Lately, it feels like the kitchen is where I spend most of my time. This is a double-edge sword as I love to bake (totally my love language) and cook, but that requires eating whatever I’ve created, which is not always what’s best. Sharing with friends and neighbors seems to be appreciated, but in this climate of COVID-19, people seem to be more hesitant about home-made goods. It’s understandable and thankfully there is a solution. Making jam, jellies and marmalade! They’re safe, shelf-stable and the jars fresh out of a boiling water bath are certainly clean! But wait, you can’t find pectin because there is a shortage just like toilet paper and paper towels? That’s all right, we can make our own homemade pectin using citrus peels.
What IS pectin?
According to Encylopedia Britannica, pectin is any of a group of water-soluble carbohydrate substances found in the cell walls and intercellular tissues of certain plants.
Because of its ability to form a thick gel-like solution, pectin is used commercially in the preparation of jellies, jams, and marmalades. Its thickening properties also make it useful in the confectionery, pharmaceutical, and textile industries. The chief sources of commercial pectin are the peels of citrus fruits, and to a lesser extent apple pomace (residue from cider presses).
Since I don’t think many of us have access to apple pomace, we’ll be making pectin with citrus peels and seeds. Be warned. This is a lengthy process. You’ll need a few hours and there is an overnight soak involved, so plan ahead.
Homemade Pectin with Citrus Peels
Step One: Gather your citrus components. You can use any type of citrus you like, however, lemons, grapefruit and oranges contain the most natural pectin. Choose varieties that have a thick layer of white pith for best results. Citrus seeds are also high in pectin, so we’ll be using those too. I used 9 Eureka Lemons that were gifted to me by my sister-in-law from her backyard tree.
Step Two: Wash your citrus well. Remove any dirt and then towel dry the fruit.
Step Three: Remove the thin layer of outer skin on the fruit. Basically, take your zester or a vegetable peeler and remove the skin. Save the zest to use later in cooking and baking!
Step Four: Cut your fruit in half (pluck out any visible seeds and set them aside), then use a hand juicer to remove the juice. Save the juice, you’ll need some of it in a minute! You can freeze the rest into ice cube trays or make yourself a kicking lemonade!
Step Five: Remove any leftover fruit from inside the peel and discard.
Step Six: Chop the citrus peel and pith into 1/4-inch chunks. You’re looking for as much surface area as possible here. Use a sharp knife to make this part go a little faster.
Step Seven: Put your chopped citrus peels and pit, all the seeds you collected, half a cup of lemon juice and two cups of water in a large, nonreactive pot. Cover the pot and let the mixture sit in the water for at least an hour, preferably two, in order to soften the peels.
Step Eight: Place the pot on the stove on high heat and bring to a light boil. Once it reaches this point, turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes in order to extract as much pectin as possible from the rinds. You aren’t looking to evaporate the water, so keep an eye on it.
Step Nine: Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined colander sitting in, or on top of another large pot. You can use a jelly strainer if you have one, or a tea-towel if you don’t have cheesecloth. Heck, even a thin old T-shirt will work. You’ll want to let this sit at room temperature for at least two hours (overnight is preferable.) Cover the top of the colander containing your mix with another towel or the lid of the pot to keep anything from getting in to your mushy peel mix.
Step Ten: Welcome to pectin! The next day (or several hours later when you come back to it) all the strained liquid in your pot is the pectin you’ve been working toward. Congratulations! It will not be a clear liquid, but most likely an off-yellow color. That’s fine. Gather up the leftover peels and mush in the colander and add them to your compost or throw them away. They have given all they have to give to this process.
Step Eleven: Bring this liquid to a simmer over medium low heat. Allow to reduce by almost half. Let cool and you’re done!
In order to test the pectin level of your liquid, take a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and place it in a small bowl. Take one tablespoon of the liquid pectin and put it in the bowl with the rubbing alcohol. Let it rest for a minute. Using a fork, you should be able to pickup the transparent glob of solidified pectin out of the bowl.
If it’s not coming up as a single piece, you may need to reduce your pectin liquid a bit more.
Keep this pectin in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze it for up to six months. You can also can it using traditional water bath canning methods and it will save for up to a year!
All this is great, but the biggest question now is “How much do I use per batch?” A good starting point is to use 1/3 cup of homemade pectin per cup of prepared fruit in your recipe. Please note, since you created this pectin using citrus, there will be a slight citrus/bitter taste to this pectin, so it’s best used with stronger flavored fruits and is perfect in marmalade.
Let me know if you have any questions! I’m always happy to help!
Here are two delicious ways to use your new pectin: