Sorting out jelly gels

Today is my second piece of experimentation around jelly condiments. Generally what I am trying to do here is to understand how jellied chutney type condiments work when you use white wine vinegar as a base.

My first part of this puzzle was to make tasters representing varying proportions (by weight… of course) of white wine and vinegar. I made up 4 jars ranging from 1:1 (50/50) up to 90/10  (wine:vinegar) – with a 75/25 and 65/35 in between. The purpose of these will be for me to sort out which ratio I want to use depending on the jelly.

Before I go much further I should also say that I’m using a wine vinegar:sweetener ratio of 1:1 – as a base. I should also note my appreciation to Stonechurch wines, who make it really easy to purchase $5.00 cooking wine – both white and red. If I had to shell out $15/bottle, I would be amusing myself some other way.

This exercise also came about as a result of the hot garlic jelly I made a little while ago using a pectin designed for natural sugar environments – Pomona’s. I do appreciate their interest in all of this, and their letting me know that their pectin would not work in such a high acid environment. Needless to say, I’m going to have to break open all those jars and redo them with the ‘winner’ of this pectin contest. I dare say also that the market vendors who make their delicious wares I so often try to backwards engineer would probably scratch their heads at this post thinking, ‘Duh….. of COURSE you would just use….” But I like a challenge, and perhaps the old elementary science teacher in me likes this play around.

So …. taking Pomona’s out of the mix, I’m trying four thickeners: Certo crystals, Certo liquid, Agar Agar, and organic gelatin. I don’t have any hypothesis going into it – except perhaps that the liquid pectin would be the most bother.

4 gelling agents

In the four samples I used 100g of wine vinegar in a 75/25 mix, and 100g of sugar as a base. For the thickener, I used a quantity that, according to the directions would be likely to set a cup. Keep in mind that the Certo recipes are anticipating the use of fruit, not wine and vinegar. I prepared each following the recipe process on the packages, and poured into 250ml jars after. These were left on the counter to see how long they would set at room temperature.

Here are the results, including notes about cost – as this is one variable I am somewhat concerned about:

Certo liquid: Cost and quantity: 24g per cup; a box makes up 8 cups. This was the most difficult to use – its a thick viscous liquid, difficult to get all of it in the pot properly, and it requires a 2 stage process. Some minimal thickening was observed. 

Agar Agar: at 2g/ (1TBS) cup, and a 28g package for $7, this works out at .50/cup of jelly. Its also very easy to use, pour everything in stir until it dissolves and comes to a boil, take it off. It tends to gel from the bottom up though,  as can be seen from this turned on its side picture. This one deserves more attention though  – it could be the cheapest alternative.  Toronto-20130908-00751

Certo crystals worked the best. As there was no close recipe, I did a little math on the package weight and determined that 14g would be needed per cup of final product. This  was relatively easy to use, and set the fastest. This is where I am sure a more experienced maker would be saying “Could have told you that in the first place.”

Gelatin crystals: These were OK. The process is one step, however given that the $4.80 package does only 2 cups, this is a really expensive option. It also does not like to gel this combination of sweet and acid – its similar to the liquid Certo, and with a somewhat slimy texture.

Finally, I wanted to be able to better predict how much weight of liquid and sugar in a 1:1 solution I would need per 1 cup jar of jelly. It turns out to be 142g of wine vinegar and 142g of sugar per cup – or 250 ml. This is actually a little less – adding in additional flavours will bring the jar up to the usual height to leave an air pocket at the top.

It looks going forward that for these jellies, its Certo  – or commercial pectin for me, as long as I am sure of the sugar content. In using Certo, you bring everything but the sugar to a boil, add the sugar, return it to a boil, then can. I can therefore see times to use agar-agar – particularly when one needs to get final tastes in line. I think I will continue to keep my eyes open for other alternatives. I do have an aversion to buying anything from huge food conglomerates, and Certo is a Kraft product!

And my garlic pepper jelly that I need to redo? I believe I’ll probably use agar, since the sugar is all in at this point. It will be OK  – I will just need to shake them a bit as they cool down.


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