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I'm currently experimenting with making various wine jellies to be served with meat and/or cheese. Cabernet + black pepper, mulled wine jelly, and so on. I then can the result in a water bath to increase shelf life. I submerge the (sterilised and filled) jars in boiling water for ~5 minutes and then let the water cool slightly before removing the jars. After a few hours (or overnight) I check that they have sealed.

I would like to make a jelly from white wine with garlic and possibly some rosemary. I also add sugar and pectin to make the jelly. Searching the internet reveals many recipes for such a jelly, but no note on how safe it is. Just because someone on the internet has done it doesn't mean it's a good idea. Is a wine jelly acidic enough that I don't need to worry about botulinum?

  • Can you edit your post to specify how you are using the water bath? Also, you can, and will want to, measure pH. – moscafj Nov 5 '19 at 13:39
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White wine is most likely acidic enough to be safe. The standard pH level quoted for botulism safety is 4.6; if your jelly measures lower than that (after cooking and canning, not before) then you're good to go. Remember that if you were planning to store all the jars for a while, you'll need to sacrifice one jar to test the pH. Until you have your recipe absolutely, absolutely dialed in (including the brand, variety, and vintage of wine), you'll need to test a jar from each batch.

Seriously, though... consider just buying a real pressure canner. They're not expensive, they're useful for a lot of things other than canning, and they're worth the extra guarantee of safety.

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I can't with good conscious give advice outside of USDA guides or similar authority as Sneftel does with the pH numbers. I will not however that in jellies, and wine, there are other factors at work in addition to pH. There is alcohol assuming it is not cooked out, and sugar content both of which act as potential preservatives. I do not have tested, authoritative numbers however to state what levels are safe in your application, that will take some research. With canned, shelf stable items I would strongly encourage doing such research however. Organizations such as local county extensions or state colleges extensions in the US for instance are prime sources and will usually be of help with answers or sources where you can get them. I would assume many other locations have similar resources, I simply can't name what they are.

I will make one other observation on your stated technique though, 5 minute water baths might be plenty to get a seal, but never have I seen any instructions saying it is adequate for canning. It there is any chance that the item being canned could be subject to botulism or other pathogens, it must be raised to and held at a higher temperature for long enough to destroy them and 5 minutes would not be enough and I would not advise that unless you can find tested authority that your contents do not need that safety factor especially with added ingredients such as garlic and herbs which are potential carries of contaminants. If the testing says you sugar, alcohol, pH levels are adequate without longer and higher heating levels, then it is still quite likely the would require substantial shelf time to make certain any pathogens are destroyed and even then remaining toxins would potentially remain.

Such questions are why we have agencies like the USDA to do that testing for us and tell us what is safe and what is not. Anecdotal evidence like people saying "I have always done it that way and never gotten sick" is not evidence. It is rolling dice and getting lucky.

  • The 4.6 pH advice is endorsed by the USDA. It's very much a "worst case" recommendation: alcohol, preservatives, sugar, etc. would likely mean that the actual safe pH level is not as extreme as 4.6, but 4.6 is broadly considered to be safe even without other preservative factors. – Sneftel Nov 6 '19 at 11:12
  • @Sneftel Agreed. The other factors may lower the pH threshold, but without authoritative numbers there is no way to endorse what is the safe number. It might be 5 or even higher, but without a controlled test by an authoritative, reliable source, can't even guess at what that safe number is. – dlb Nov 6 '19 at 17:39

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