Having food allergies has taught me so much. It’s also led me to so many doors I otherwise would not have passed through. I never thought I’d be the type to WANT to make homemade pectin, because I didn’t much care for jam. Come to find out, what I didn’t care for was the pectin. It has corn syrup solids in it (called dextrose). No wonder I’d always thought jam was too sweet. I have made preserves, instead, for years, but my husband misses jam. And preserves are not easy! They require standing over a hot stove all day, usually in a hot month. They fog up my windows and the humidity lingers. And they just plain take forever. Still good, though. Just lots of work.
Interestingly, my daughter hated jam as much as I did, but when she tasted some without the added dextrose, she told me instead, “Well maybe I like jam… but only if you make it.” Someday, kid, you’re going to actually put two and two together. Hates marshmallows unless mom makes it… corn. Hates jam unless mom makes it… corn. Not a big candy fan… corn. Kid, you have a corn allergy, too!
I think she doesn’t want to put the pieces together yet. Especially because her other biological relation already ignores her other, clearly tested, and serious allergies. If she recognized this one, she’d have to starve for 2 days.
I’ve made apple pectin before, and if I had to pick just one method, I’d go with citrus from now on. It worked easier and I could see results faster. If you’ve got lots of green, unripe apples, though, you may want to look into the other pectin.
During canning season, I go through lots of lemons. That is one other thing that I have to do now because of allergies. Bottled lemon juice contains a sulfate. Sulfate-anything makes my mouth go numb and my throat swell up. Not a good combo. Plus, fresh lemons are so much better for you. I know that canning people usually say avoid lemons because you can’t guarantee the pH, but I’d rather not die from anaphylaxis . Some day, I might find a way to check the pH of my food and then find out what it’s supposed to be in canning, but I don’t know where to start; which always leaves me spinning in circles. I feel like Captain Jack Sparrow trying to find a certain chest when he doesn’t know what he wants. “Ah! A heading. Set sail in a… uh… a general… that way! direction.”
but I digress. Lemon pectin. Love it. Will never buy a box again. Easy-peasy.
In order to help you understand, lets take a second and go over the parts of a citrus fruit. Biology lesson. Okay, these are not the terms you’d find in a biology textbook. But you would find them in old cookbooks.
- Zest: the oily coating on the outside of a lemon, lime, orange, or other citrus fruit. The part of the rind that has the color to it. Strong, potent flavor. Used in essential oils. It really only becomes zest after it’s been grated off of the lemon, but peel becomes so ambiguous and jumbled as part of the rind, that for my purposes, we’ll call it zest.
- Pith: the white squishy part of a citrus fruit. Contains the most pectin. Pretty flavorless. Most often discarded (what a shame).
- Fruit: the piece of a citrus most commonly used. Contains the juice and the pulp inside of membranes dividing the fruit into sections. Most often used for both consumption and juices.
- Pips: the seeds. I don’t know why they’re not just called seeds, but pips sounds fun. Especially when you want both the pips and the pith.
It will be WAY easier on you to grate/peel the lemons first, before you do anything else. Seriously. And before you do THAT you will want to wash/scrub your fruit. You can’t be sure of how carefully that fruit was cared for or what is on the peels.
I took a regular peeler to my citrus, but you can get the colored skin off however you would like. I wish I had a channel knife zester (affiliate link. I have no proof that this is a good choice). There are so many uses for the zest. I, however, have not come up with enough ways yet. I’ve added the lemon zest to lemonade, before. That was great. I also want to learn how to candy them and such. My sister makes cleaners out of them. I haven’t tried that. I have dried them, but when I do dry them, they just sit there. Unused. Unloved. Wasted. I confess, this year, most of them ended up in my compost. Baby steps. Next year, I’ll try harnessing the lemony powers of goodness into something… good.
anyway, after you’ve peeled the citrus (as you can see most of mine is lemons and limes. It was salsa season. Grapefruits work amazingly, too. So much pith, it only takes a few of them. Plus they have a milder flavor. probably because you get more pith and less oil residue), juice them and use the juice for whatever you had in mind. Or bottle it. I’ve seen recipes, but I haven’t tried it. You will need some lemon juice for your pectin, so it’s nice to have lemons in the bunch, no matter what other combination you have in mind.
The more color you remove from the lemon, the better off you are. You can still see quite a bit of color on my citrus, but I’m not particularly worried about a lemon/lime taste in my jams.
After you’ve isolated the pith, throw in the pips (the seeds. They have tons of pectin, too). and add everything to a food processor. Chop, chop, chop.
When you’re done, you’ll end up with something that looks like this:
Now you have the base for your citrus pectin.
Measure out your pith into 8 ounce batches. Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and let it sit at room temperature for two hours. Then add about 2 cups of water and let it sit another hour. Transfer everything to a pot and rapidly bring it to a boil (stirring as needed). Once it boils, turn it to a simmer, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove it from the heat and let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.
Then send it through a jelly bag or a few layers of cheese cloth (sorry, I lost my picture of this part of the process). If you squeeze the bag you will definitely get more pectin out of it (and I often find that it’s the pectin that will congeal the best), but your jellies will be cloudy. I don’t know why people care, but some do.
Test your pectin. To do this, I like to scoop out a spoonful and chill it in the fridge, so it cools faster than the rest of my pectin. Sources say you can’t test it when it’s warm (though I have gotten citrus pectin to set up even when warm. Never apple pectin, though), and then add a splash (my grandma’s terms) of rubbing alcohol over it. If it sets into a semi-solid blob that you can get onto a fork, you’re set. If not, reduce it down a little bit more (I’ve never had to do that with citrus, but I have had to do it with the apple pectin. Now you know why I prefer citrus pectin).
Either bottle (which I’ve never done) or freeze your pectin. To freeze, measure into an ice cube tray. I know that each of my cubes will be about 1 1/2 Tbs. When solid, remove from trays and add to a freezer bag (they’re still kind of sticky when frozen. That’s not a bad thing. That’s pectin that works). It should store for 6 months to a year.
My sources tell me that to bottle it, re-heat the pectin until just below a boil, fill sterilized jars with 1/2″ headspace, and then process for 15 minutes, depending on your altitude. I haven’t tried it. It seems a waste of cooking time to bottle pectin.
Here’s where it gets tricky. With a box of pectin, it tells you exactly how much sugar to use, how much fruit to use, and how much pectin to add. With homemade pectin, it’s all a bunch of variables. Your pectin is different based on each individual fruit. I would definitely use a box pectin a few times until you know what you’re looking for (although, really, sometimes they vary, too. I’ve got some syrup downstairs in my fruit room that was supposed to be jelly. I also have some really soft-set jams. Both from store-bought pectin).
The most important bit is to add the pectin before you boil your fruit (I think store-bought pectin is added after). You’re going to need a whole lot more pectin than you add from a box, too. A good place to start is 3 tablespoons (for me, that’s 2 pectin cubes) per cup of fruit. You may still need to add some fresh lemon juice as you’re making pectin, but with this recipe, you get a head start because it’s already in the pectin. You could need up to a whole cup of pectin. You will need to keep track of how much pectin to add because a good rule of thumb is equal parts pectin and sugar (more sugar, to taste). It all depends on how hard of a set you have. To test your fruit to desired thickness, freeze a plate in advance, and when you’re ready to test your jam/jelly, take a spoonful and drop it onto the plate. You need to be able to run something through it and it takes a while to re-fill the space. This is a soft set. If you want a really firm jelly, you will want to let it set on the plate, and then touch it. If it wrinkles, it’s good. I’m impatient. I don’t want to wait for it to cool, because then the jelly in the pan is cooked much beyond the jelly I tested on the plate, so I usually keep track of how thick it is and how long it takes to lose its shape.
If all of this is just too much work for you, you can just throw a few pips, or a mixture of chopped pith and pips into a cheesecloth pouch and add it to your boiling jams/jellies. I like something I wont have to fish out, though. And I like to adjust the amounts as needed. both are harder with throwing in a bag. You get much less control.
- 8 ounces chopped pith/pits from citrus fruit
- 1/4 c lemon juice
- 2 cups water, any temperature
- Measure out your pith into 8 ounce batches.
- Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and let it sit at room temperature for two hours.
- Add 2 cups of water and let it sit another hour.
- Transfer everything to a pot and rapidly bring it to a boil (stirring as needed). Once it boils, turn it to a simmer, and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove it from the heat and let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.
- Send it through a jelly bag or a few layers of cheese cloth
- Can multiply recipe.