jelly did not set

Asked August 25, 2017, 10:16 AM EDT

Hi-I have made this jalapeño cranberry jelly before and it was wonderful. This year it sealed but none of the 1/2 pint jars (9 of them) set up. It's a mixture of 3c. cranberry juice, 1 pepper, 1 c. vinegar, 7 c. sugar, and 2 (3oz.) envelopes liquid pectin. I want to open and remake the jelly to thicken. What do I use and how? I have 2 types of powdered pectin (low or no-sugar, instant). Would that be best and which one?
Possible reasons for problem: My liquid pectin I used was one year old (??) and I made the jelly on a humid day. However it looked beautiful and the right thickness in the pan before water bath. The "science of canning" is confusing to me. Can you please help?. Thank you, Barb

Pueblo County Colorado

3 Responses

Hi Barb!

Where did you get your recipe? We always want to make sure, first off, that it is a tested recipe in order to ensure the highest level of food safety when preserving.

In order to remake this batch, please follow the instructions below:
For each quart of jam or jelly, measure 3/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp liquid pectin. Bring the jam or jelly to a boil over high heat while stirring. Remove from heat and add sugar, bottled lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a rolling boil, stir constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Skim off foam and load into clean jars. Leave 1/4" headspace. Adjust new lids and reprocess.

Hope that helps. Happy canning!

My recipe came from I have made it probably 5 years now......always turning our wonderful except for this year. What confuses me is that, with your answer and doing some other research, I have to put in more sugar? (there's already so much!) Is that because of the additional pectin and helping it to thicken? Why the liquid pectin and not powder which I read about quite a bit. Is that because that's what the recipe originally called for? So many of the online articles said powder pectin but I wanted to go with what you advise. Please give me a bit more science explanation if you wouldn't mind. I need to learn this! Thank you very much! Barb

Hi Barb,

Unfortunately because is not a source of tested recipes, we would not recommend using this recipe at all. Tested recipes will come from sources like the CSU Extension or other extension programs, websites ending in .edu or .org, and books dedicated specifically to canning such as the Ball Blue Book, the Complete Guide to Home Canning, and So Easy to Preserve.

I checked out the recipe on the site and it indicates that you need to use 1.5 cups of cranberry juice. This may be where your problem comes from. Jelly can be fairly particular at the amount of sugar it needs in order to set right. We generally suggest that 65-68% of the mixture needs to be sugar. You would currently be under that 65%, which can cause jellies to be weak and runny.

Sugar is important for several reasons. First, it adds flavor. Second, it is the main preservative in jams and jellies. And finally, it helps to create the gel formation by binding to the water molecules in your jelly, pulling it away from the pectin chains, so they can form crosslinks and create the gel.

Each recipe requires the use of either liquid or powder pectin. Although they achieve the same goal, they don't work using the exact same mechanism; therefore, we always want to use the kind listed on the recipe. Once you used the liquid pectin, per the original recipe, we want to try to reset it using the same kind. Consistency is key!