similar to what you describe.

    Hi Susan:
    Glad you were able to find a pectin you can use. I was reading an article about OAS on WebMD. Sound like you really need to be careful during pollen season. Best of luck to you!

    Amazing guide! I can't wait to try this in the fall with the farmer's markets apple seconds. Seems like as long a you remove the nasty bits it would be fine.

    Thanks so much!

    hey can i use slightly overripe or slightly off apples? because we have here a lot of fruit venders here and im wondering if i can use the apples normally thrown away.

    1 reply

    Fresh, under ripe apples have the most pectin, so old apples probably won't work very well. Most jam recipes point out that you should never use spoiled fruit, but whether this is for flavour or some other reason I'm not sure. If the apples are cheap you can always give it a try and see how it goes.

    Over ripe and old apples can be used in pie and apple sauce, both of which can be frozen. Over ripe apples are also said to be good for cider making.

    Thank you!  No more commercial (as in, don't know exactly what's in it!) pectin for me!  I have to try this.  P.S. Know any great recipes for grapefruit?  The tree is groaning!

    1 reply

    I made some really good grapefruit sorbet a while ago. I don't have the recipe anymore but I seem to remember it was about equal parts sugar and grapefruit juice.

    I'm currently running through the same process for making chilli jelly, by using bramley apples boiled and strained and mixed with sugar and chilli.

    For those that don't have a cheesecloth or jelly bag, I use two blue dishclothes, the thin type similar to a hospital examination gown or that napkin you get at the dentist.  Two clothes dunked in boiling water to sterilise, then lay one over the other in cross, line a pan with it, pour in the apples, then gather up the ends of the cloth and tie with string.  Then I lay a broomstick across two chairs, put a bowl between the chairs and tie the bag to the broom.

    Dish clothes aren't as sturdy as a cheesecloth, but more readily available and do a similar job.

     Great instructable, but two questions, 1, for crab apples, should I peel and core them, and just cook the peels and the cores, or is the whole apple cut up ok?  Also, will my jams and jellies taste like crabapple?

    2 replies

    There's no harm in throwing the flesh of the apple in, unless you were going to use it for something else. With crabapples I'm not sure what that could be. They say that the flesh of the apple has less concentrated pectin than the skins, but I think it still has a decent amount.

    "Will my jams and jellies taste like crabapple?"
    Yes, but that's not necessarily a problem. I bought the crabapples I used in the pictures to make crabapple jelly but when I got home they had no flavour at all: terrible for jelly but ideal for making pectin. If your crabapples have a strong flavour you could either embrace the flavour and use it to accent a sweet berry flavour (blackberry and crabapple sounds really tasty) or find some apples with a milder flavour. Also concider that even fairly flavourful apples are easily overpowered by other fruits.

     Great stuff, thanks.  I have under an acre of land and try to use it as much as I can, I was going to cut down the crab apple trees as I only use them for compost, but now I think I'll keep them.