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07/30/2015

~ The Facts about ClearJel (Cook-Type vs. Instant) ~

IMG_0646On more than an occasional basis, everyone who enjoys the sport of cooking needs to thicken food, and, choosing the right thickening agent for the particular job can mean the difference between delight and disaster.  Because thickeners come in many forms and they all work a bit differently, depending upon what's being prepared (a savory sauce, gravy or stew, or a sweet preserve, pie filling or pudding), it's in one's best interest to be well-informed in this arena.   

I am not a rocket scientist, so when it comes to discussing thickening agents, I stick to discussing what I know:  how each one hands-on works in the home kitchen rather than the full-blown chemical processes.  I disuss them, in my own words to the best of my ability, on an as-needed basis -- just click on the Related Article links below to learn about pectin, flour, cornstarch, gelatin and eggs.  The pie baking season is here, which prompts me to discuss ClearJel today.

ClearJel: the professionals secret weapon for fruit pie fillings!

IMG_9439ClearJel (Cook-Type) is a powdered modified cornstarch commonly used by professional bakers and canneries.  Like cornstarch it produces a clear, glistening product without any of the aftertaste from thickeners like tapioca starch or flour.  Unlike cornstarch it tolerates high temperatures over a long period of time, and most importantly:  it doesn't begin to thicken until it cools, which makes it ideal for traditional water-bath canning (because it allows the heat to be more evenly distributed in the jar during processing).  That said, if you prefer freezing over canning, ClearJel Instant is your best friend.  

IMG_9457Pudding and pie fillings made with cornstarch begin to break down (get sauce-like) after 1-2 days in the refrigerator and cannot be frozen. Pie fillings made with ClearJel Cook-Type can be refrigerated but don't freeze and thaw well. Some say the ClearJels react better to acidic foods than cornstarch, but, I've not experienced problems using cornstarch in my small-batch/quick-batch/use-immediately pie fillings. To avoid clumping during cooking, mix either ClearJel product with sugar prior to cooking.

IMG_9497ClearJel (Instant) requires no cooking to thicken.  It thickens when liquid is added and remains smooth when hydrated.  It's excellent for refrigerated or frozen pie fillings.  It thickens a bit when heated, but doesn't like to be heated twice, so, instant is a no-no for canning.

Do not confuse ClearJel Cook-Type or Instant with liquid pectin or powdered pectin (like Certo or Sure-Gel).  They're very different and can't be used interchangeably.

ClearJel products are available on-line but not in the average grocery store, which I find odd.

How to measure and use ClearJel Cook-Type:

Large batch water-bath canning:  plan on using 1/4 cup ClearJel per 1 quart of liquid*

Small-batch quick-batch preserving: use 1 tablespoon ClearJel per 1 cup of liquid*

*Combine ClearJel with sugar and any dry spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) before stirring into wet ingredients (water, juice, etc.).  Cook on medium-high heat until mixture thickens.  Fold in warm precooked, or room temperature uncooked, fruit (as per recipe) and proceed as directed.

How to measure and use ClearJel Instant:

For one pie:  Combine 3 tablespoons Clearjel Instant with 1/2 cup sugar and any dry spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc).  Add 1 cup liquid (water or juice) and enough room temperature precooked or uncooked fruit for 1 pie (about 6 cups).  Proceed with recipe as directed.

PICT0520"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)

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