Falling apples mean different things to different people. In 1666 Isaac Newton when saw an apple fall to the ground it inspired his remarkable discovery of the theory of gravity. The variety, it is believed, was ‘Flower of Kent’, a crisp, juicy pear-shaped cooking apple; most probably full of pectin and a blessed gift for any jam maker.
The recent winds have brought down loads of young, underripe apples. Most, unless early summer varieties, are hard, incredibly acidic and pretty unpalatable. But a panful of these stripling windfalls are perfect to turn into gluey pectin stock. The pectin can be stored in sterile jam jars, ready for you to lop into pan of jam made from low pectin fruits: cherries, strawbs, peaches, rhubarb, helping them to gel without boiling the fruit to bits.
HOW TO MAKE APPLE PECTIN STOCK
- Roughly chop apples into quarters or eighths.
- Place in roomy saucepan and barely cover with water – say 1.5 litres (maybe a little more) for 2kg apples. Remember the more dilute the stock, the weaker the pectin will be.
- Place on gentle heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the apples have completely broken down to what looks like a runny apple puree.
- Turn the contents into a jelly bag or muslin lined sieve placed over a deep bowl. To hurry things up, place a small saucer with a weight on top – a filled sealed jar of water works well
- Leave for several hours, or overnight to allow the juice to drip through.
- Now before you bottle up, test to see if your pectin stock is good and strong.
TEST FOR PECTIN STRENGH
- Put a couple of teaspoons of methylated spirits (gin or vodka works too) on a small saucer/plate. Then mix in 1 teaspoon of the pectin stock. Swirl it around for a few seconds, then set aside for a couple of minutes; a concentrated gel mass indicates the stock is tip-top quality. But if the gel is fragmented, then return the stock to a saucepan. Bring to the boil and let the stock boil (un-lidded) until it has reduce by a quarter. Test again before bottling.
TO BOTTLE UP
- Measure the juice and work out roughly how many jars you will need. Generally, I pack into 200ml jars; a good amount to add to 1kg of fruit.
- Place the empty jars and the lids in a deep pan with a folded tea towel on the base. Cover with warm water, then bring to simmering point.
- Meanwhile, pour the pectin into a saucepan and gently bring to boiling point.
- Remove both the pectin stock and pan of jars from the heat.
- Carefully remove the jars from the pan (bottling tongues are jolly useful to do this).
- Fill the jars brimful and seal immediately.
- Then return the sealed jars into the pan of water. Bring to simmering point for 5 minutes – this ensures a good seal and will keep your pectin safe until you twist off the lid to use it.
- Label up and Store in a cool, dry place.
- Add 150-200mll to 1kg fruit. For strawberries add with the sugar. If water/liquid is used in the recipe then remember to reduce the amount by the quantity of the liquid pectin added.
- Best used within one year.
And, Isaac Newton’s ‘Gravity Tree’ is still alive. You can see it at his home Woosthorpe Manor Lincolnshire http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/woolsthorpe. Must be worth a visit to inspire any jam maker!