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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).  While they look identical, 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)

Comments

Good morning Suzi -- You bake fruit pies like I do -- I use 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca for every 2 pounds of fruit and stir it in with the sugar and flavorings, etc. If I had to make an educated guess and was willing to conduct an experiment (about using the cook-type clear-jel in place of tapioca), I'd use 1-2 T per quart (4 cups) of FRUIT. I do hope this helps, and, if you try it, please let me know how it works! ~ Melanie

I have a large container of Hoosier cook type tapioca but don't know how to use it. I have always used kraft instant tapioca and typically I would mix approx 1/4 cup of tapioca with the sugar and any spices - then stir that into the fruit. let it stand for 15 minutes or so then put the filling into unbaked crust and bake. everything I've read about the Hoosier - says 1-2 T per quart of LIQUID. I don't precook my fillings and I don't add any sort of liquid. only what comes from the macerating. I use between 6 and 8 cups of fruit. I make strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, and apple pies plus an occasional peach pie.

hoping you can help me.
thank you

Xavier -- I can't say with 100% positivity, but, because instant pudding requires no cooking, my instinct would be to use the instant Clear-Jel.

I'm trying to use Clear Jel as substitute for instant pudding to improve the consistency of a cake recipe. Would I need regular or instant Clear Jel for that? Please and thank you!

Sharon -- I hope you solved your problem by now, as I was away from my desk for a few days. When it comes to fruit, this type of problem is not uncommon. Because fruit ripens, and gets juicier, on a day-to-day-basis, what will thicken fine one day, may not the next. In many/most instances, all you need to do is put it back on the stove and cook it longer, as reduction will thicken it more. That said, I believe your solution to be a sound one, and, I do hope it worked out. Forty batches?!?!? You're a mad-woman!!! ~ Melanie

We used clear jel to make blueberry filling for pies to fill our freezer. It is not thick enough. What must I do to thicken it. Do I need to heat up what I have made? If so how would I add it? Would I be able to use instant clear jel to thicken it without heating it. Which would be the way to save this. Last week we made the filling with clear jel and it seems like it was tick enough. This week I used the same recipe and it did not get thick enough?? I would like to save these 40 batches I made

May the force be with you Wendy -- you are going to be a busy lady! ~ Melanie

I just received my package of clear jel cook type, I was gifted 180lbs of apples, planning to can apple pie filling I'm so excited I've never done this before any advise

Stacey -- I want to say, and my instinct is to say," I can't think of any reason why adding it, as is, to cooked berries wouldn't work", but, having never tried it, I can't say "go ahead and do it" with 100% certainty. Be brave, and, if you give it a try, report back. It's a great question that deserves an answer. ~ Mel.

Is there a way to add the instant clear jel to cooked strawberries without mixing it with sugar?

Pam -- Read the last paragraph: How to measure and use ClearJel Instant.

I use instant clear jel a lot. Can I use it to cook my cherry pie filling on the stove and then add to crust and bake? Or is that considered "cooking it twice?"

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