"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