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This year, I was gifted with a bag of just underripe Gravensteins, so I decided to make French jam maven Christine Ferber’s recipe for apple pectin stock jelly. This is one of those nose-to-tail recipes that please me greatly, like corncob broth or overgrown cucumber mustard pickles or Japanese spinach crown salad, because it emphasizes how one can keep costs under control when cooking with high quality fresh produce.

I’ve been making a quince pectin stock for the past couple of years, and the apple pectin stock is similar — you just boil down the fruit with its peel, core, and seeds, until it is mushy, then gently strain out the fruit and boil it down again by a third or half before freezing in 1/2 cup chunks. Tigress in a Jam has a good, free-form recipe for apple stock pectin with no sugar if you need it.  I prefer quince stock pectin, because I find apple juice unpleasant and like quince, but keep in mind that quince has a very unique and persistent flavor that will be evident in your jam.

But Ferber takes the simple boiled apples or quinces to the next level with her jelly, which is shelf-stable and can be used to glaze a fruit tart or roast as well as to fortify jam with low-pectin fruit.  The flavor is extremely mild, so it’s not really your go-to morning jelly for toast; it’s more about the texture and pectin powers.  Plus, mine turned a pretty salmon pink, slightly oddly given the green juice.  (You’ll also notice that there are hundreds of tiny bubbles in mine — this is due to not letting the jelly sit for 5 minutes before canning.  Not a big deal unless you are sending it off to the fair.)

To make the pectin stock jelly most potent, use underripe fruit.  Any apple will be high in pectin, but you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you use “green” apples, not Granny Smiths, but underripe apples of any variety.  Hence, it’s a good use for apples that need to be thinned early to encourage good fruit on your own trees.  In the Willamette Valley, you can start as early as June with our early-ripening ‘Transparent’ variety.  Northern Californians might try Gravensteins, which have short stems that want to abort young apples anyway.  Dunno if the variety alters the taste.

Ferber uses a cup per kilo (about two and a quarter pounds, or one batch) of fruit for her preserves, but I’ve seen reports of using anywhere from one to one-half cup on the Internets.  Do keep in mind that this jelly has sugar in it, and it’s intended for a full sugar/French-style preserve.  It’s also beautifully natural and dependent upon the ingredients and seasons, hence relatively unreliable, so you should plan for softer or firmer sets when you experiment with adding it to recipes.  For low-sugar jams, I’d stick with Pomona pectin.

We’ll be using it with our lavender fig preserves on Monday.  I’ll let you know what happens!  Edited to add: Worked like a charm.  We added 1/2 cup to a double batch after it was boiling heartily, and the gel set rather quickly — I might try a full cup next time.

Interested in a full-flavored apple cider jelly that’s the essence of autumn, made with the season’s first crisp cider?  See my award-winning recipe here.

Ferber’s Green Apple Pectin Stock Jelly

Slightly adapted and annotated.  Makes about 4 half-pints.

  • 7 cups water
  • Juice of one large lemon, with one tablespoon separated out
  • 3 1/2 pounds underripe apples
  • 4 2/3 cups sugar

Fill a large, squat stockpot with water and one tablespoon of lemon juice.

Wash apples, remove stems, and pare away bad spots.  Cut each entire apple into quarters and drop it immediately into acidulated water in pot.

Bring apples to boil and simmer for about 40 minutes, occasionally mixing to break up apples.

Strain apple pulp in chinois or sieve lined with a double layer of regular cheesecloth.  Do not press down on apples if you would like a clear juice (not important if you will be using it for a dark jam).  This may take several hours.

Add 4 1/4 cups of the juice into a preserving pan with the rest of the lemon juice and  sugar.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until it is set.  Let sit for 5 minutes and skim any foam, if necessary.

Ladle jelly into hot, sterilized canning jars with 1/4 inch headspace, and fit with properly prepared two-piece lids. (Refer to a canning basics guide if you don’t know what this means.)  Process for 5 minutes in a waterbath canner.

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