Make Your Own Pectin for Homemade Jams and Jellies

Reader Contribution by Wendy Akin
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You can make your own pectin for summer jams and jellies. It’s easy, it’s economical, and you can make summer fruit jams with less sugar and less cooking. Don’t substitute your homemade pectin in the overly sugared recipes used for Certo or SureJel. That would be defeating the purpose.

Choose very green apples, even unripe if you can find them. Grannies, Rhode Island Greenings, or crab apples are good.  The smaller apples are usually less expensive, so these are an economical choice. Follow the proportions below and multiply to make the quantity you will need.

Five pounds of apples makes 3 cups of liquid pectin and optional 4 cups apple sauce.


• 5 pounds hard, very green apples
• Juice of one lemon
• 10 cups filtered water


1. If you get your apples from a store and suspect they have been waxed, get the wax off. Dip the apples, one or two at a time, in boiling water same as you would to peel tomatoes.

2. Peel the lemon before you juice it and save the fragrant zest for another use. Have the water with lemon juice ready in a good-sized stock pot. Don’t bother to peel or core the apples. Pull the stem and then cut the apples into eighths. If you have larger apples, cut again so you have pieces about an inch square. As you cut, drop the pieces into the water so they don’t turn brown.

3. Over high heat, bring to a boil and cook the apples until they are quite soft, about 30 minutes. Let them cool a bit so you won’t scald yourself. With a slotted spoon or spider, dip out the apple pieces. Be sure to pour any extra liquid back.

4. Now pour the liquid through a colander to get out any pieces of apple. Rinse out the colander then line it with a double layer of cheesecloth and pour the strained liquid through back into the original pot. Let this drip for hours, even overnight.

5. Measure the depth of the liquid in the pot with either a ruler or a wooden skewer. Mark the depth and mark the half point. Over high heat, reduce the liquid by half. As it reaches this concentration, you can see that it’s jelling; there’s a light skin on the surface. Turn off the heat and let the pectin cool.

I don’t like to add any sugar to my pectin, so instead of canning, I freeze it in 8-ounce freezer tubs. One of these tubs is enough for most batches of summer fruit jam, jelly or marmalade.

Waste Not, Want Not: Homemade Applesauce

You can make some nice applesauce with the soft-cooked apples. Run them through a food mill to remove all the cores, seeds and skins. Add a judicious amount of honey or other sweetener and the spices you like in applesauce. You can heat the sauce to boiling and ladle into jars for canning. Process in boiling water for 20 minutes for pints or half-pints. Or, you can put the sauce into freezer tubs. Leave ½ inch headspace, let cool completely, then pop into the freezer.

Alternative Directions

If you don’t have a food mill but have a little extra time at the starting point, peel and core the apples, but put the pectin-rich cores in a cheesecloth packet and toss into the pot to cook. Then you need only give the apple pieces an easy mash before adding sweetener and spice for sauce.

If you just don’t care about applesauce, the cooked apple pieces can go to the livestock – poultry, pigs, goats, cows — or to the compost. Don’t waste them.

Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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