Make Apple Pectin Stock to have on hand when you want to make jam or jelly from low-or medium–pectin fruit.
Pectin is a carbohydrate primarily found in the cell walls of all plants but most concentrated in the skin, seeds, and core of raw fruit. It is the ‘glue’ that holds cell walls together.
All fruit contains pectin but to varying degrees. Even within a specific fruit, the pectin levels vary with ripeness. Barely underripe or just ripe fruit are high in pectin, while overripe is low. Tart apples and crabapples are two fruits high in pectin, along with the white pith of citrus peel.
Pectin is broken down by enzymes into peptic acid when fruit begins to ripen. This is why an overripe apple has less pectin than just a ripe apple does.
Pop on over here for a complete discussion on Jam Making Basics. This Jam Making Basics post discusses the basic ingredients for all jellied fruit and why they are important, basic equipment, and the differences between Jam, Jelly, Preserves, Conserves, and Marmalade.
When combined with sugar and lemon juice (or another acid), pectin will gel. This ‘gelling’ is why you get a jam or jelly instead of just a fruit sauce.
As we discussed earlier, some fruits are higher in pectin than others. You will probably not need to add extra pectin when making jam or preserves with apples, cranberries, or other high pectin fruit. However, most of my favorite fruits are medium to low in pectin. As such, I typically need to add it or be satisfied with a softer set.
Keep this chart handy for your next jam and jelly making day
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If you do need to add it, Commercial Pectin is one alternative for your jellied fruit product. Commercial Pectin comes in Regular and Low Sugar/ No Sugar options. While I use Commercial Pectin from time to time (in this Jalapeño Wine Jelly and this Mulled Wine Jelly), I typically prefer to get my pectin in other ways. I find commercial pectin bitter; I’m sure since it is largely derived from citrus pith.
Another way to get the desired gel for a low-pectin fruit jam is to add some high-pectin fruit. Citrus Peel, Tart Apples, Cranberries, and Crabapples are all great sources of pectin. Of all the high-pectin fruit, apples and apple pectin seem to affect the flavor less than others, so it is usually my choice. This Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Recipe uses shredded apples (as well as the core, seeds, and peel) to help the low-pectin Strawberries and Rhubarb gel.
A third option for adding pectin to your jams, jellies, and the like is to make Apple Pectin Stock. Pectin Stock is made from apples (including their sides, peel, and core) and water. Once cooked, it is strained. Apples have high pectin and high acid content, making a perfect pectin stock that doesn’t fight with the fruit you want to highlight.
I use this apple pectin stock in my Apricot Jam recipe. It couldn’t be easier. Chop your apples when you chop the apricots, let the apples cook for 40 minutes then put them in the fridge in a colander to let the juices drip through. The next day, reduce them down a bit, use what you need for the Apricot Jam, and then water bath the rest along with your jam! Done and Done!
And the science nerd in me enjoys testing the strength of my apple pectin stock! After you make pectin stock, add a teaspoon of it to a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and swirl it around. If you can pick up the ‘glob’ of apple pectin with a fork, you have good, strong pectin.
Test your pectin stock strength by adding 1 teaspoon of the stock to 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. Swirl the mixture and then let it set for 1 minute. If you can pick up the glob with a fork, then you have a strong stock. If you don't have 1 glob, but instead 2-3 smaller globs, continue to cook down your stock for a little bit.
In general, 1 cup of Apple Pectin Stock and 2 cups of Sugar will help gel 3 lbs of low to medium pectin fruit for a good jam.
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