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I made a spicy margarita jelly that hasn't set up after almost two weeks - even in the refrigerator it's still "loose." I don't have the exact measurements in front of me, but I soaked a scorpion pepper in tequila for about 2 hours. Then I added sugar, Cointreau, key lime juice (I didn't have lemon or lime), salt, and two packages of pectin. If I reprocess it and add more pectin, there's no guarantee it will thicken up properly. It is possible that the alcohol didn't boil off enough. I literally turned my back for 15 seconds on a non-boiling pot only to hear it boiling over - all over my glass top stove! All the burners were coated except the one with the canner firmly on it so I couldn't continue the boiling process. If I decide to reprocess it, should I try something other than pectin in it - like gelatin?

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All gelling agents work only under certain conditions. You need to be in the working range for:

  • temperature
  • sugar content
  • pH
  • alcohol

Pectins are more sensitive than gelatine, working in narrower ranges. Also, not every pectin is active in the same range, the main difference is between HM and LM pectin.

You can try if gelatine works with your recipe, but here we get into shelf life problems. If you wanted a refrigerated jelly, gelatine is OK. But if you want a jelly that is shelf stable after canning, you need to have at least 33% sugar by weight, better more, and as far as I know, it won't work with gelatine (I don't know if this is because of food safety consideration or because this is outside of the gelatine's working range).

The better way is to find out what changes to make to the recipe in order to have the proper ranges for pectin to work. Use this table for the pectin properties.

pectin properties

(source: Texture by Martin Lersch)

If your pectin type was not on the label, you're more likely to have HM pectin.

I don't know whether trying to reprocess your current batch of jelly is worth it; it may or may not work. You have to calculate the risk (do you see it violating some of the conditions on this table?), your time, and the cost of the ingredients. Also, you don't say how much sugar you used, but if it was too little, it is not edible after 2 weeks in the fridge.

  • Thanks rumtscho. I didn't think about the refrigeration aspect of gelatin. Right now I can't remember how much sugar was used, but I think it was about 1 cup tequila, 1/2 cup orange liqueur, 1 cup lime juice, 2 cups water, 1/3 tsp sea salt, 6 1/2 cups sugar, and 2 pkgs pectin. I really think it was the alcohol didn't get to boil off and the pectin didn't get to properly set in the jelly (lack of boiling since the whole stove was covered in jelly). If I don't reprocess it, what can I do with liquid margarita jelly to repurpose it? It's too runny to put over cream cheese. :( – Brooke Jan 12 '15 at 14:45
  • The simplest thing you could do is to stir it into the cream cheese and smear that on the bread. Or use it like a cordial. – rumtscho Jan 12 '15 at 15:18

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