How to Make Apple Pectin

Homemade apple pectin.

Want a healthy, cheap pectin that can be used for canning or health purposes? Apple pectin is great for jam and jelly-making, may help fight cancer, is good for cholesterol,  relieves diarrhea, and was used to combat radiation after the Chernobyl disaster. It's also easy to make and costs virtually nothing!

The Apples
It's important to start with the right apples. I used the small, baby apples that fall to the ground because the apple fruits are growing too close together; but you may also use crab apples - or the most sour apples or apple leavings (cores, skins, etc.) you can find. The more sour the apple, the better the pectin.

I found my apples on the sidewalks around my neighborhood; you might ask a neighbor if you can have her fallen crab apples or baby apples. (She'll probably be grateful, as they make a mess and few people want to use them.) Sometimes you can also find apple trees in wilderness areas or public parks. You might also ask about baby apples or crab apples at a local farm. Sometimes Hispanic food markets also sell under-ripe, sour apples.

Feel free to acquire the apples gradually. Wash whole apples, dry them, and pop them into a freezer bag until you're ready to make pectin. I had about 8 pint-sized freezer bags full of baby apples and I ended up with 19 jelly jars of pectin. From previous experience, however, I know that the more immature and small the apples are, the less pectin you'll get from them.

How to Make Apple Pectin
You will need at least one large pot, a cutting board and knife, water, a colander and large bowl, some cheesecloth or flour sack dish towels, two small bowls, a spoon, a fork, and some rubbing alcohol.

1. Cut each apple in half (if using whole apples) and toss into the pot. Fill the pot with water until the apples just float.

2. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for at least 2 hours, adding additional water as needed to keep the apples floating.

3. When the apples look brownish-rose colored and the liquid is a rosy brown, turn off the heat.

4. Place the colander over the large bowl and line the colander completely with cheesecloth or a large flour sack dishcloth. (Be aware that whatever fabric you use will get stained during this procedure.) Carefully pour the contents of the pot into the colander. Cover the contents of the colander with more cheesecloth or a flour sack towel and allow the contents to completely drain. Do not press down on the apples; allow them to drain naturally. You can let this set up sit overnight in the fridge, but I found that letting it drip for two or three hours did the trick.

5. Discard the cooked apples into your compost bin and pour the liquid into a clean pot.

6. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then simmer for at least 20 minutes.

7. Place a couple of tablespoons of the pectin liquid in a small bowl and place it in the fridge to cool. Pour a little bit of rubbing alcohol into another bowl.

8. When the bowl of pectin liquid is cool, pour it into the bowl with the rubbing alcohol. Try to lift the liquid with the fork. It should coagulate. If it's doesn't, keep simmering the liquid pectin. Be sure to throw away the pectin-alcohol mixture. (Do not eat it!)

Freezing or Canning Homemade Pectin
If you wish to freeze the pectin, allow it to cool completely, then transfer to freezer bags or containers. Mark the date on the container and use within a year.

To can the pectin, ladle hot pectin into clean, hot canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and add lids. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.*

* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.
How to Use Homemade Apple Pectin for Jam and Jelly Making
There really are no hard-fast rules for using homemade pectin to set jam, jelly, or similar preserves. Some people say they use 4 tablespoons for every cup of low pectin fruit, others say 1 cup. I think it really depends upon the apples used to make the pectin and whether the fruits in the jam have any natural pectin in them. So you'll have to experiment. You should be able to reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe by at least 10% - some people say 60%. Start out with a little sugar, and add more as needed until the jam sets.

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  1. We saw this yesterday on a documentary about Victorian era gardening and wondered if it actually worked.

  2. Jenny, oooh. What's the name of the documentary?

  3. I love finding another person who makes their own pectin, but I would personally avoid freezing them because it breaks the pectin down, at least according to my fruitwine research. Frozen is good for wine, I've always assumed bad for jelly.

  4. Can you explain the alcohol part a little better? It was confusing. Sounded as if you were mixing the apple pectin in the alcohol?

    1. That's correct. Pour the small amount of cooled pectin into the alcohol and mix it.