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HOW TO MAKE:white spacer imageNatural Apple Pectin

PART 1 - The Apple Mash

Copyright:   Mike Sillett


1. Intro
2. Equipment
3. Procedure / technique
    Part 1 - The Apple Mash.
    Part 2 - Initial Straining Through Long Cotton Sock.
    Part 3 - Filtering Through Muslin Cloth.
    Part 4 - Cooking Down The Juice.
    Part 5 - Testing Juice For Pectin Content.

Title photo of a jelled glob of pectin

1. Intro

Now most everyone goes to the grocery store and buys pectin at the aisle where all the canning supplies are stocked.
But in the old days, when I was a child ( boy do I hate to say that ), my parents made their own pectin.
They canned it, labeled it 'Pectin - October 1953' and Put It Up just like they did with their jellies, jams and green beans.

Sometimes they used crabapples or other wild apples because they were free for the getting.
Other times, quite often I recall, regular apple peels and cores were used since they were a by-product of such things as apple cobbler, apple sauce and apple pie.

I remember my parents saving the peels and cores, throwing them in a pot with a bit of water and getting as much liquid out of those scraps as possible. Without much effort or fanfare the juice was put in an emply 1/2 gallon milk carton and stashed in the freezer until a few cartons were full at which time they would process the liquid further into a nice clear juice, which when cooked down to half it's volume, would be tested for pectin content several times during the cook-down process, and when ready the juice would be canned.

Feral apple trees, untended apple trees, unwanted apples and crabapple trees are ' abundant' in my area, southwestern Pennsylvania.
One day of gathering and preparing usually provides more than enough pectin to use for the rest of the year, all the way to the following Fall.
If you don't want a long project just get about 4 or 5 pounds of crabapples and you will have a couple of hours of work in the morning, mostly spent drinking coffee and reading the paper, while the stuff simmers on the stove. You will end up getting almost a quart of concentrated pectin from the effort.

This project is the latter scenario. It is really quite easy in spite of the fact there are 30 photographs.

2. Equipment

A couple of strainers. ( one should be fine sieve )
A bowl.
A potato masher.
A large wisk. ( optional )
An unwanted long cotton sock.
Muslin cloth.
A wide mouth canning funnel.
2 Large stainless steel stock pots.
Large measuring cup to use as a dipper.

Photo of kitchen equipment such as potato masher, strainers, glass bowl and stainless steel stock pot.

Some of the kitchen equipment used to process apples or crabapples for natural liquid pectin.

3. Procedure / technique

Part 1 - The Apple Mash.

Wild crabapples are one of the fruits with a high pectin content. Get them when full grown but not real ripe. Fruits and berries have their most pectin content before ripeness. Also most pectin is in the skins and cores rather than the flesh. Ideally, having a whole bunch of crabapple skins and cores would result in a higher pectin yield than processing them whole. However, can you imagine peeling hundreds of those little buggers? I can, so I process them whole.

I have about 4 pounds of reasonably sound crabapples in a stainless steel stock pot. Getting 4 pounds of crabapples takes about ten minutes, even if you are choosey about picking them.
These crabapples happen to be red crabapples. I use them because they are plentiful in our area and I like my pectin to be red since the color of the jellies, jams and marmalades I make are from fruits that produce a dark juice anyway. I figure the extra tint can't hurt the aesthetics.

Photo of approximately 4 pounds of red Crabapples

Approximately 4 pounds of red Crabapples in a stainless steel stock pot.

We want to get them all cleaned up so one of the easier ways to do that is to add just enough water to be level with the amount of apples in the pot. You don't want to add too much water or they will float about too much and avoid the brush bristles. With just enough water they are trapped and can't avoid the scrubbing.
I use a bottle washing brush and I really agitate them around while the water is getting hot. No particular sequence involved here. Just stir it clockwise, counterclockwise, up and down and a combination of those. Spend some time agitating until the water gets too hot to put your fingers in.

Photo of the batch of apples being washed with a bottle brush in a pot of water, which is constantly getting hotter.

Water added for washing apples using a bottle washing brush.

When you believe they are pretty much cleaned up start removing them to look over. We want unblemished, non-wormy specimens. If you were choosey picking them this should go pretty quick.

Photo of crabapples being washed and while being washed the good ones are being sorted out.

As the apples are being scrubbed up the sorting of the apples is also being done.

Empty the dirty water from the pot, rinse it out and put the apples you chose back in and cook them up until very soft and able to be mashed with the potato masher and / or whisk.
It should look something like knarly applesauce with skins and seeds in it.

Photo of crabapple mash in stainless steel pot

Crabapples have been mashed up with the potato masher and the whisk.

Put a regular pasta strainer, preferably of non-reactive metal like stainless steel, on top of another stainless steel pot then dump the mash into the strainer.
use a wooden spoon, plastic spoon or spatula and stir and agitate the mash to force as much liquid within the mash through the strainer.

Photo of crabapple mash being stirred and agitated to force it through the strainer.

A wooden handled spatula is being used to stir and agitate the crabapple mash
in an effort to force the liquid part through the strainer and into a shallow stock pot.

In a few minutes you will end up with a very much thicker mash from which most of the liquid has been strained.
This thicker mash however still has plenty to give so dump it all back in the original stock pot, add some water to liquify it again and let simmer some more. After a bit of simmering mash the mix up again with the potato masher and whisk. When satisfied that the mash is pretty much as good as possibly mashed do the strainer thing again.

Photo of the crabapple mash after the majority of the liquid has been forced through the strainer.

Most of the liquid part of the crabapple mash has been forced through the strainer and into the shallow stock pot.
This batch however still has nore to give.
It will go back into the large stock pot, some water will be added and more simmering and mashing is in store.

Now that we have as much liquid as possible extracted from the mash we want to strain the thickish liquid through a long cotton sock. - See part 2

    Part 2 - Initial Straining Through Long Cotton Sock.
    Part 3 - Filtering Through Muslin Cloth.
    Part 4 - Cooking Down The Juice.
    Part 5 - Testing Juice For Pectin Content.

This pectin getting method works equally well with apple cores and peelings should you have access to many apples of regular size.

Making Natural Pectin From Apples and / or Crabapples.

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