All of our jam is made with homemade pectin stock. We make it in large batches, whenever apples are cheap at the markets, and can it – that is, we seal it in sterilised glass jars which are then heated in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. This preserves the pectin so that it can, in theory, be stored for up to 12 months on the shelf, although we’ve never had it for more than about eight months (by which time either stonefruits or berries are in season, and the whole lot gets used up in jam-making).
In our opinion, the homemade version tastes better and, unlike commercial pectin, it can be boiled for a long time, which makes the jam process a lot easier. To give you some idea of cost, we purchased a 16kg box of Royal Gala apples last Friday for $10, which produced 17 x 300ml jars of strong pectin – enough to set up to 50kg of fruit. The pulp of the apples also provided us with 16 jars of applesauce.
- Lots of apples (not over-ripe, as they don’t seem to work)
1. Peel and core the apples (don’t waste the pulp – turn it into apple sauce or apple butter, or use it for apple pies). Place all the peel and cores into a large pot and pour in enough water to just float them.
Cut the apples into quarters and place them in a large pot. Pour in enough water to just float them. Doing it this way will produce a slightly nicer tasting pectin, and you can pass the leftover pulp through a food mill to make apple sauce or apple butter.
2. Cover and bring the pot to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat and allow to boil gently (covered) for a couple of hours, or until the solids turn soft and mushy.
3. Line a colander with a clean piece of calico and pour boiling water through it to sterilise the fabric. Place the colander over a large stock pot and carefully tip the apple mass and liquid through it. Do not press the pulp, or you’ll get cloudy pectin. Leave the whole thing to drip for several hours or overnight (I usually fold the ends of the cloth over the top of the apples, then cover gently with the stockpot lid, in a perhaps futile attempt to keep the insects out).
4. When the liquid has completely drained through, remove the colander and reheat the pectin until boiling. You now need to reduce the pectin until it reaches the strength you require – as we don’t want it to set rocky hard (Pete likes his jams softly set), we normally just boil it a bit to make sure it’s all hot before we start canning.
Here is the test – pour a little pectin into a small bowl and put it in the fridge to cool (test won’t work if the pectin is hot). Pour some methylated spirits into another bowl, then tip the cold pectin into it. If you’ve made decent pectin, it will coagulate in the meths, and you should be able to lift it out as a jellied blob with a fork. Please – make sure no-one accidentally eats or drinks the contents of the bowl – it’s poisonous!
5. In order to store the pectin, you can either freeze it, or pour it into sterile glass jars, seal, and then process the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Tip : When you go to use your homemade pectin, do what Pete does, and taste a tiny bit of each jar as you open it. The pectin should taste like mild, unsweetened apple juice. It may have darkened slightly with storage, but if it tastes good, then it’s should be fine.
More on pectin making here: Compost Jelly.
For tips on making jam, please have a look at our Jam Making Primer.
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