|The resulting liquid is pink (and a little cloudy), and kind of sweet-tart, like a crab apple-flavored lemonade.|
|We tested it's strength by putting a teaspoon of it in a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, as described here. The pectin isn't soluble in alcohols, so it precipitates out to make a gel that can be picked up with a fork if the pectin is concentrated enough (like in the picture). Don't eat it!|
|Timeout for some food chemistry! (See here for more info.) The pectin we're making will be high-methoxyl pectin (as is pretty much all pectin when it's first made, regardless of whether it comes from apples or citrus peels). The pectin structure is a long chain of galactose molecules (G), which each have a carboxylic acid group (C) off to one side (galactouronic acid). Most of those acid groups are actually in the methyl ester form, which some food scientist back in the day decided to call methoxyls (M). (Never mind that a methoxyl is a different kind of functional group to every other type of chemist.) The chains of galactose molecules (and the "C" groups, to some extent) can form a three-dimensional hydrogen bonding (H-bond) network, provided there's not too much water (W) around. That's what makes the 'gel' part of jelly. Water interferes with that H-bond network, so a ton of sugar (S) is added as sort of a 'pectin body guard.' The sugar also interacts with the pectin and the water, but keeps the water from interfering too much with pectin's H-bonding. The gelling reaction is also pH-dependent, because below a certain pH, the "C" groups become protonated and don't repel each other. But if the pH is too low, the G-units start to fall apart. Talk about a finicky reaction!|
|Now, on to the jam! We had a little less than 4 cups rhubarb pulp (shown in the pot), which we combined with enough crab apple sauce (from another set of crab apples that we removed the seeds and stems from!) to total 5 cups of fruit pulp. This site says to generally use 4-6 tablespoons pectin per 1 cup fruit juice, then combine those volumes and use that volume of sugar. So 5 cups fruit pulp times 4 tablespoons equals 20 Tablespoons = 1.25 cups pectin solution, which means 5 + 1.25 = 6.25 cups sugar. Remember: low-sugar pectin, this is not. Then we made the jam just like with a package of sure-jell: combine the fruit pulp and pectin, bring to full rolling boil. Add sugar, return to full rolling boil. Boil one minute, pour into jars...|
|The rest of the pectin goes in jars in the fridge for another batch of jam or just as a crab apple-ade drink. Or maybe a pink Metamucil. Not bad on it's own, especially considering all the health benefits of pectin, which a form of soluble dietary fiber. We're going to be *so* regular! The chickens are currently enjoying the filtered pulp, and hopefully getting some health benefits, too.|
Do you eat rhubarb in the fall, too? Have you ever made your own pectin? Let us know in the comments section below!