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In my first attempt at making jelly, I seem to have veered off course.

I'm following this recipe for Cranberry-Pepper Jelly:

Ingredients

  • 3 red bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 Fresno or red jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup liquid pectin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen and thawed

I combined the peppers, chiles, sugar, pepper flakes, and salt in a large pot and brought it to a simmer over medium heat, as instructed. I then added the pectin and lemon juice and continued simmering for 10 minutes, as instructed. Finally, I added the cranberries and simmered for an additional 10 minutes or so until their skins burst.

During this entire process I observed the "jelly" was very runny. I sort of expected it to be somewhat runny based on the recipe reviews on Epicurious. The reviews stated that it was more of a relish than a jelly.

The problem is, mine is more of a soup than a relish. I put it in a jar in the refrigerator overnight, thinking that perhaps all it needed was cooling, but it is only marginally thicker than when it was hot.

Question

How can I fix this ridiculously soupy jelly? Can it be saved simply with additional heat, sugar, or pectin? I'd rather not go to the grocery store today (day before Thanksgiving) to get additional cranberries if it can be avoided. I have all ingredients but the peppers and cranberries on hand.

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3 Answers 3

I found a site with another cranberry sauce maker complaining of the end product being too runny. What I learned is that cranberries have lots of natural pectin that is released when they are cooked past bursting.

If it were me, I would:

  1. cook it some more, keeping it at a boil but watching it carefully so it doesn't boil over and does not start to scorch at the bottom of the pan (in other words, stir and WATCH IT!)
  2. When the cranberries have deflated from releasing their inards and some of the excess liquid has either boiled off or thickened, your recipe should be salvageable.

Best of luck!

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There are many variables in making jam and jelly. Pectin reacts with acid, not enough acid and the pectin won't gel. Not enough pectin and the gelling won't be enough. Too much water will make the gelling agent too dispersed.

So you can cook it down to get rid of the water, however that may ruin the consistency so I'd add more pectin and acid and see how that works.

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The amount of sugar in this recipe looks a bit low for a 10 minute simmer. I estimate that the bulk of the ingredients consists of,

  • ~200g sugar
  • ~330g cranberries
  • ~330g bell pepper

That's less than 25% sugar. If this were a straight cranberry jelly, you'd need about 40% sugar content for optimal jelly strength and, I estimate, at least 35%.

I think that you could add another cup of sugar, bring it back to boiling for a minute and then let it set again. If you don't want to risk changing the recipe you could simmer longer until the pectin is fully precipitated (at about 220ºF or 104ºC according to the answers on this question)

Update: One of the answer comments on the question I linked to suggests that 220ºF is an indication of optimal water content, so it may not relate to pectin precipitation. TFD's answer has a tip for testing "pectin levels" with methylated spirits which might be what you need.

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Having looked into this some more, I see the issues are more complex than I had anticipated. You have to get the pectin, acid, sugar ratio just right and that depends on the type of pectin. I only have a guess which type is present in liquid pectin and I don't know in what concentration (liquid pectin being mostly water). Liquid pectin contains an amount of acid to aid gelling so lemon juice might not be required. These and many other questions may invalidate my answer. –  Chris Steinbach Nov 22 '12 at 11:11

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