Testing Jelly For Doneness

Michigan State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600546

Testing Jelly For Doneness

  The biggest problem in making jelly without added pectin  
is to know when it is done. It is particularly important    
to remove the mixture from the heat before it is            
overcooked. Although an under-cooked jelly can sometimes    
be recooked for a satisfactory product, there is little     
that can be done to improve an overcooked mixture. Signs    
of overcooking are a change in color and the taste or odor  
of caramelized sugar.                                       

  When cooking jelly, remember that it should be boiled     
rapidly, not simmered.                                      

  Three methods that may be used for testing doneness of    
jelly made at home are described below. Of these, the       
temperature test probably is the most dependable.           

  TEMPERATURE TEST: Before cooking the jelly, take the      
temperature of boiling water with a jelly, candy or         
deep-fat thermometer (212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea         
level). Cook the jelly mixture to a temperature 8 degrees   
Fahrenheit higher than the boiling point of water. At that  
point, the concentration of sugar will be such that the     
mixture should form a satisfactory gel.                     

  Because the boiling point at a given altitude may         
change with different atmospheric conditions, the           
temperature of boiling water should be checked shortly      
before the jelly is to be made. The bulb of the             
thermometer must be completely covered with jelly and not   
touching the pan.                                           

  SPOON OR SHEET TEST: Dip a cool metal spoon in the        
boiling jelly  mixture. Then raise it at least a foot       
above the kettle, out of the steam, and turn the spoon so   
the syrup runs off the side. If the syrup forms two drops   
that flow together and fall off the spoon as one sheet,     
the jelly should be done.                                   

  REFRIGERATOR TEST: Remove the jam mixture from the heat.  
Pour a small amount of boiling jam on a cold plate and put  
it in the freezing compartment of a refrigerator for a few  
minutes. If the mixture gels, it is ready to fill.          
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