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Jun 25, 2011 12:35 PM

Expert jam troubleshooting help needed

I made an apple jelly last night following the instructions exactly. The flavor is good but it didn't gel. And here's the weird part. The jelly in the jars is still quite liquid (and I can determine this because I intended to suspend sticks of cinnamon in it and the cinnamon floats whether I have the jars right side up or inverted) BUT the jelly that I cleaned up from the inside of the cooking pan set like crazy on the tasting spoon.

What the **** is going on? And how can I fix it? ...cause it really does taste great and is worth saving!

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  1. Well, you'll need to re-cook the jelly- add some pectin to ensure gel. Then re-process your jars.

    2 Replies
    1. re: callmijane

      I second the motion. Also plain tapioca can be bought and used as a gelling agent.

      1. re: callmijane

        I did exactly that and, weirdly, the same thing happened again. I did get the consistency of honey from the jelly this time while the liquid that remained in the pot and on the utensils set wonderfully.

        I'm disappointed in my jars of jelly, of course, but I'm *mystified* by the different results in and out of the jars. Could it be something that un-happened during the water bath?

      2. When you recook, be sure to take it to the gel stage. Apple should have enough pectin but you also need to add an acid to make it gel. Use something like lemon juice. Perhaps there is too much sugar now. When making jelly without pectin, you need to do the gel test. It will sheet off a spoon rather than just drip.

        5 Replies
        1. re: PrairiePie

          Thank you.

          I realized that apple should have enough natural pectin not to require commercial pectin. I *didn't* know -- nor did the published recipe specify -- that acid was needed.

          Meanwhile, this still doesn't explain why the jelly set on the cooking equipment but not in the jars. I'm mystified.

          I may or may not give this a third try but I appreciate the link to that terrific resource.

          1. re: rainey

            My pleasure. Mysteries are the spice of life!

            1. re: rainey

              Here's why I think this is is happening....the jam isn't setting because you aren't reaching the gel temp (220 F if you are <1000 ft above sea level). It is difficult for beginners to do the "spoon test" to see if the jam is set. Just use a thermometer. It's ALWAYS RIGHT. (provided it measures accurately) The stuff close to the bottom might be getting it hot enough to gel, plus the pot might still be hot after, and I bet the jam at the bottom of the pot is actually getting hot enough. Are you making your jam in a stock pot? It's recommended to make jam in small batches in a wide rimmed pot, not a tall stock pot. Don't double batches. Also, commercially frozen and canned juices may be low in natural pectins and make soft textured spreads.
              Are you using store bought juice?

              1. re: momskitchen

                It makes sense that the surfaces of the pot are hotter than the liquid therein. I was thinking along those lines too.

                I did use commercial juice -- Trader Joe's "flash pasturized" refrigerated apple juice -- but I also used pectin as the recipe specified. I also used an accurate digital thermometer to make sure I'd reached 220˚ here at about sea level in Los Angeles.

                I do have a wide confiture pot. I should have used that and I guess I'll just have to bottle what I've got as syrup and try jelly again in the wide pot where it will have enough room to boil. I was using a heavy cocotte but it really wasn't big enough and I had to cut back on the boil to avoid boil over.

                Thanks for your help.

                1. re: rainey

                  Your recipe sounds good - how about trying to make a jelly the old fashioned way with apples? I live in the upper midwest, and soon we'll have unripe apples that can be used to make some great jams and jellies. Not sure if you get them in LA, but it's worth a look. Here's how

          2. Here is the link for the University of Florida Extension Service that tells how to remake a soft jelly.