Posts Tagged ‘homemade pectin’

If you’d like to do an In My Kitchen post on your own blog, please feel free to do so!  You’re most welcome to use the same format as I do, and to leave a comment on my monthly IMK post linking back to your blog.   I’d love to see what’s happening in your kitchen every month!

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In my kitchen…

…is a copy of Zen and the Art of Raising Chickens, a gift from my lovely friend Becca, the InTolerant Chef

In my kitchen…

…is a bag of dark malt flour, a recent discovery from Harkola.  I used a teaspoon in yesterday’s sourdough – it gave the white bakers’ flour a creamy grey tone and added a delicious nuttiness to the finished loaf…

In my kitchen…

…are cornmeal English muffins, made to a modified Dan Lepard recipe.  On Joanna’s advice, I reduced the water in the recipe from 425ml to 300ml.  The slightly drier dough cut well and held its shape in the frying pan…

We ate them with Joy’s delicious plum jam…

…which she made with plums harvested from her dad’s farm…

In my kitchen…

…are treasures from Chefs’ Warehouse.  These 10cm/4″ crumpet rings were calling to me…

…as were these absolutely gorgeous terracotta dishes.  I already had the larger version, and wanted a couple of smaller ones to complete the set.  The little one measures 15cm/6″ in diameter and cost just $5.95.  The dishes are oven safe and clean up perfectly in the dishwasher…

In my kitchen…

…are pots of green apples, being turned into pectin for this year’s jam making.  The apples are from Christina’s dad Lloyd, who was kind enough to give us enough for dozens of jars of pectin, along with several kilos of gorgeous crabapples for jelly!

In my kitchen…

…is a tin of Turkish apple tea.  I’ve been drinking this sweet tangy tea at Turkish restaurants over the past few months, and couldn’t resist buying some for home…

In my kitchen…

…is a basket of green figs from our new neighbour Marco, whose trees are laden and groaning with fruit!

Tell me, what’s happening in your kitchen this month?

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The most beautiful organic rhubarb was on sale at Flemington Markets last week for just $2.50/bunch!  We bought two…

…and Pete combined them with a kilo of frozen blackberries to make seven jars of fabulous jam.  Here are some brief instructions…

  • 1kg rhubarb, cut into pieces
  • 1kg frozen or fresh blackberries
  • 2 x 300ml jars homemade pectin
  • 1kg white sugar
  • 100ml lime juice

1. Place the rhubarb, lime juice and pectin in a large stock pot and bring to a boil, then simmer gently until the fruit is pulpy.

2. Add the blackberries and sugar and bring to a rolling boil until the jam sets and wrinkles when tested on a cold plate.

3. Spoon the hot jam into sterilised jars, seal tightly, then boil the jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Please see our Jam Making Primer for more tips on making jam.

My breakfast this morning…Pete’s homemade Greek yoghurt, swirled through with a couple of spoonfuls of rhubarb and blackberry jam!

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We’ve made nearly 300 jars of jam in the last year, and it’s been a really fun learning curve.  Pete does most of the actual jam making; my job is to prepare the pectin, sterilise jars and most importantly, to sit on the kitchen bench and cheer him on.

We’ve learnt a few things through experience over the last 12 months, and I thought I’d pass these on, in case they’re of use to anyone.  Making jam at home is not complicated, but it is desperately rewarding and will provide you with an endless supply of much appreciated, highly anticipated gifts.  Here are our top tips.

1. Make your own pectin. Homemade apple pectin is so much easier to use than commercial pectin – the latter can only be boiled briefly, whereas the homemade version can be added to the fruit right from the beginning.  Apart from tasting better (our personal opinion), it’s also easier to control how the jam sets with your own pectin, because you can start with less and add more to adjust as you go.  We always make our pectin in large batches and  can it (see point 11 below), but there’s no reason why you couldn’t make a small amount for the batch of jam you’re planning and use it straight away.

2. Source really good glass jars. If you’re in Australia, try either Cospak or, our favourite, Plasdene.  The ladies at Plasdene in Milperra are particularly helpful, albeit occasionally bemused by us (“Celia, what on earth are you going to do with all these jars?”).  They have a wonderful showroom which can inspire lots of new ideas, and watch out for the specials by the door as you walk in.  Both places have minimum orders, so it’s worth ringing first before you order or visit.  Also, the glass jars are easy to recycle, but you really can’t reuse the lids, so if you can afford it, try to buy some extra lids for the refills while you’re there.

3. Use a big stock pot. Jams and jellies need wide fat pots, not narrow tall ones.   They also need to be BIG, because the mixture needs to boil up in the pot before it will set.  Pete’s recommendation for jelly making is that the jelly should only fill about 1/8 of the pot when you start, although jam can be a little fuller.

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4. Try to use fruit at its peak. Apart from being the whole purpose of jam making – that is, to preserve the fruit at its very best – it’s also really the only time it’s worth doing, for both quality and economic reasons.  Having said that, make full use of your freezer if you have one – fruit frozen in season works perfectly well for jam.  In many cases, it doesn’t even need to be defrosted first.

5.  There are four key elements of jam making – fruit, sugar, pectin and acid. If any one of these is absent, the jam usually won’t set, and if the balance is out, the jam won’t set well.  Lemon juice is in every jam we make, as it helps to activate the pectin. Sometimes, particularly with jellies, the mix won’t set unless there is enough sugar. Every recipe is a guide, because the fruit varies from batch to batch, so you need to constantly taste and adjust as you go.

6. Don’t add the sugar too soon. Begin the jam making process by placing the prepared fruit, pectin and acid in a large stock pot and bringing it to the boil.  Once the fruit has softened to your liking, then add the sugar.  When the sugar is added, the skins of the fruit won’t soften any further, and fruits like strawberries won’t break down much more.  But for fruits like raspberries, which fall apart very easily, the sugar can be added straight away.

7. Try to minimise the amount of added sugar. Start with a lesser amount than you think you need, then add more if required to set the jam. Sugar is often used in commercial jams to cover up poor quality fruit, but conversely, if you have really great fruit, too much sugar will mask that as well.  Lately, Pete has been experimenting with using more pectin and less sugar, and the jams have all been setting quite well (albeit a little firmer than normal).  Again, it’s all about the balance between the four key ingredients.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that jellies need a  minimum amount of sugar to set (usually one cup of sugar to one cup of liquid) – jams are more forgiving on this front.

8. Boil gently at first, then at full-bore. This is an often disputed point in  jam making.  Pete’s approach is this: bring the fruit, pectin and lemon juice to a gentle (but proper) boil, and keep it at that level until the fruit softens to a consistency you’re happy with.  Add the sugar, then bring it back up to a gentle boil until the sugar dissolves.  Skim well at this point – you won’t be able to skim once the pot is boiling vigorously. Once the sugar is dissolved and the jam has been clarified, then raise the heat and bring the pot to a full rolling boil (one that rises up in the pot) until the jam is set.

Jellies in particular will never set until they are brought to a feverish boil which causes them to rise up in the pot (which is why you need to use a big, wide pot!).  If you’ve brought them to a rising boil and the jelly still won’t set, you will probably need to add something – either more pectin, sugar or acid.

9. Always skim off as much foam as you can. This is particularly important with jelly – as it boils, the foam rising to the surface carries with it the impurities (for want of a better word) in the jelly, and the more you can remove at this time, the clearer and more jewel-like the finished product will be.  By the way, foam and surface scum are really good signs – they mean the pectin is doing its job and setting the preserve.

10. Test for set. Before you start, put a small saucer in the fridge to cool.  Alternatively, you could use an ice-pack and put the saucer on that to chill.  Test the jam or jelly by putting a small blob on the cold saucer.  Wait a minute or two, then give the jam a poke with your finger.  If it wrinkles, then it’s ready. Make sure you turn off the heat while you’re testing, or you might end up scorching your jam.

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11.  Hot water processing. Another hotly debated issue and there are many people who don’t believe this step is necessary.  We always ladle our jams and jellies into sterilised jars, then seal them and boil them in a hot water bath for ten minutes.  It’s an easy process, providing you remember to put the hot jars in hot water (pouring cold water on the hot jars can crack them – I learnt that the hard way).  We either use a pasta pot, or we place a silicone mat in the base of our big stock pot, and stand the jars on that.  Make sure the boiling water covers the top of the jars by at least 2.5cm (1″).   Please note that if you’re making preserves other than sweet jams and jellies, then hot water processing may not be adequate, and you might need to invest in a pressure canner to ensure food safety.

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© copyright 2009 by Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. All rights reserved.

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Do you have any jam making tips?  We’d love to hear them! And for more information, including recipes, please have a look at our JAMS page.

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“I beg your pardon?”

“I said…I’m going to Christina’s to pick up a bag of apple cores and peels…”

It’s lucky that my husband knows me well enough to take these sorts of comments in his stride.  Christina was making apple pie and I’d asked her to keep the leftover bits and pieces for me.  I know it sounds ridiculously frugal, but apple cores and peel make fantastic pectin and I religiously save  and freeze the cores from Small Man’s morning and afternoon teas.  I’d been at it for a couple of weeks and was accumulating a tidy collection, when Chris mentioned her pie.  I arrived with a plate of vanilla kifli and offered to trade for her bag of “compost bits”.  No wonder people think I’m strange.

In total, I had a dozen frozen Fuji cores, a full bag of green apple peel and cores from Christina, and the peel and cores from another six Fujis that needed to be eaten (I cooked the pulp into pie filling and stashed it in the freezer).  It made the most gorgeous pectin (instructions here), as well as some delicious apple jelly.


Apple jelly is pretty easy to make – it’s what you end up with if you add sugar to your homemade pectin.  After I’d let the liquid drain through the calico (without pressing – that’s very important, or you’ll get cloudy jelly), I measured out a litre of the drained apple stock.  This was poured into a large saucepan and brought to a boil, then the juice of a lemon and four cups of sugar were added (the ratio is one cup of sugar to each cup of apple stock – sometimes you can get away with a little less, but if there isn’t enough sugar, the jelly might not set).

The pot was brought to a rolling boil until it reached 220F (104.5C) on a candy thermometer.  It really doesn’t set until it gets to that temperature, but if you don’t have a thermometer, you can always check if it’s ready by putting a small blob of jelly onto a cold plate to see if it wrinkles.  There is always some froth on the top of the liquid as it boils – that’s a good sign that the pectin is setting – just skim it off carefully and discard.

Once it was ready, we poured the hot jelly into sterilised jars and sealed.  We boiled the finished jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, just to make doubly sure they won’t go mouldy.

We ended up with three large jars of pectin and four jars of apple jelly.  I took two jars of jelly to Christina’s house – one for her and one for her dad (after all, it was his green apples).  Her brother opened the door and looked at me quizzically as I handed him the jars and said…

“This is for Christina – it’s Compost Jelly”.


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Edit: I’ve just had an email from a lady who had trouble getting the apple jelly to set.  This was the original YouTube video we learnt to make the apple jelly from – I thought it might be useful to link it here:

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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)
  • Water

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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© copyright 2009 by Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. All rights reserved.

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