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Nashville, Ark. – Muscadine grapes are at their peak and many people are preserving
their wonderful flavor by making homemade jelly. Over the past week, I have received
several questions and concerns about muscadine jelly not setting up. Therefore, I
thought maybe there are more people who are having this problem and I decided to focus
on a possible solution. Here are some tips and tricks to help your jelly, no matter
what kind, have the consistency you desire.
For the proper texture, you must have the correct combination of fruit,
pectin, acid, and sugar. Start by picking your muscadines at the right time. They
should be ripe, but not over-ripe. Overripe fruits tend to have less pectin. Pectin
is a substance in fruits that form a gel if they are in the right combination with
acid and sugar. All fruits contain some pectin, but at different levels. Since fully
ripe fruit has less pectin, one-fourth of the fruit used in making jellies should
In order to get a good gel on your jelly, you must also have the proper
level of acid. If there is too little acid, the gel will never set; if there is too
much acid, the gel will lose liquid (weep). For fruits low in acid, adding a little
lemon juice will help solve the problem. One or two tablespoons should do the trick.
This may be more important if you are making jelly without a commercial pectin product.
Sugar not only aids in the flavor of homemade jellies, but it also helps
in gelling and helps to prevent spoilage. Do not try to reduce the amount of sugar
in your recipe. If you are concerned about the amount of sugar in your diet and want
to cut back, you should only use a recipe that is tried and true. Do not try reducing
the amount of sugar in a traditional recipe. It will not work and may cause spoilage
of the product. There are some commercial pectins available that use reduced amounts
of sugar. These should be used if trying to cut back on sugar.
There are basically two methods of making jams and jellies. The standard
method, which does not require added pectin, works best with fruits that are naturally
high in pectin. These fruits include apples, crabapples, gooseberries and some plums
and grapes, not necessarily muscadine grapes.
The other method, which requires the use of commercial liquid or powdered
pectin, is much quicker. The gelling ability of various pectins differ. Try different
brands to determine which product you prefer. It is a must that you follow the instructions
especially for each type of pectin you use.
Another cause of thin jelly may be due to overcooking the pectin which
can prevent proper gelling. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely.
Use the amount of sugar and juice called for in the recipe and make only one batch
at a time. When you increase the quantities, you often end up with a soft gel. Stir
constantly while cooking to prevent burning. Use the right size jar called for in
the recipe instructions. Too large a jar may cause a soft gel.
Once you have filled your sterilized jars, always water bath the jars.
Water bath canning helps to prevent the growth of mycotoxins which can cause health
problems. Water bath canning will help to assure you have a safe product. Of course,
start timing once the canner has come to a boil.
If you have followed all the steps mentioned and you still end up with
jelly that is too soft you may be able to salvage it. The National Center for Home
Food Preservation has recommendations for remaking jelly. You can visit their website
at http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/remake_soft_jelly.html or call the Howard County Cooperative Extension Service at 870-845-7517.
The holidays are right around the corner. Homemade jams and jellies make
great gifts and they are easy to make. Nothing is better than opening a jar of delicious
muscadine jelly that you have made yourself.
Recipe of the Week
Here is a recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation on
making Muscadine or Scuppernong Jelly without added pectin. It takes a little longer
to make, but the results are wonderful!
4 cups muscadine or scuppernong juice
3 cups sugar
To Prepare Juice – Select grapes that are in the just ripe stage. Wash and crush grapes, without adding
water, boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Press juice from
the heated grapes. Pour the cool juice into glass containers and set in refrigerator.
The next day strain the juice through a cloth jelly bag. Do not squeeze the bag.
To Make Jelly – Sterilize standard canning jars. Heat 4 cups juice to boiling in a saucepot. Add 3
cups sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then boil rapidly over high heat to
8ºF above the boiling point of water or until the jelly mixture sheets from a spoon.
Remove from heat; skim off foam quickly. Pour hot jelly immediately into
hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean
paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Bath
Canner for 5 minutes.
Yield: 3 or 4 half-pint jars
By Jean Ince County Extension Agent - Staff ChairThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Jean Ince County Extension Agent - Staff Chair U of A Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service 421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852 (870) 845-7517 email@example.com
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
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