Though I've made homemade pectin many years, I hadn't checked into the history until recently, when I became curious as to where it originated, when our ancestors may have discovered it and how long it has been in use as homemade as well as commercially made.
I was pleased to find that historic records show the first mention of pectin in the late 1700s right here in this country, but it did not come into common practice until the pioneer days, so that peaked my interest, since I have a whole section of pioneer gardening, pioneer recipes and what can be considered self-reliant recipes, which the pioneers were extremely adept at, though the *modern* pioneers are attempting to get back to that pioneer spirit and become more self-reliant, rather than reliant on all commercial goods and services.
The historic background doesn't say how it was discovered or if it was discovered by some druggist or the homemaker, but, I can imagine like many things it was discovered as what I like to call, *happy accidents*. I can see the busy pioneer ladies, attempting to get all the fruits, vegetables and meats harvested and processed before the winter chill set in. In her scramble to take care of the family, be a help mate to her husband and still manage to hand wash the laundry, bake the bread, fix the meals and process the bounty, it would not surprise me if a kettle of apples just got left to simmer on it's own; near forgotten, then turn to a soft gel. Since nothing could be wasted, the gelled substance was likely tasted and the realization that this could be used as a spread for all that homemade bread and biscuits as a special treat, much like a dessert. Ahhhhhh, but the history has fallen into obscurity, so this is just my take on how this may all have occurred. I always say, there are few kitchen disasters, that even though something may have started out to be one thing, with a little creativity and thinking outta the kitchen, it can be turned into something unique and still have a purpose even if not the fully intended purpose.
Commercially, liquid pectin was the first on the market after the turn of the century. That company is still around to this day; Certo®. Later came the powdered pectin that is readily available in a number of different brands. Though Certo® is made from Citrus, the powdered pectins are made mostly from apples. Both citrus and apples are high in pectin.
Pectin is used in jams and jellies, and is available commercially as a dry form or liquid form. I have used a variety of brands over the years when canning my fruits and berries, finding some brands to be inferior and not setting the fruit as expected, but it's easy to make your own, and costs virtually nothing but a little time over the stove.
Pectin is most commonly made from apples, but a variety of fruits and berries have pectin in them. Cranberries are very high in pectin, as are chokecherries and crab apples. Rarely will you need to use any pectin for each of those to gel. And because green apples are high in pectin, apple jelly is generally made without the addition of pectin. The riper the apple the less pectin, and those may need the addition of pectin in order to gel.
When I'm making other apple projects I save the peels and cores from the apples to use for apple jelly and/or pectin and for homemade apple vinegar (refer to my links below for making each). The peels and cores contain the most pectin, though you could use the entire apple when making pectin, I just prefer to use the peels for the jelly or pectin and the apple slices or pulp for butters and sauce, pies and other baked goods.
Many make their pectin using the entire apple. To make pectin by this method, wash the apples, cut into quarters. Remove stems but not the cores. Place in a kettle with water to cover by an inch or two and add a couple teaspoons of lemon or lime juice, which helps it gel more easily. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to about half. Strain the liquid from the peels using cheese cloth and a fine strainer. Pour the liquid back into the kettle, and simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Allow to cool completely and place in the refrigerator for the gel to form, then with a table knife or fork, test the pectin. If it stays on the knife, it's perfect, if it slowly slides off, it's fine, the finished jam or jelly will just be softer set. If it won't stay on the knife at all and resembles liquid, return to the kettle and simmer another 10-20 minutes. Pour into 6 oz. sterilized canning jars, and process in a boiling water bath 10-15 minutes. Or you can just refrigerate it if you're planning to use it within a week or two or freeze it to keep it longer.
MY METHOD FOR MAKING PECTIN:
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4-6 large green apples (peeled and cored--reserve the peels and cores)
Water to cover by about 2 inches
When making pies or other desserts, save the peels and cores, place in a kettle and cover with water. Allow to cook down to about half. Strain the liquid from the peels through cheese cloth and a fine strainer. You can squeeze the cheese cloth to extract as much juice as possible, though the liquid may be cloudy, which is fine if you're using in jams, but maybe not fine if you want clear jellies. You can strain again, to remove as much of the cloudy liquid as possible. Reheat, then pour into hot sterilized 6 oz. mason jars and process in hot water bath for 10-15 minutes, for the pantry. You can store in the refrigerator if you plan to use it within a week or so, or freeze it and thaw at room temperature to use in your jams and jellies.
Note: I do not add citrus juice to my apple liquid, though you can for a more sure gelling and faster gelling process. Typically a couple teaspoons is all that is necessary per kettle of liquid.
To use: The current liquid pectin brands come in 6 oz. containers. Use your pectin equivalent to this measurement. There are many recipes available for using liquid pectin and it's equivalent to a package of the dry pectin, so there are even more recipes to try using dry pectin to refer to. If you've used commercial pectin, you likely saved at least one leaflet of the recipes, so you can use those recipes with your homemade pectin.
NOTE: Each batch of pectin will vary in density, depending on the apples or fruit used, so results will vary and you may need to adjust your recipes accordingly. The best apples to use are Gravenstein, Ginger Gold or Granny Smith, or unripe apples of any variety will also work fine. Just follow any jam or jelly recipe and add the pectin during the last minute of cooking, after the sugar added to the fruit has dissolved and been cooked according to directions. Hot water bath as usual or refrigerate or freeze the finished gelled product.
For the apple peeler/slicer I use, refer to the link below.
Refer to my links for making your own Apple Vinegar, Apple Jelly and other Apple recipes.
Refer to the link to make Apple Peel Vinegar:
Refer to the link to make Honey Vanilla Applesauce:
Refer to the link to make Blueberry Applesauce:
Refer to the link to make Crockpot Apple Jack Butter:
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