Friday, March 26, 2010

Strawberry and Orange Pectin Jelly

Awhile back, during the citrus craze of winter, I became obsessed with the pectin found naturally in citrus. I then recalled the fall and its concurrent obsession with the pectin content in apples, and how one can utilize that pectin to make jams and jellies set instead of purchased pectin. I wondered if a person can do the same with citrus. Of course, I realized that apples are the perfect vehicle for pectin, in that they won't overpower the other fruit or fruits you want to work with. It's a very friendly fruit and goes with a bunch of other equally friendly fruits. Citrus is a little bolder, to say the least, and wants the spotlight. Or at least to get a stand out supporting role. And there's the bitterness. But still, I was curious.

I soon found this gem of a recipe that uses the white pith to make a pectin stock. I dutifully began to save all the white bits of any citrus I used. This I dub "stem to blossom end" jelly-making, in a nod to the snout to tail ethos of cooking. I saved pits, some peels and ends, and every time I juiced a citrus I would scrape off the innards and save the peels for candying, depositing the white parts to the freezer bag of pith. Pithy? Indeed. Pity? Non! Quite the contrary. I felt very resourceful, and, in using the whole fruit, I felt I was appreciating it's whole being.

Finally, the other day, I forced myself to take stock of the freezer and use up the stuff I'd been hoarding. Number one on the list was the bag of citrus bits. A whopping 2 1/2 pounds had been culled! The recipes I was looking at asked for a bit less, so I upped the numbers and hoped for the best. Here's the online version that I found on a page of GardenWeb's harvest forum, a great place for interesting info if you can stand your eyes bleeding from scanning through all the comments.

Recipe adapted slightly. This yielded four cups of liquid. I froze two cups and used the other two in the following jelly recipe, also found on the above link.

2 1/2 pounds of white pith of citrus fruits
1 cup lemon juice
9 cups of water

Chop up all the pith in a processor, so they are uniformly pea-sized. Add liquids to pith in a pot (I'll let that joke pass by) and let sit overnight. In the morning bring it all to a boil. Let boil ten minutes. Cool and strain. The directions say you may process it for ten minutes, or freeze. I chose to freeze half and use the rest in this jelly. (Note the recipe is from 1931. I don't think processing is a problem, but that's me, and I'm no pro. Just so we're clear on that.)

Strawberry and Orange Pectin Jelly

2 cups orange pectin
2 cups strawberry puree
2 cups sugar

Boil until jelling stage of 220 degrees. Ladle into hot jars and seal. Process in boiling water bath for ten minutes. (Again, on processing, I opted to do so, but this is a recipe from 1931.)

I will admit that I used some inferior, store-bought strawberry puree to use in this recipe. I didn't want wait for strawberry season, and didn't want to spend much in case this was a bust. The puree had "natural flavorings" in it, so the strawberry scent was pretty intense, and therefore stood strong against the orange pectin. There's a definite orange taste to the jelly, and a slight but noticeable bitter bite. But it's not overpowering at all. The set is firm and jammy, and it's not crystal clear even though I strained the pectin twice. The puree was dark and opaque, admittedly. I wonder if I stuck to pith only, or left out the pits, or peels, what the outcome would be. I also wonder how it would work with other fruits. There's a bunch of experiments here, ripe for the taking, if you'll pardon me, and I think it would be worth your while if 1.) you had access to great local citrus or 2.) you do a lot of supreming of citrus fruit. I qualify for neither, at least until next winter, but if you try this, or have done so already, let me know how it comes out (or came out). And make it pithy, would you?

16 comments:

  1. Oooh, this makes my little Yankee heart go pitter-pat! Citrus peels are one of the few things that cannot go into our composter (too acidic, and take forever to break down). I almost always zest all my citrus, whether I need to or not, and then freeze the zest for later use, but still that means throwing away the pith. Not that I use a lot of citrus (it not being so local). It might take me a year to gather up enough for stock, but I think this is a great idea. Go you, with the pithy pectin post! :)

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  2. Kaela - Good idea on freezing zest! I should do that instead of candied peels; little bit healthier, no? I've never used so much citrus before, so good thing it's not all in the compost. I noticed, the other day, that there was one lone lemon hanging out looking very intact by the compost the other day...no wonder. It's a good idea, right? I wonder what folks who have lots of local citrus have to say?

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  3. Oh, but it did not pass by! What a super smart idea. You know I am frequently, happily overwhelmed by Meyer lemons here. The thing about Meyers, though, is that they're the one citrus that does reliably break down in my compost. They're so soft! Nevertheless, I started saving pith this very day, as soon as I read your post. I want to try this.

    I love the idea of freezing zest, too.

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  4. The zest definitely suffers a bit on freezing; kind of like dried zest or lemon peel I would guess. But it does give a little punch to dishes and is handy when you just don't have any fresh citrus in the house.

    My composter is actually the NatureMill, sort of designed for an apartment - because I don't have a big garden, I just don't have the brown matter for a real compost pile. The NatureMill works great, but since the volume is small, and it composts quite quickly (1-2 weeks), citrus peels just don't work. Throw off the chemistry and don't have time to break down.

    This is a very cool idea and I'm already thinking about mixed citrus pectin with blueberries, blackberries, rhubarb...

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  5. Love that you guys are into it! Geeking out on pectin is fun, isn't it?

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  6. I love this! A pith pot....tee hee. I wish I had a source for local citrus but alas this is Seattle so I planted a crab apple tree to make cider and pectin. Last year I used pectin in the strawberry jam but everything else (plum, apricot, peach) I made using nothing at all. It tastes so much cleaner!

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  7. Wow. I am impressed. I'm not a make-your-own-pectin kind of gal, but I am happy to read about folks like you who do it. very inspiring. And I love that you relate it to snout-to-tail cooking.

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  8. Gen - Thanks! There are some things I won't do- like make maple syrup--but this is where I get a little crazy.

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  9. Yay! I make my pectin with apples and lemons:

    http://motherskitchen.blogspot.com/2008/09/canning-jam-without-pectin.html

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  10. Mom- Oh, yes, apples are the general way I go!

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  11. Awesome! I've been looking for a way to make my own lime pectin!! I'm allergic to lemon (don't understand why not lime - I know weird) and now I can adapt this for lime!! Yeah! Thank you!!

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  12. Hi Renee! Great news. Please let me know how it comes out!

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  13. Shoot! I came across this post one day after adding pounds of lemon pith to the compost, the result of making a massive batch of lemon curd. But my 50-year-old grapefruit tree is scheduled to come down next week. Maybe this will be an appropriate way to memorialize it. Thanks, Julia!

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    1. Oh no times two! Your grapefruit tree is on its way out, huh? So sad! Gosh, you must have made an enormous batch of lemon curd. I'm about to do the same. I like my recipe, but do you use a particular one you like? I always love hearing people's favorite recipes!

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  14. Julia...no citrus where I live unless it gets trucked here so when there is a great sale I grab some. When Costco had luscious looking boxes of Meyer Lemons I just grabbed and figured on a use for them later. Don't hate but the middles are all sliced, seeded and frozen to use in cooking this winter. The peels are steeping in a vodka bath, the seeds are frozen waiting to join a future orange marmalade session and the pith became a tiny version of your pectin. Crossing fingers it works out ok! Thank you for the recipe and tips.

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    1. No hating at all, Molly! I freeze citrus all the time! All of that sounds wonderful, and entirely up my alley!

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