June 21, 2016

A First Try at Making Apple Pectin

Several years ago I planted a crabapple tree, because I want crabapples for making apple cider vinegar and pectin for jams and jellies. It's coming along slowly and I have yet to get enough crabs to try either of those. When Dan mentioned wanting to mow under our Fuji and Gala apple trees but some of the branches were too low, I knew just what to do with all the underripe apples on those branches - try my hand at making apple pectin.

I followed the instructions in Grandpappy's Recipes for Hard Times (if you aren't familiar with it, you can read my review of it in my post, "Three Cookbooks for Food Independence.") It was very simply, really.

Chop the apples.

Cover with water and cook to a thin sauce.

Drain the liquid. That's the homemade pectin.

I got about 3 pints.

Grandpappy's recipe said it should be a thick slimy liquid and didn't say anything about cooking down the liquid further. Some instructions say to do that, but thickness and sliminess are somewhat relative, so I decided to give it a try as is and see what happened.

I had about a gallon of last year's figs in the freezer. Figs are very low in natural pectin, so I thought they would be a good test. The biggest question was how much, because different homemade pectin recipes give different ratios for pectin, sugar, and fruit. Grandpappy's recipe said to substitute 3 tablespoons pectin and 4 tablespoons sugar to any recipe calling for a box of powdered pectin. That didn't seem like enough, so I followed the suggestion from About.food and used
  • one-quarter cup homemade apple pectin
  • one-quarter cup sugar
  • per cup of mashed fruit;

According to Joy of Cooking, commercial pectin is finicky, which is why a high sugar content and short boiling time are required. Natural pectin, they say, is not dependent on so much sugar  and requires much longer cooking to thicken the jelly or jam. I boiled and stirred, and stirred and boiled until the jam pretty much stuck to my spoon.

It's supposed to thicken more as it cools, so the next day we tried it on toast.

Not as thick as it could be, but it certainly worked well enough. I asked Dan how it tasted and he said like apples and cinnamon. My figs are pretty bland so I thought a spicy jam would be tasty. By using the above proportions, I used less than half the sugar called for with a commercial pectin, and we both thought the sweetness was just right. 

For my records, here's my recipe.

Spicy Fig Jam

6 cups mashed figs
1.5 cups sugar (0.25 C sugar / C mashed fruit)
1.5 cups homemade pectin (0.25 C pectin / C mashed fruit)
0.25 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (1 tbsp / C fruit)
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
0.5 tsp ground cloves

Stir together all ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer until thick. To can spoon into sterile jars with 1/4 inch headroom. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I think next time I'll try cooking it down in the slow cooker.

Next - More on Homemade Apple Pectin: Testing and Storing


kymber said...

copied and printed for future use. as are many of your posts. thank you Leigh!

sending love! your friend,

Dawn said...

I was using pectin the other day and thinking I must look into making my own a very timely post going to look for that book now :-)

Caroline J. Baines said...

Awesome. I've been looking for ways to make low-sugar (lower sugar) jam. This is just great! Thanks!

Dani said...

Leigh - I, too, have made pectin from apples (http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.co.za/2014/05/making-your-own-pectin-for-your-fruit.html) but the recipe I used advised reducing the liquid by 1/3. Did you check the pectin strength with meths?

DFW said...

Glad this worked Leigh. I have Granpappy's book too.

Renee Nefe said...

looks great! all my whining about not getting apples this year seems for naught as I do have some apples. who knows how many I'll get though. and I have no idea what to do with them as we still have apple butter from two years ago. Maybe pie filling.

Farmer Barb said...

I haven't an apple to my name. I do, however, have friends with an orchard. Maybe I could try it! Most of my berries have so much pectin that you could stand a spoon in the jar. The plums, however, really need it.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm... I think I'll get some of my green apples that are hitting the ground (trees are full, so the weaker get tossed with the wind), make some pectin and try your fig jam recipe, substituting my green gage plums when they get ripe. I'll keep you posted.

Beth said...

One of the many things I had aspired to do, but never did. We have a huge crabapple tree in my yard. Alas, we are moving. Glad to see a post on this!

Mama Pea said...

A crab apple tree was planted last year with our other new apple trees . . . so here's hoping it grows up fast! Although what a smart idea to use unripe fruit from your regular apple trees.

Seems like it was a success to me. Recently our daughter gave her dad a jar of purchased fig jam because he loves figs. It had no taste at all, just too, too sweet. Your seasoning for your jam obviously made a yummy product.

Oh, there are so many "natural" things we could be doing, but they seem to have been lost in the shuffle. Kudos to you for pursuing the old-fashioned (and better!) way of doing things!

Fiona said...

I was just doing this....with the windfall apples. We have no idea what the three tree that are here are so its all one more experiment. My 'pectin' is not as pink but more of a rich gold and thick slimey?

Leigh said...

You're welcome! Another small step toward self-reliance. :)

Leigh said...

The book has a lot of useful information in it. :)

The pectin really wasn't difficult at all, and I think by using a crock pot, it would free up having to stand watch over it and stir.

Leigh said...

The nice thing is being able to make it as low in sugar as you want!

Leigh said...

Thanks Dani! I didn't know anything about checking the strength. I'll definitely check out your link and add that to my budding pectin-making skills. :)

Leigh said...

I also read somewhere that it can be frozen or canned for future use. Another must try!

Leigh said...

I love having pie filling in the pantry! I also liked putting unbaked pies in the freezer. Very handy for a quick dessert!

Leigh said...

Ooo, that's great! I need to research the pectin content of various fruits and make a list. I'm sure the homemade pectin would do great with plums.

Leigh said...

Please do let me know how it works out! Would love some plum jam or jelly, but my little plum tree rarely produces enough fruit to do much with. Maybe I need to plant some more. :)

Leigh said...

You sound like me and probably have a longer to-do list than time to do it all in. :)

Leigh said...

I hope your crabapple tree does well, Mama Pea. Mine only gave me half a dozen or so crabs last year but this year it's looking a little better. Fingers crossed!

Leigh said...

Thick and slimy is exactly what you want! I'm guessing the color has to do with the variety of apple and nothing to do with potency.

Leah said...

Wow! I'm gonna have to try that when we go to pick up the underripe apples that fall on our farm!

Sandy Livesay said...


Homemade pectin from apples, this is great to know for future use, thank you for sharing.
Your fig jam looks delicious :-)

Jake said...

I'd also be curious to see the strength of it. It's really easy to check--just drop a bit of your liquid pectin into a small bowl of rubbing alcohol, and it should make a wad of gel if it's strong enough. (Your pectin looks pretty much like the stuff I made from crab apples, but I didn't have to boil my jam as long as you did to get it to set...but I also added a lot more sugar.) I did a post on it here; there are also a few resources I found helpful linked in the post. The gelling reaction is finicky indeed!

Leigh said...

Or the thinnings. Do you think your apples? I haven't but hear it makes bigger apples. It's very easy to make pectin and nice to have your own!

Leigh said...

Thanks Sandy! I need to find out about canning it. It is said to keep about a week, so I need to do something with it soon. It can be frozen too, but it would probably get lost in my freezer.

Leigh said...

That's right! You did those posts on crabapples!

I'm curious about the strenght too but didn't realize I could use rubbing alcohol. Joy of Cooking says to use grain alcohol, which I don't keep around! Dani, above, mentions testing the strength too. I'll have to do another post as a follow-up to this one.

Thanks Jake!

Chris said...

You're a clever cookie. You keep reminding me to try things in new ways.