Excerpt from the Popular Kitchen Series magabook Canning & Preserving with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Canning & Preserving here.
A natural thickening and jelling agent, pectin is a water-soluble substance found in fruit tissue; it makes jellies and soft spreads congeal. When combined with fruit, sugar and acid in the correct proportions and then heated, pectin causes the fruit mixture to set.
Commercial liquid and powdered pectin comes from either tart apples or the white pith found under the colored peel of citrus fruits. Powdered pectin is added to the fruit before cooking, while liquid pectin is added to the heated fruit-and-sugar mixture near the end of the cooking process. Each requires a different balance of fruit, sugar and acid to achieve the proper set.
Some cooks prefer to use homemade pectin when canning their spreads. To make your own pectin, follow these simple instructions:
- In a large stock pot, combine 1 pint of water for each pound of slices. Boil for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Line a strainer with one layer of cheesecloth. Pour the apple pulp and juice over the cheesecloth into a large pot that comfortably fits the strainer. Pour the juice into a 4-cup-capacity measuring cup.
- Pour the pulp back into the stockpot, and add the same amount of water as before. Cook a second time for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain again with another single layer of cheesecloth lining your strainer. Add the juice to the measuring cup.
- When cool enough to handle, gather the cheesecloth containing the pulp, and squeeze the bag to extract remaining juice. Add the juice to the measuring cup. You should have 1 quart of cooked juice for every pound of apples. This “stock” will serve as your pectin. Four cups of this jelly stock equals about half a bottle (3 ounces) of commercial liquid pectin.
- Freeze the jelly stock for future use. Jelly stock keeps for about a year. Whether you’re using powdered, liquid or homemade pectin, keep in mind that the fruit’s ripeness, its natural pectin content, its natural acid content and the amount of sugar added will influence the quality of the gel of your preserves