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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: fruit--preservation, pectin

I make jam from my soft fruit, and usually have to buy out-of-season apples to grate and add for their pectin. I'd rather make totally local jam, that is, use my own apples, but I only have unripe ones at this point in the summer. Will unripe apples have enough pectin?


As it turns out, the amount of pectin is higher in underripe or unripe fruit. This guide to making jams and jellies from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension says the following:
"The amount of pectin found naturally in fruits depends upon the kind of fruit and degree of ripeness. Underripe fruits have more pectin; as fruit ripens, the pectin changes to a non-gelling form. Usually using 1⁄4 underripe fruit to 3⁄4 fully-ripe fruit makes the best product. Cooking brings out the pectin, but cooking too long destroys it."

Here are additional resources on pectin for jam-making, from Wildflowers and Weeds. Here is an excerpt from the latter, taken from The Forager, Volume 1, Issue 3, August-September 2001, by Sam Thayer:
"To prepare liquid apple pectin, it is best to use under-ripe apples that are still a bit green, hard, and sour. Ripe apples contain less pectin, but the level varies greatly from one tree to the next; some varieties are suitable when ripe, while some have virtually no pectin by that time. Over-ripe apples are the worst. You can use your damaged or misshapen apples for making pectin. Chop them in halves or quarters, fill a large pot, and then add just enough water to almost cover the apple chunks. Cover the pot and place it on low heat for a long time, until the apples are fully cooked and you have something that looks like runny applesauce with skins and seeds in it. Stir the apples every twenty minutes or so while they are cooking.

I arrange a strainer for this 'sauce' by placing a cheese cloth (actually a white T-shirt) over the top of a five-gallon pail, secured by a cord tied around the rim. (A piece of cheese cloth in a colander works fine for smaller amounts.) The hot applesauce is then poured into the strainer; what drips out the bottom should be a clear, thick liquid that's a little bit slimy to the touch. That's your liquid apple pectin. I usually let mine strain overnight, because it drips slowly. You can get more pectin by pressing it, but then it comes out a little cloudy and carries more of the under-ripe apple flavor. I like to make a few gallons of this pectin at a time and then save it by canning or freezing - it's not hard to get a year's supply with one batch."

Date 2018-03-14
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: vegetables--preservation, fruit--preservation

I've never done any canning before but now that I've started growing more of my own fruit and vegetables I want to know how to do it safely! I've heard about a few different canning processes (water bath and pressure). Is one method or another best for certain types of food?


There is a very helpful article for canning beginners in the July/August 2012 issue of Urban Farm magazine, entitled "Oh, You Know I Can!" by Lindsay Evans. You mention the only two canning methods which the article says are approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as safe, water-bath and pressure canning. Their National Center for Home Food Preservation has extensive information. Here are excerpts:

Proper canning practices include:

  • carefully selecting and washing fresh food,
  • peeling some fresh foods,
  • hot packing many foods,
  • adding acids (lemon juice or vinegar) to some foods,
  • using acceptable jars and self-sealing lids,
  • processing jars in a boiling-water or pressure canner for the correct period of time.

Methods that are NOT recommended are open-kettle and steam canning, or using the oven or microwave to process filled jars.

The article has a handy list of which foods work best with water-bath canning, and which with pressure canning. Generally, high acid foods (pH level of 4.6 or less) can be processed with the water-bath method and low acid foods (pH of 4.6 or more) must be canned using pressure. High acid foods include apples, apricots and other stone fruit, berries, cherries, lemons, pears, tomatoes, pickles and sauerkraut. Low acid foods include asparagus, beets, carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans, rutabagas, and turnips.

Here is a link to more canning information from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Date 2017-08-15
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May 31 2018 13:14:08