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With apple picking season upon us, I thought I’d share my experience with making pectin. It really is as easy as the websites say. Based on my one experience making it though, I don’t think it’s worth the pounds of apples it takes unless you’re receiving free apples from generous neighbors, which thankfully I was.

In this case, I got the apples by volunteering with Portland Fruit Tree Project. But last month, a neighbor offered my husband and me a bag of apples after we paused on our walk to assess the apples strewn about her yard. All but one of them were bruised and rotting, and I confess, I passed judgment on what a waste it was to have all those apples rotting on the ground.

Little did I know this neighbor had already harvested many apples and was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to bless others with her abundance. (One more example of just how clearly unfit I am to judge.) I was a whole paper grocery bag full of apples blessed. Made my day. I even gave this complete stranger a hug without thinking.

So who knows – maybe you’re surrounded by neighbors just waiting to bless you with fruit to make your own pectin and jam. I even passed a sign a few days ago hanging from another neighbor’s tree telling passersby to help themselves to apples.

However you come by them, if you find yourself with an abundance of little green apples you don’t know what to do with, it’s worth making some pectin and seeing what you think. The only other route I can imagine with something so tedious to peel and core is making applesauce, and the two processes are really quite similar.

In fact, I don’t see why you couldn’t use the leftover apple mush from making pectin in a batch of applesauce – just run it through a food mill afterward. I was too overwhelmed with fruit at the time to think through my options.

THE RECIPE

So, the recipe I used to make pectin is from my favorite everything-to-do-with-fruit website, Pick Your Own.

Seriously, this website has been great for finding you-pick farms in every state I’ve lived in, recipes for what to make with my bounty, and random, incredibly helpful info like conversions between fresh fruit and the quantity of canned or frozen goods it will produce. I still meld recipes together from multiple locations, but I generally check them against this one.

Here are the bare bones of the Pick Your Own pectin recipe:

Ingredients:
  • 3 pounds of small, green apples
  • 4 cups water (I recommend filling with water to just above the apples)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (this might not be necessary, esp. as you add lemon juice to your jam according to each recipe, but I don’t really know)
Directions
    Rinse & cut apples. Put all pieces of the apples (skin, core, seeds – everything) in large pot. Cover with water and boil 30-45 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth. Boil strained juice another 20 minutes (I didn’t do this because I had so little juice at this point I wasn’t willing to reduce it further. I also have no idea what I’m doing, but the apples were free and I was willing to give it a try). Freeze or process in sanitized jars according to directions on the above website.

A lot of sources say not to squeeze the cheesecloth during straining because it will make your jam cloudy. I doubt I’d be able to tell the difference and I had too many fruit flies to contend with and too little patience to resist squeezing.

When it came to making jam with the pectin, I found plenty of varying opinions on how much homemade pectin to use. I decided to try the smaller proportions because I like to stretch just about everything as far as it will go.

Several sources recommended testing the pectin with rubbing alcohol (not to be consumed because it’s poisonous) to determine proportions for jam. I didn’t have rubbing alcohol on hand and wasn’t about to buy it just for this, so I made the jam based on guesswork and used the freezer test method (read the tip at the bottom of the linked site, noting I generally leave the dollop of jam in the freezer for a couple of minutes before I can see a difference) to adjust it accordingly, one tablespoon of pectin at a time.

Here are the proportions that ended up working for making low sugar peach jam with my homemade pectin:

      1 cup peaches                                 4 cups peaches
      2 tablespoons homemade pectin         ½ cup homemade pectin
      ½ cup sugar                                   2 cups sugar
    ½ tablespoon lemon juice                      2 tablespoons lemon juice
I mixed everything together, brought it to a boil while stirring, boiled one minute, then ladled into sterilized jars and processed in a hot water bath according to this chart.

Amazingly enough, I made a pectin that worked. There was so little though that I had only enough for one four cup batch. But that’s ½ cup less of the store bought pectin I had to use!

Now, this is important – you need to keep this in mind. I am an unemployed 30-year-old with no children. Hear that again, because these are key ingredients to this kind of recipe. Unemployed. No children.

Be gentle with yourself.

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