Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Adventures in Homemade Pectin

Contrary to popular conception (which MrMartha most heartily encourages), not everything MrMartha does is a raving success (at least not the first time).

An example of MrMartha
"learning by doing" -- and not quite succeeding the first time around --happened with a certain, now infamous, chocolate mousse filled cake.
The fact that one cannot rush the final assembly process resulted in near disaster.
The importance of inter-step refrigeration was learned as MrMartha watched the whole cake structure slide into a precarious angle -- While being transported by car.
Quick action involving a fast food chopstick from the glovebox saved it. Luckily, it still tasted wonderful, even if it will be forever known by the guests attending that dinner party as The Leaning Tower of Cake.

Please pardon MrMartha, as he has digressed off topic.

The most recent learning experiment has been with homemade pectin.
MrMartha loves to preserve, and there is just nothing like homemade jam from perfect fruit....so why wouldn't it be even better (and less expensive) with homemade pectin? A noble thought AND a quest.

MrMartha has only one word for you. Unpredictability.

The pectin extraction process is both easy and somewhat miraculous, with a tiny bit of high school chemistry thrown in. Unlike packaged commercial pectin, however, you cant be quite sure how it will behave, and how your recipe will work. The main thing seems to come down to how long to boil in order for it to jell, but not to turn into something in between a rubber ball, and the worlds firmest aspic.

Read More for some details of MrMartha's exciting adventures with pectin, and you too may want to learn the delights of this archaic but fascinating process.

The extraction process is very simple:

Cut up your desired quantity of unripe green apples,
Place in a large kettle with just enough water to barely cover.

Cook slowly for several hours, till the mixture disintegrates into a watery applesauce mess, with skins and seeds floating in it. MrMartha has been cooking the mixture for about 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally but regularly, with good result.

Strain the resulting mass into cloth lined colander set over a clean bucket or tub.
Add a bit of lemon juice to keep from darkening.
Let the pulp drain overnight, but do not squeeze or press on the solids.

Check the pectin for jell by putting a Tablespoon full of the liquid into a cup of rubbing alcohol.
The resulting mixture should mound up and stay on the end of a fork when pulled up out of the alcohol. Discard your test sample.

If it seems too loose, boil it down by 20% or so, to reduce volume.

Place the pectin into clean jars or freezer containers and refrigerate or freeze till needed.

More information about the science, and additional detailed instructions can be found at these two great links:
Organic Gardening, homemade pectin article

Wildflowers & Weeds, homemade pectin article

MrMartha's follow up post, which will be published soon, will cover how the homemade pectin behaves -- and what MrMartha is discovering are the keys to its successful use. Check back if you want to learn more....plan to go pick some green apples next spring, and try it yourself!