“If you have an apple and I have an apple
and we exchange these apples
then you and I will still each have one apple.
But if you have an idea and I have an idea
and we exchange these ideas,
then each of us will have two ideas.”
~George Bernard Shaw
It’s (almost) autumn in New York and the apple harvest is so inviting! Who can resist orchard rows aligned with gnarled old trees full of bright, juicy jewels in greens, golds and reds?! The mere sight of them makes my heart sing and my mouth water. It’s time for appple pie, applesauce, apple juice and …pectin. Yes, pectin! It’s a great way to use the apple peels and cores you’d otherwise compost and can save you a bit of money.
Fruits and vegetables naturally contain various amounts of pectin (defined as “collodial carbohydrates soluble in water”) which diminishes as they age. Some fruits, like apples, blackberries, quince, and Eastern concord grapes are naturally high in pectin. Others like peaches, pears, and strawberries are naturally low in pectin. If you like to make jams and jellies or preserve fruit in the freezer you will use pectin to help prevent the fruit from turning brown and to help your jelly ‘set.’ Commercial pectin is widely available in stores, but it’s also very easy to make fresh from local fruit in season…especially apples which don’t lend a strong flavor to whatever you are preserving. Why not give it a try?
- Wash all of the apples well.
- Place the peels, cores, any windfall fruit or pomace you are using into a pot and cover with water. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer the fruit until it’s soft, about 30 minutes. (Whole apples should be cut into chunks.)
- Strain through cheesecloth until it stops dripping. This can take a while, if you don’t mind cloudy jelly (or you’re using the pectin for freezing fruit) you can hasten the process by gently squeezing the cloth to extract the liquid.
- Return the cooked fruit to the pot, cover with more water and repeat the process again, cooking for only half the time, about 15 minutes.
- Now the liquid must be reduced to a concentrate. Place all of the liquid back into a pot and bring to a simmer. As it reduces, it will become smooth and have a slick texture. When the liquid reduces by half it can be used in a 1:1 ratio with low pectin fruit to make jelly. (One cup of pectin for every cup of juice.) It can also be mixed with low-pectin fruit before freezing to prevent darkening. Allowing the liquid to reduce down further to 1/4 of the original volume makes a thick pectin syrup similar to the liquid pectin available in stores. It will only require 1/4 c. of the pectin syrup for every 4 cups of juice when making jelly. (Follow the directions for canning jams and jellies with commercial liquid pectin.)
- Extra pectin can be frozen for later use.
It may take a bit of experimenting before you are familiar with the process, but don’t let that keep you from trying it. The pectin is also great for mixing into tea with a bit of honey to soothe sore throats. Nature really has it all..