How to Thicken Pear Preserves

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Pear preserves sometimes take awhile to thicken due to the fruit's high water content.
Pear preserves sometimes take awhile to thicken due to the fruit's high water content. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Making homemade pear preserves takes certain techniques and often requires some work to get them to set up properly. Preserves, by definition, are larger chucks of fruit suspended in a soft jelly. The softness of the jelly can be altered depending on the desired consistency, but it must be firm enough to hold the fruit together. For sweet spreads to gel properly, mix the right combination of fruit, pectin, acid and sugar. The preserves must also be cooked for a certain amount of time, depending on the water content of the fruit.

Things You'll Need

  • Pear preserves recipe
  • Ripe pears
  • Under ripe pears
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Pectin
  • Sauce pan
  • Stirring spoon
  • Freezer
  • 2 to 3 spoons or saucers
  • Teaspoon
  • Canning equipment

Method 1: The Spoon Gel Test

Place two or three spoons in the freezer. Prepare pear preserves according to the recipe you are using, and boil them for the specified amount of time.

Do not leave the spoon in the boiling preserves for a long time, as it will warm it up too much.
Do not leave the spoon in the boiling preserves for a long time, as it will warm it up too much. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Dip a cold spoon into the boiling preserves and hold it horizontally. According to the “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving,” preserves in the beginning stages of gel formation will drop off of the spoon as small drops of syrup. As the gel thickens, the drops will get bigger and firmer. The correct gel stage is reached when the preserves drop from the spoon in a whole sheet.

Continue the canning process, as indicated by your recipe, if the preserves are gelled.

Boil the preserves, if they are still too runny, over medium heat for five minutes. Stir them continuously. Preform the spoon gel test with a fresh, cold spoon. Repeat this process until the preserves pass the gel test.

Method 2: The Saucer Gel Test

Place two or three saucers in the freezer. Prepare the pear preserves according to the recipe you are using, and boil them for the specified amount of time. Remove pear preserves from heat.

The saucer test, though more time consuming, is more accurate.
The saucer test, though more time consuming, is more accurate. (Image: Photos.com/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Drop 1 tsp. of hot preserves onto a cold saucer. Chill the saucer in the freezer for one to three minutes until the preserves are cool, but not frozen.

Run your finger from the edge of the preserves to the center. If your finger glides smoothly through them, they are not done. If the preserves feel set and the surface wrinkles, they are done; continue the canning process.

Boil the preserves, if they are still too runny, over medium heat for five minutes. Stir them continuously. Preform the saucer gel test with a fresh, cold saucer.

Repeat this process until the preserves pass the gel test.

Method 3: Time and Amending Your Recipe

Let your pear preserves sit. Sometimes getting pear preserves to set up is a matter of time. If you are using a trusted recipe, and can’t get your preserves to set up after ample cooking, can them and let them sit for two weeks. If your pear preserves do not set up after two weeks, revise your recipe.

Pear preserves that have reached a thin gel stage may need time to set up.
Pear preserves that have reached a thin gel stage may need time to set up. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Add more pectin as part of your recipe revision. All fruits contain pectin. Recipes without commercial fruit pectin require both ripe and under-ripe pears. Fully ripened fruit has less pectin than under-ripe fruit. One-quarter of the pears you use should be under-ripe. For recipes calling for commercial fruit pectin, add extra pectin a little at a time, and repeat the gel test until you have reached the desired consistency.

Add more acid. Many preserve recipes call for acid in the form of lemon or another citrus juice. Without acid, pectin cannot properly gel. Add lemon juice in small increments, preforming the gel test, until you reach the desired consistency. Be cautious, as too much acid will cause the jelly to “weep.” Keep in mind that commercial fruit pectin contains acid to help in the gelling process.

Lemons are a good source of natural acid.
Lemons are a good source of natural acid. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Add more sugar. Though it is possible to use a sugar substitute in some preserve recipes, sugar is an essential part of the gelling process. When using a low or no-sugar recipe, make sure it is a reliable recipe. If you cannot get it to gel, add more sugar.

Sugar is needed to form a good gel in preserves.
Sugar is needed to form a good gel in preserves. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

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