"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Sunday 4 May 2014

Making your own pectin for your fruit preserves

I have been unable to find commercial pectin in any of our supermarkets when it is time to make jam, but, I have found an apple pectin recipe which does the job.

The recipe calls for sour cooking apples, but I have used normal eating apples, both red and green, with no problem.  Even those forgotten apples from the bottom of the vegetable drawer in my fridge - those no-longer-crisp, flowery tasting apples.

But, I digress on my shoddy fridge cleaning habits.  The apple pectin recipe goes as follows:

1 kg (2 1/2 lbs) sour green cooking apples (you can use windfall apples here just ensure that you remove any bruised or damaged bits) and cut in quarters. Place the apples (pips, flesh and skins) in your preserving pan and fill with just enough water to cover the apples.

Cover and simmer until they are soft - roughly 15 - 20 minutes. 
When the apples are soft, use a strainer to
get rid of the skins and pips
Strain the pulp through a sieve - this will cause the bits of skin and pips to remain behind.  Put the skin bits / pips in your compost pot.
Apple pulp in a muslin-lined sieve
Strain the pulp again through a muslin-lined sieve - suspending it over a bowl to allow the liquid to drain out.  When the drips stop, I gather the apple pulp inside the muslin, and gently twist the cloth to force as much of the remaining liquid out of the pulp as possible.
Apple stock
Then, I take the pot filled with the apple stock (liquid) and place it on the stove, simmering gently until it is thick and reduced by half.  At this point I test the pectin strength.
Place a tablespoon of methylated spirits into the
apple stock
To test for the pectin strength:

Place 1 teaspoon of the reduced apple stock in a small container.  When it is cool add 1 tablespoon of methylated spirits, swirl them together and leave for another minute.  The check for the following:

High pectin = the mixture has formed a jelly-like clot.
Medium pectin = a couple of soft clots form. This will cause your jam to potentially not set properly.  Solution: return the apple stock in the pot to the heat and continue cooking until the stock has reduced a little more.  Then test for the pectin level again.
Low pectin: Many small clot-like jelly spots form.  Solution: return the apple stock in the pot to the heat and continue cooking until the stock has reduced a little more.  Then test for the pectin level again.

This quantity of apples should produce roughly 400mls (10 - 15 fl. oz) of pectin.

By the way - discard the methylated spirit & apple stock pectin test samples - methylated spirits is poisonous.
Strawberry jam made with apple pectin.
The jar with the plastic wrap under the lid will be
used first as I ran out of lids and had to re-use
an old one.
When you have a high pectin apple stock, place it in small freezer pots, or ice cube trays and store in the freezer.  150ml (5 fl. oz) of apple stock pectin will be sufficient to set +/- 2kg (4 .5 lbs) of medium to low-pectin fruit jam.

The result I achieved at the end of this last summer - perfect jars of strawberry jam :)

But, I have Scottish roots - from a few generations back.  As a result, I am always finding ways of being as frugal as possible and producing little to no waste.  And, from the looks of it, all that gorgeous apple pulp that remained did not want to land in my compost heap.
Wonderfully tasty apple pulp.  There is absolutely
nothing wrong with it, so why waste it?
So, out came some spare empty ice-trays.

And in went the apple pulp.
Apple pulp in the ice tray - ready to go into
the freezer
I placed the apple pulp filled trays in the freezer until they were frozen solid.
Frozen apple pulp
Then I removed the frozen pulp from the ice trays, and broke the pulp into individual cubes...
Instant apple sauce - ready for whenever it
is needed :)
...and, replacing the cubes in a freezer bag / container, I store them in the freezer until the next time I make a pork dish for RMan.

All I then have to do is take out the required number of squares whilst his pork is cooking, allow them to defrost, add sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, and there I have instant apple sauce.  And, I can take out just enough apple squares to ensure that RMan has apple sauce with his pork, and the rest does not go mouldy between pork dishes, as normally happened when I purchased jars of commercial apple sauce from the supermarket.
I made jam from glossy red grapes...
I have also used the this pectin to make grape jam from our first ever grape harvest.
... and from delicious sweet hanepoort grapes
And, hopefully, next season our youngberry bushes will produce enough berries for me to make youngberry jam too :)

So - excuse me - but I'm off to make some granadilla jam now... :)
A collage of the steps in making apple pectin
and apple sauce


  1. Dani, what a great post! I planted a crabapple tree for this very purpose but I have yet to harvest any crabapples. As soon as I get a kilos worth, I'm going to try this.

    1. Leigh - We planted apple trees too - mainly for eating. But now also for making pectin :)

  2. Excellent tutorial, Dani! I'm adding this to my list of experiments to try.
    I've been freezing things is ice cube trays lately, too. Most recently, extra eggs.

    1. Quinn - I promise - it works :) I've never tried freezing eggs, but my next purchase is a bigger fridge / freezer combo, which, hopefully, won't use as much power as a stand alone fridge and a sand alone freezer... :)

  3. The only apples we get are from the store, just for eating as a snack. My mom used to make jelly but I don't think my wife and I ever tried it, even back years ago when we really worked hard at gardening. We were going to raise fruit for jelly, but when we planted our new fruit trees the goats ate the bark off them and killed them.

    1. Harry - It's a pity you and your wife never made your own jam - there is nothing nicer than eating homemade jam - slightly tarter than shop bought, but full of it's original goodness and no added flavour :)

  4. dani, do you perhaps know what type apples are those tinned "tart apples" (tertappels)? I love those things.

    1. Magda - I think they would probably be Granny Smith apples.

  5. Dani - awesome post which has been printed and put in my big binder of useful stuff to know. our friend who runs a commercial blueberry farm, also has an apple orchard. he doesn't really tend the orchard anymore and was amazed when me and jambaloney asked if we could have some apples - nobody here seems to care about the apples. so he gave us 2 big garbage bags of apples and we ate them all winter. jambaloney spent the winter looking at DIY cider presses and our friend says we can have all the apples we want. so we will be spending the fall making apple cider, apple cider vinegar and now, because of your post and our friend's generosity - i can make my own pectin! wicked awesome!

    your friend,

    1. kymber - Oh, you lucky thing - freebie apples for cider, vinegar and pectin :) Hopefully our trees will have more than 4 apples next summer... {grin}

  6. Brilliant! Thank you for this. I'm looking forward to filling up jars with 100% homegrown stuff. Knowing how to make our own pectin helps!

    1. Amy Lou - You're very welcome. Good luck with your wind protection - I hope the wind doesn't pick up the frames and blow them away like a sail.

  7. Dani, I have searched high and low in East London (SA) for liquid pectin which is frustrating me to NO end. I'm going to try your recipe today as i'm making Pate de Fruits which calls for LIQUID pectin! Thanks so much and ..... here goes!

    1. Anne - Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I had the same problem trying to find pectin in South Africa. So this is the only pectin I use - which I make myself from apples, and I have a cupboard full of jam as a result :)

    2. Hi Anne
      Claire here from East London. Did you come right and have you since used this or sourced pectin in town?

    3. Claire - Sorry - somehow your comment landed in my spam folder and I have only just found it.

    4. Thanks Dani. I did try making my own and it worked. Only reason I would like to buy pectin or substitute is to reduce sugar amounts for health reasons

  8. Replies
    1. MalleMilaSeMamma - Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      I am not sure where you are in SA - the only place I know to get muslin is at Banks Catering in Woodstock, Cape Town. They have an on-line store: http://www.bankskitchenboutique.co.za/ if you can't find it there then perhaps contact them? Tel: 021 461 3190

  9. Hi Dani I just want to say thank you for your pectin recips I am from Uitenhage (South Africa) and cant get it here to buy .now i am going to make my own .I want to make Jalopeno jelly Enjoy your day many thanks Maria

    1. Maria - Hi, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Glad to be of assistance :D Enjoy :D

  10. Hi there.
    Also from East London South Africa and have been frustrated in not finding pectin. Just for your information my mom, a farmer/wife, has always said that lemon juice helps set and also she keeps the quince pips and peels and uses them in batches of other jams then strains them out as she says they are high in pectin too. :)

    1. Claire - Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment :D

      Claire, thanks for the info. I generally add lemon juice as well, but I had not heard about quinces. Maybe we should plant a quince tree as well... ;)

  11. Hi Dani,

    Been looking for a Pectin the last week, could not find, and I am to say the best ever recipe I could find. tomorrow it is me and the apples, then I can do my prickley pear. thank you


Thank you for taking the time to comment - it makes my day and removes the "loneliness' of sitting at my screen blogging supposedly to myself ;) I try and reply as quickly as possible so please forgive me if sometimes my response is delayed.