Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pectin- you can make your own!

     PECTIN  by definition is a naturally occurring substance found in berries, apples and other fruits.  It is often heated together with sugar.  This causes a thickening action to occur that is often used in jams and jellies.   Many manufacturers make pectin from corn, but it doesn't have to be!

   I have a dwarf apple tree in my yard and since we use only Neem oil to protect our apples, they still suffered from a few apples diseases this year.  We got enough apples to eat and some fell from the tree early.  Those fallen apples were definately underripe.  Instead of throwing them away, I made pectin.   I used this site Pick Your Own.Org to learn how.  

Here is what I ended up with:

    First attempt didn't leave me with too much pectin.   I needed a lot more under ripen fruit.  I really wanted to try making jam with it like I did with my Ball recipe and when I made it with this apple pectin, it tasted the same, but I needed more pectin to make the strawberry jam set up the same. (You can read the notes below and see why that was.)  I will be trying again next year.    I have this one small jar frozen and will store it until next year.

     The great thing about the Pick Your Own. org instructions is that it gives you a set of questions to answer.  There is no recipe per se.  Pectin isn't hard to make, but knowing how ripe your apples are, makes a difference in your outcome.   Below is an excerpt from their website giving you some very good information and things to think about when making your own pectin.  From the several sites I have visited, they all say essentially the same thing.  You will get the hang of it if you keep doing it.

Here is what Pick Your Own had to say:

I'll tell you how to figure out the right formula for your own pectin. Here are the questions to answer:

  1. How much pectin is in the fruit that you are using to make jam, jelly or preserves?
    As we learned on this page about pectin, some fruits naturally have more or less pectin than others. For example, if you are making strawberry jam, you will need to use more pectin (of any kind) than if you are making blackberry jam, since blackberries naturally contain more pectin than strawberries. See this page for the pectin content of fruits.  (READ THIS PAGE - it tells you why your jam is runny as well as which fruits need more sugar or acid to jell.  This is a nice reference page to help you with exactly what fruits you are cooking with.)
  2. How ripe is the fruit?
    Generally speaking, the more ripe the fruit is, the lower the pectin levels are.
  3. How concentrated is your homemade pectin?
    No one, but you, knows or determines this.  When you make your own pectin, you're the manufacturer, you control the production line, the quality control, etc., so only you will know, largely from practice, how much of your pectin to use.
  4. Test!
    That's the bottom line!  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!
      Also a good pectin test from another website was to drop the pectin in rubbing alcohol (THIS IS NOT FOR CONSUMPTION).  With the tines of a fork, pull your pectin up and out of the alcohol.  If it is thick then it is ready for your use in your jelly and jams.  If it runs through the times or dangles from them, let it cook down some more.   It should look like this:

     How did I make the apple pectin?
      I used the whole apple.  Core and all, cut in quarters and placed in enough water so that when they simmered they didn't burn.  The amount of water was dependent on how many apples I had.  Cook them on low for a very long time.  I started in the morning and let them cook until I went to bed that evening.  By that time they began to look like a thick sludge and lumpy.  I strained the liquid off, through cheesecloth or a fine sieve.  Let it drip for a while.  No need to hover over this, just set it aside and come back to it later.  The drippings are you pectin.  It was a pinkish liquid.  I stored mine the refrigerator until I thought I had enough to use.

        Know that if you are trying to avoid certain pectins made from certain foods, you can always make your own.  It will just take a little trial and error.  

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