Apple, Pectin & Jellies!
An essential ingredient in almost all jellies, jams and preserves is pectin. Today, most people go to the store and buy liquid or powder form pectin, but I won't put it in my jellies as it's highly processed and not natural. Your grandmother didn't either! Pectin occurs naturally in apples and that's all you need to make your own.
To make your own pectin, you need to get apples - unripe apples are the best and crab apples are said to be the very best but any apple will do. There is a higher concentration of pectin in unripe apples and crab apples, but pectin is present in all apples. I have only used ripe apples since I don't have access to a tree right now and the only organic apples I can buy are ripe. The pectin turned out fine last time. The first time I made it with ripe apples, I think it was okay, but I didn't heat it long enough. Trial and error.
So... to just make a couple batches of jelly, you can use just a few apples. With a few, I made enough pectin for about 3 batches of jelly. I froze what I didn't use after my initial use. Since the highest level of pectin is concentrated in the core and skin, cut your entire apple into chunks, put it all in a pot and pour water to where it almost covers the apples. Then simmer for quite a while stirring occasionally. The apples will start getting soft and when it looks and feels like apple sauce, they are done with the cooking stage. Of course, you can help to get to the apple sauce stage by mashing it while stirring as the apples get soft.
Next, take a cheese cloth and pour the apple sauce like mixture into a heated jar (so it doesn't crack). When most of the liquid has run through and the apple sauce mixture has cooled some, squeeze the mixture to extract as much juice as you can from the mixture. There's your pectin!!
For my last batch of jelly, I used about about a half cup of liquid pectin for the recipe. This will vary depending upon how much natural pectin is present in the apples before you make it and there's no way to tell exactly... part of the fun of the process! Pour your liquid pectin into the jelly mixture after all ingredients are mixed and heat to a boil and stir and stir and stir! Be very careful not to leave it unattended as it can leave you with quite a mess. After about 20 minutes of stirring mine, I felt my wood spatula began to drag a bit on the bottom and I knew the pectin was working. I stirred until it was a light gel and no longer runny like water. There is a way you can test the pectin level, but I have not used this method. I'll copy the instructions below:
"There is a test that uses rubbing alcohol to provide a rough indication of the amount of pectin in the fruit. Mix 1 teaspoon of cooked, cooled crushed fruit with 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. Use a closed container and shake gently. Juices from fruit that is high in pectin will form a solid gelatinous lump. If the fruit is low in pectin, it will form only small rubbery particles. Those with an average pectin content will form a few pieces of the jelly-like substance.It ought to be needless to say, that just as you should never put a cup of very hot coffee in your lap while driving a car, you should not eat the test mixture (that with the rubbing alcohol in it) as rubbing alcohol is a poison."
If for some reason you have boiled your mixture for a very long time and it's not gelling, add more sugar. Chemically, sugar is part of the necessary component of the gelling process because:
"high-ester pectins at soluble solids content above 60% and a pH-value between 2.8 and 3.6, hydrogen-bonds and hydrophobic interactions bind the individual pectin chains together. These bonds form as water is bound by sugar and forces pectin strands to stick together."
In addition, natural pectin has been shown to have many medicinal purposes that can't be replicated by the processed form. Is has been shown to help detox from heavy metals, kill cancer cells, and lower cholesterol. Maybe that's where the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" comes from!
Good luck! I would love to hear about anyone making their own, their experiences and anything I left out you feel is important!