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Thread: Why doesn't jelly always jell?

  1. #1
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    Why doesn't jelly always jell?

    My friend and I just made mayhaw jelly using the same recipe: 4 c. juice, 1 box Sure Jell, 5 1/2 c. sugar. Why did my 4 batches all jell just fine and hers did not? She is asking for advice and I don't know what to tell her. She says she timed it for the 1 min. 15 sec. when it came to a boil after adding the sugar.
    Margaret

  2. #2
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    I can't give you an answer, but I can tell you that I make pomegranate jelly every year using the same recipe. Sometimes a batch just doesnt jell so I use it for syrup. Or it takes it several days or longer to jell. It could be that it wasnt cooked long enough or if it is a humid day that seems to make it take longer. I hope somebody will have a good answer so I won't have to have too much syrup.

  3. #3
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    Did you use the same fruit/juice source? If not, there could be a variance in the water content or acidity of the juice.

    Were you cooking them in the same place and conditions? Humidity has been mentioned. Barometric pressure (high + good weather, low= stormy weather) can influence cooking times too.

    The quality of the pot (heavy bottom, conductive metals), the power of the flame and similar factors can impact how quickly somethign cooks too.

    Getting jelly to gel involved cooking it to a certain point where a chemical reaction occurs -- similar to making candy and the difference between a chewy taffy and a crunchy peanut brittle. That chemical reaction requires a certain amount of sugar, pectin and acidity plus heat. It could be any element in that mix.

  4. #4
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    Sometimes it can be a bad batch of pectin as well. Unfortunately there is no way to know if a box of pectin is really going to work or not. Last year I had to re-cook my peach jams because the pectin failed, and then I didn't care for the re-cooked flavor, so 18 pints of peach jam were pretty much garbage.
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  5. #5
    I've had it happen too, and it's pretty disappointing, especially if you've spent a whole day picking and cleaning fruit and then another day making the jelly!

    The only other thing that comes to mind, other than what's been mentioned/asked already, is how your friend defined "boil." A full, rolling boil is very different from a simmer, but is necessary to really set the jelly.

    Kari

  6. #6
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    I've never worked with mayhaw but for some of the berries I use for jelly the ripeness can make a big difference - the less ripe berries have more pectin.
    Anne

  7. #7
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    I forgot to mention that if your pectin is outdated it really wont work. I had a box that was outdated and one that didn't have a date on it. I called the company and they sent me a coupon for the one with no date, but said I shouldn't use the outdated one. Now I buy it just before I am going to use it.

  8. #8
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    I haven't used that pectin but ditto what everyone else said. Pectin has an expiry date. Don't try to save pennies by using and out of date package. It just won't work.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by krhm View Post

    The only other thing that comes to mind, other than what's been mentioned/asked already, is how your friend defined "boil." A full, rolling boil is very different from a simmer, but is necessary to really set the jelly.

    Kari
    This is usually my problem!
    Kay
    I'm a WYSIWYG person -- no subterfuge here!

  10. #10
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    I was looking in Bittman's How to Cook Everything for something else, and came across this information and thought of this thread. I have never made jelly, so maybe this is commonly-known information to those who do, but thought I would post it in case it helps:

    "If you want to make absolutely certain that your jams gel firmly, add 1 teaspoon of liquid pectin (such as Certo) per cup of fruit."

    "You can determine in advance whether your fruit will gel: When it has cooked down to a mush, place 1 teaspoonful on a cold plate (freeze the plate for 10 minutes first, or dip it in ice water; dry it before proceeding). Place the plate in the refrigerator, and look at it in 2 minutes; if the jam has gelled, you're all set. If it hasn't, cook a little longer, adding a little liquid pectin if you like. Or use an instant-read thermometer: At 224F, all jam will gel."

    HTH
    Claire

    It doesn't matter what you think, just that you do.

  11. #11
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    An afterthought. I've also read that fresh fruit has a natural pectin in them. If using overripe fruit the natural pectin is weakened. It's the natural pectin along with the added pectin that makes the perfect jam/jelly.

  12. #12
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    Lots of good advice on this thread. I think her problem could have been old pectin or not defining "full rolling boil" correctly. Our fruit came from the same source, but I went ahead and froze mine , then a week later took them out and made the juice. She kept hers in the fridge for a week before making the juice. I have to think the quality of the fruit went downhill during that time. I haven't asked her how it came out when she went back and tried to rescue it.
    Margaret

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