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Monday, July 30, 2012

Tried and true method for cooking jelly without added pectin

by Lili Mounce

Last week, I discovered a quart of crabapple juice in the freezer. This must have been from last fall's harvest of crabapples. I typically pick the crabapples, simmer them in water to extract the juice, then freeze for making jelly later in the year, when I have canning jars available again. On Friday, I cooked this quart of juice into jelly.

Up until recently, my jelly-making was rather hit or miss. I didn't use a method consistently, and consequently sometimes my jelly turned out, and sometimes it didn't. So, determined to get this right, I read all I could on jelly-making. If you've seen my other posts on jelly-making, you'd know that I've gone about this almost scientifically. I was determined to find some sort of formula, that would give me consistently good results. And you know what? There is such a "formula". It involves choosing fruit that is high in pectin, extracting the juice from that fruit in a specific way, and cooking the jelly by both time and temperature, much like other recipes. 

Just the other day, I used this tried and true method for cooking jelly, with success. This jelly has no added pectin. Check out the photo below. See how the jelly doesn't drip, fall, or pour out of the upturned container. Of course, it helps that this is crabapple jelly, and crabapples are well-known for their high pectin content. Still, I have had failed batches of crabapple jelly in the past, due to my improper extraction of the juice followed by my haphazard cooking methods.

I know this info is out there in many places. But just wanted to reiterate the time-tested method for cooking jelly without added pectin. This method works.

To make jelly without added pectin, use fruit that already has a high pectin content.(See info for pectin content in link for extracting pectin.) Extract juice with this method. Measure juice. For every 1 cup (240 mL) of juice, use 3/4 cup (150 g) of sugar. You'll also need a candy-making thermometer.

In a stainless saucepan, bring fruit juice to a boil over HI heat, stirring to prevent scorching. Boil for 10 minutes. Stir in sugar, bring back to a boil, and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, at a boil. In the last 1 or 2 minutes, begin testing using temperature as a guide to determine doneness with this table. When jelly reaches the desired temperature it should be done. Skim off foam. Fill jars and seal. Even if the jelly does not look completely set, allow it to sit on the counter for up to 2 weeks. Mine will sometimes gel right away, and sometimes after a few days.

Making jams and jelly is work with a high satisfaction rating in my book. Transforming fruit into pretty little jars with jewel-like attraction, followed with storing away for the cold months of winter, just puts a smile on my face.  I wish you much success in your own jelly-making endeavors.

And if you have a batch of jelly that just didn't jell, see the instructions here for fixing it.


  1. I agree Lili, jam and jelly making is very satisfying to me. I made peach preserves last summer, but didn't get around to it this year. Your crab apple jelly sounds delicious. We used to have a lot of crab apple trees where I grew up, a lot of choke cherry trees too. Sadly, we don't have any of those where we live now.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Peach preserves sounds so delicious. My step-mom has a peach tree where she lives in Arizona. She makes a lot of preserves.
      When you made the peach preserves, did you add pectin? I'm thinking of making some peach jam/preserves this summer. I'd have to buy some peaches, but prices can be decent in August for peaches here.

  2. I've never even tried a crab apple. I don't know if they grow to research. We always did apple jelly though because my grandfather had a huge orchard.

    1. Hi Shara,
      Apple jelly is delicious too! Some years I make apple butter. It's a nice change from jam and jelly, as a spread for toast.
      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. I love apple butter. We did the works -- jelly, apple butter, applesauce and stewed apples (basically unsweetened applesauce, but chunkier).

    3. I can just imagine how yummy the kitchen must have smelled! Now that's something I look forward to every summer and fall, the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen.

  3. Lili, have you heard Carrie Underwood's new song, "Blown Away"?...I mention this because all your ideas and your energy for all your great projects blows ME away! Good on YOU, gf!

    Hugs, Mother Connie

  4. Gee, thanks, Connie!
    I don't feel like I do a whole lot. I'm just recording what I do, to share. But I do have seasons when I feel "a girl's got to just keep moving and doing". But don't worry I do plan down-time too.
    I was out running errands today and happened to be waiting for something, when I overheard what sounded like a job interview. And I thought to myself, "now I wish I had that gal's energy!"
    Thanks for commenting!

  5. We made a lot of jams and jellies while I was growing up and we never put pectin in our apple jelly. However, we did in most other kinds. We had a crabapple tree, but never used the crabapples for anything. They were very small and bitter. However, there were beautiful blooms in the spring.

    1. Hi live and learn!
      Yeah, some crabapples are quite bitter. Mine are small, but work fine for making jelly. The blossoms in spring are stunning. Our tree is an Everest, it has a slightly weeping habit.

      If I have an especially good harvest of crabapples, I'll use some of the juice, in a 50/50 mix, to add to other lower pectin juices, for making a blended jelly. i can make jelly with very little added pectin this way. Do you make jams or jellies these days? I get satisfaction looking at all the jars of good stuff put away for winter.

      Thanks for dropping in!
      P.S. on your site you call your hubs, Ward and 2 sons, Wally and Theodore. Would you be "June" then?

    2. Yes, June is my blogger name.
      I only do occasional canning and freezing these days. I think I got burned out earlier. It really was most of what we did, but that's how we got our food.

    3. Yep, burnout will happen. But it's encouraging for others to know that you can can and freeze a good deal of food for winter meals.

      We all have seasons in our lives when we do what we have to do just to put meals on the table. You must've had a very large garden in those days!

      When my husband and I were newly married, we had a year of lay-off. We moved to a new city, found a duplex with a large yard, and to our good fortune, the yard had apple, crabapple, sour cherry, and plum trees. The other neighbor was not inclined to use any of this fruit. Even with a tiny freezer, I was able to pack away a lot of fruit each summer.

      This is how I look back at those days. Even when we were not recognizing our good fortunes (we were focused on our being without an income), God was still providing for us.

  6. I love making jelly but sometimes mine is hit or miss also. So glad that you shared this information! Thanks.

    1. Hi Alicia,
      I was becoming quite frustrated having some jelly gel and others not. It was really nice to get this all straight. I hope that info is helpful.

      And don't you just love the way a bunch of canning jars, all filled with the goodness of summer, look? So much of grocery store foods are hidden in boxes, cans, or opaque bags. Even the ones in jars and bottles are obscured by labeling. Being able to actually see the food inside, whether its pickles or jelly or salsa -- it's just such a homey thing.

      Thanks for visiting!


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