Failed Jelly Again...and again...and again..

cannondOctober 16, 2012

My cider jelly won't set. I used pouches of liquid pectin, followed the instructions scrupulously, and failed. Thrice. (I should point out lest someone thinks I'm insane, that the pectin came from three separate boxes.)

To be honest, the pectin was a year old, but I expected results anyway since I'm dealing with apple cider. I rarely work with pectin. I'm feeling fairly stupid.

I'm frustrated. I'm sputtering. Will fresh pectin do the trick? Or is it just me?


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Well, your cider was pastuerized so pretty much no pectin left in it. I haven't used liquid pectin (I do have a box I really need to use ASAP), but understand it's pretty tricky stuff. You say it was a year old - what were the expiration dates on the packages?

But it may just need time to set up - you just made this in the past couple of days, right? Wait a couple of weeks and then report back. Maybe you'll have jelly, maybe you'll have glue, and maybe you'll have syrup - who knows?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 1:00PM
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I made it last night. I don't often work with pectin, use it primarily for pepper jelly. Does it often happen that pectin takes a while to set up?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 1:16PM
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I don't use pectin much at all, and I've never used liquid pectin, but I think that liquid pectin takes longer to set than powdered, though not quite as long as the natural pectin in the fruit (like if you had gotten raw unpastuerized cider).

Did you use all 3 pouches in the same batch of jelly - and how much cider did you start out with?

Carol has used it before, I know she's said it's unpredictable, but maybe she'll chime in. I just wouldn't give up within 24 hours.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 2:17PM
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I used one pouch per batch, started with five cups of cider, 7 1/2 cups of sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice for good measure. I also added some freshly grated nutmeg.

It's a little too sweet for me, but the children should like it. It has a nice fresh cider flavor, though.

I tried this three times, using a pouch of pectin from a different box each time. Drat.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 2:58PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Often commented here - "some jelly can take up to 6 weeks to set". So 24 hours is far too soon to give up on it.

Aside from that the few times I have used liquid pectin it is slower to set than dry powdered pectin and it usually results in a softer set than powdered does. Many prefer that softer set, some don't.

But all the concerns can often be avoided simply by taking the time to do the freezer test before filling the jars, especially when you plan to make several batches without first taking the time to see if the first batch works or not.

As ajsmama said - expiration dates, especially when using liquid pectin, are very important.

At worst you'll have jars of apple cider syrup.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 3:00PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

This must be incredibly frustrating for you and I am sorry (not to mention expensive).

If you're using a commercial apple cider I'd go along with what was said previously - no pectin left to speak of.

You'd probably have better luck with Pomona. It will jell anything, even water, and would be a suitable way to salvage what you have.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 3:28PM
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I'm still not clear - after the first batch failed to set up right away, did you dump it all back into the pot and add more pectin (twice more?)? Or did you leave it in the jars and try making another batch. So now you have 3 batches (24 jars?) of potential jelly, or 8 jars of potential glue?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 3:38PM
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Ajsmama: I made 27 jars! The single batch recipe was for 9 cups.

Dave, it was a Certo recipe, which was fairly clear that it should only be boiled hard 1 minute. Your way probably makes more sense.

Carol, how long should I wait for it to gel before I try Pomona?


    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 3:57PM
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Carol, I bought this from a local orchard that uses ultraviolet pasteurization. I spoke to them a couple of minutes ago and they claim the light doesn't heat the cider. In fact, they say it shouldn't affect the pectin level.

I'm not sure they understand the science on that one, but neither do I.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 4:07PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

There is no time limit. You can give it 4-6 weeks and if it has not set by then redo it with the Pomona if you wish. There is no need to rush the re-do and with patience you may very well find it sets just fine.

Also keep in mind the flavor and the type of set with Pomona is different even when used all alone and doesn't appeal to some. Mixing it with another form of pectin could result in very mixed results ranging from no change to hard as a brick.

Also keep in mind for future reference that "boiled hard for 1 min." is just a general guideline, not an absolute. It is open to wide interpretation and application and very often not nearly long enough.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 4:12PM
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Well then, worst case as Dave says you've got 27 jars of syrup! Though if you use some as syrup this year, you may find by New Year's that you've got jelly.

Was the pectin a year since you bought it (hopefully fresh) or a year out of expiration?

I've only got til Nov 12 to use my package - was going to try pepper jelly but all my peppers froze this weekend, even under plastic. I've got a few jals and serranos in the fridge, mostly green cherry peppers though.

For future reference, try taking a tsp of the cider and mixing it with a tsp of rubbing alcohol in a Dixie cup (it's poisonous so throw it out and wash the spoon well), if you see big flakes of pectin after mixing it and letting it sit a few minutes, then the orchard was right and you don't even need pectin. Small-medium flakes and you'll want to add some pectin (I think powdered no sugar is best), very small or nonexistent flakes and they're wrong about the ultrapasteurization.

Just wondering - how long does it usually take your pepper jelly with liquid pectin to set up?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 5:02PM
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The expiration date on the packages was Aug. 2011. Thanks for the alcohol tip.

I've decided to take Dave's que sera sera advice. Syrup or jelly, such is life.

When I make pepper jelly, using this pectin, it starts to set within an hour or so.
Thanks for all your help.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 7:42PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I only use liquid pectin for pepper jelly and it sets up fairly firm but I always cook for more than a minute. I think it's my lack of trust, but it works for me.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 2:56AM
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Here's my opinion, you don't want to triple or even double a batch. too much of a chance of not jelling right. Pectin must be within the expiration date, or will not jell.

I've made apple cider jelly with commercially made cider, right out of the store, with good results. It never took that long to jell, max 1 week.

Liquid pectin is the easiest pectin that I've worked with, and it gives you a clear jelly.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 2:57PM
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With jellies that are hard to set, I use a thermometer and cook them to 218 F. I am at 3300 feet above sea level so adjust accordingly from there. I have found this with orange jelly and chokecherry as well as Nanking jellies and ginger marmalade.

I think this is because a certain amount of water has to be driven off to get it to set - that's my suspicion anyway. Course, things are just harder to get to set here period because of the altitude. .

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 4:08PM
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