Introduction: Natural Apple Pectin Stock

This Instructable will show you how to make your own pectin for home canning. It is intended for canners with intermediate experience — or an adventurous beginner!

This recipe is taken from the world-famous preserve maker Christine Ferber's book, "Mes Confitures." Ms. Ferber is an Alsatian pastry and preserve maker and is widely known as "the Jam Fairy." She is dedicated to using fresh produce and making preserves in the old-world style with her own inspired flavor combinations. She does not use commercial pectin, she makes her own from green apples.

Ms. Ferber's book is a fine catalogue of her imaginative recipes but does not detail the method of creating them. This Instructable will take you step-by-step through the process of making your own Green Apple Jelly in the master's style.

Please read all the way through before starting as there are alternate methods for saving and storing the finished product.

Step 1: Ingredients

This simple recipe calls for only four ingredients.

3 1/3 lbs (1.5 kg) of green apples*

4 2/3 cups (1 kg) granulated sugar

6 1/3 (1.5 kg/150 cl) cups water

Juice of one lemon

*Unripe apples or crabapples are ideal. In France, Ms. Ferber picks her own from her orchard, but here in the U.S. fresh granny smith apples will suffice, the fresher (greener) the better. No need to worry about misshapen or banged up apples.

Step 2: Equipment

This recipe assumes you are at least an intermediate-level canner, and that you already have basic canning equipment. Even if you don't there are several things that are necessary.

  • An extra large canning or stock pot, large enough to allow jars at least one inch of water above the tops of submerged jars
  • A large pot (like a dutch oven) or preserving pan
  • A fine mesh sieve, chinois or strainer
  • A large piece of muslin or a couple of layers of fine mesh cheesecloth
  • 6-7 Half-pint (8 oz.) canning jars with rings and lids* or small zip-top plastic baggies

Other equipment are fairly standard kitchen items including bowls, knives, measuring cups, spoons, a ladle and the like. A canning funnel, rack for the bottom of the canning pot and a jar lifter are handy if you choose to can the finished pectin in a hot water bath.

*This Instructable shows you how to make, then can the finished product for shelf-stable pectin. Alternately, you may store portions in your freezer in zip-top plastic bags.

Step 3: Prepare the Apples

Wash apples in cool water and remove stems if present.

Cut each apple into quarters, do not core or remove seeds.

Place apple quarters into large pot with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue to cook for 10 minutes until the apples begin to soften and disintegrate. It may take longer, up to 30 minutes or so. Don't be alarmed.

Step 4: Extract the Pectin

Spoon cooked pulp into a fine mesh sieve, chinois or strainer over a large bowl. Press gently with the back of a spoon or spatula to help release juice, but do not force pulp through. The less pulp that makes it to the final juicing, the clearer your pectin will be. This is desirable in the case that your jelly or preserve that you use the pectin in later will be as clear as possible.

Once you have collected the juice from the cooked pulp, it will need to be strained again through a clean piece of muslin or multiple layers of cheesecloth. This process requires much patience. It helps if you can suspend the whole thing over a pan or bowl for at least several hours or overnight which is what I did. I believe this yields the maximum amount of pectin without added water.

I gathered up the edges of my muslin, secured the package to a sturdy wooden spoon and suspended over my large, deep stock pot overnight. I wanted my pectin to be as clear as possible, so I used muslin, I suspect cheesecloth would strain faster. Alternately you could lay the muslin or cheesecloth over the fine mesh strainer and cover and let sit overnight.

Resist the urge to try and hurry the process along by squeezing the package, because again, the more solid matter in the strained juice the cloudier your finished pectin will be. If this is not important to you, squeeze away I guess.

Your strained juice is now ready to go. It will be a little milky-looking, and that's OK. That's the pectin. It will turn clear during cooking.

You will need to end up with at least 4 1/4 cups (1 kg/1l) of strained juice. If you are just a little short, add water to make the difference but it is best to avoid it if possible.

Step 5: If You Are Canning Your Pectin...

... you will need to do this step. If you are going to freeze the pectin, skip to Step 6: 'Cooking the pectin.'

Once your juice is strained and you're ready to cook it, you should prepare your hot water bath canning process first.

Fill your extra large stock pot or canning pot with water and put to boil on high heat. If you have a fitted rack go ahead and put that in, if not, you can line the bottom of the pot with canning jar rings or a folded kitchen towel. A lid can speed the boiling time along.

Wash your jars and lids with hot soapy water. You can go ahead and put the jars in the water bath pot while you work on cooking the pectin. The goal is to sterilize your jars, they need to boil for at least 10 minutes but if you just leave them in the pot boiling while you make the pectin they'll be ready when you're done.

There is some controversy about heating the lids, historically the lids would be placed in a pan of simmering water until ready to use, but there has been a change in the guidelines from Jarden, the manufacturer of Ball lids as of 2014 and I go by those new guidelines which call for the lids not to be heated in advance at all, simply washed. If you do prefer to put the lids in a pot of simmering water beforehand, take care not to overheat past simmering (180 degrees fahrenheit) as it may weaken the seal compound and cause seal failure later on.

Step 6: Cooking the Pectin

To cook the pectin put the strained juice into your large pot or dutch oven, add the juice of one lemon (strain for seeds and pulp) and the 6 1/3 cups (1.5 kg/150 cl) of sugar.

Cook on high heat until it comes to a strong rolling boil, skim foam if needed. Continue to cook on high heat for 5-10 minutes (depends on how much pectin was extracted, I believe), stirring often. Again, this may take longer than the recipe strictly calls for. It depends on how much pectin vs. water and other variables like how hot your burners are. Don't be alarmed, just follow the next steps.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Initially, the boil will be very foamy, you should skim some of the thicker scum that forms at this stage. After a several minutes the rolling bubbles will be very small but distinct and clear. After several minutes more the bubbles will grow larger, still clear. Eventually the syrup will start to turn a light golden color. At this point start to watch for thickening. Most preserving guides suggest a candy thermometer be used to monitor temperature (when it reaches 220 degrees fahrenheit it will gel) but I do this by sight. Once the bubbles become larger I dip my spoon into the mixture and pull out tipping sideways, watching the drips fall from the side of the spoon. Once you detect a bit of viscosity turn the burner off or remove from heat and test a bit more. Dip a cool, clean spoon into the jelly mixture and turn it so the liquid runs off the side. The jelly is done when the syrup forms drops or a sheet that hang for a moment before dripping off. If the syrup is still too loose, return to high heat and boil another few minutes, repeating until desired consistency is reached. Remember, you don't need the hot syrup to be anywhere near as firm as you'd like the finished jelly, it should still be liquid and flowing. The jelly will thicken as it cools.

Now your pectin should be pretty clear and a light golden color like watered down apple juice. If canning, skip to Step 8: 'Canning your pectin.'

Step 7: If You Plan to Freeze Your Pectin...

Once the pectin has thickened sufficiently, remove from heat and allow to cool until it is comfortable to the touch. You do not want molten jelly melting your baggies and making a mess of your kitchen. Measure 1 cup portions into small zip-top plastic bags. A canning funnel can make this less messy but it's not necessary. Try to squeeze out excess air before sealing, I like to place my individual portions inside a larger freezer safe zip-top baggie and write the date on the bag before tossing into the freezer.

When using in the future, thaw what you need before adding to your recipe.

Each packet is 1 cup or 8 fluid ounces, sufficient to fortify roughly 4 lbs. of fruit.

Step 8: Canning Your Pectin (Part 1)

While your pectin is still hot, remove your sterilized jars from the water bath canner and place on a clean towel on your counter.

If you have a funnel and ladle, fill each jar to 1/2 inch from the top. Alternately you can use a measuring cup or something with a spout to pour into the jars but be careful, the liquid is extremely hot. Wipe the rims clean with a cloth dipped into the boiling water to make sure there is no residue that could cause the seal to fail. Top with clean lids and screw on rings to fingertip tight, careful not to overtighten.

Step 9: Canning Your Pectin (Step 2)

Carefully lower filled and sealed jars into the boiling water bath pot. The water will stop boiling, wait for it to return to a full boil then process for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, lift the jars out of the bath and place on the clean towel on the counter at least one inch apart. The lids will begin to 'ping' as the vacuum seal snaps into place.

Allow to cool completely, loosen or remove the rings for storage and keep in a cool, dark place.

If any of the tops do not seal, either transfer to plastic baggies and store in the freezer or if you plan to use it within a few weeks you may store it in the refrigerator in the jar.

Each jar is 1 cup or 8 fluid ounces, sufficient to fortify roughly 4 lbs. of fruit.

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