Candies Desserts

lemon-lime gummy candy

sad story: lament of the jelly candy. my love goes to the gummy candy recipe instead ::::

This is a sad story. It is a story that you may also relate to. You may find yourself huddled at the kitchen table, grieving for the lost time. You may sit in the living room staring out the window, what happened? You stand in the kitchen over the stove, looking into your saucepan, wondering what to do about it.

It’s a story about jelly candy. Weepy jellies.

I find myself over the kitchen counter, jiggling a tray of syrupy mess, going through every step and measurements of that stupid recipe over and OVER to figure out what went wrong. And then do it again with the next recipe. And again. Even highly-acclaimed The French Laundry Cookbook‘s jelly candy recipe that I was so convinced would be it  was not.

These jellies, they slowly exude these fat, sticky tears, mucking up the inside of my candy tin. Jelly candy that doesn’t set and just stays syrupy and wet. Jelly candy that looks jewel-toned, like the rubies in a dazzling ring, when first dredged in sugar, only to be incontinent and sitting in a puddle of its — juice. I’ve tried numerous recipes trying all sorts of permutations, hoping that one, yes ONE, would finally crack the code of the dry, non-sticky jelly candy. No, not pate de fruit (yes, they are always a little sweaty) but fruit jellies without the mess. But pools of tears haunt me. I don’t know if I can do this again.

Who finally dried those tears? Alton Brown. His acid jellies recipe did it. Only they’re really not jellies: gummies are more accurate. These are chewy, like their prolific sibling the Gummi Bear. (Jellies have a softer, but firm, bite.)

While these are almost  weep-free, there is still some moisture that forms after sugaring. Why do the jellies cry? Because sugar is hygroscopic, or having the property to absorb water from the atmosphere. Absorbing water, thus, creates the sticky, weepy goo that I complain about. It also has to do with the cooking process, specifically the inversion of the sugar sucrose into two monosaccharides fructose and dextrose. When sucrose is inverted, the fructose component is to blame for our candy tears: it is very hygroscopic. There is much more to this sugar chemistry than I’m getting into here, but these are the basics.

I’ve found that recipes that involve gelatin instead of pectin tend to be drier, but not always. I wish I had a rubric, some pattern that I could adhere to, to predict which jelly candy recipes work. I wish I could find more information on candy-making chemistry to read. What I can say though, this recipe is the closest I’ve come to non-weepiness. I do away with the jellies and move onto their tougher, less sophisticated cousin, the gummi. While initially it may seem that I lowered my standards, I merely changed the criteria. Sad stories can have happy endings, too.


lemon-lime gummy candy
Recipe type: dessert
  • 1¼ cups water
  • 8 envelopes powdered gelatin (each envelope is 7.0625 grams, so you'll need 56.5 grams total)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • Non-stick spray or neutral oil, for greasing pan
  1. In small saucepan, combine ½ cup of water, gelatin, lime juice, and lemon juice. Set aside.
  2. In heavy small saucepan, place over medium heat, combine remaining ¾ cup of water and 1 cup sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove lid and place candy thermometer on side of pan and cook until it reaches 300 degrees F. IMPORTANT: Do not stir or move the saucepan as this may introduce crystals.
  3. Remove from heat, add to gelatin mixture, return pan to low heat and stir constantly in order to dissolve gelatin completely. Add lemon and lime zest and stir to combine. Pour mixture into greased 8-inch by 8-inch pan and cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate.
  4. Once cooled, cut into cubes and toss to coat in the remaining sugar.
  5. IMPORTANT NEXT STEP TO DECREASE WEEPINESS: Place gummi candy on drying racks set over baking sheets and allow to dry overnight at room temperature.
  6. Alton recommends to store in airtight container for up to 4 days. I found if I cracked my container lid slightly, there was less weepiness and dry "crust" formed over the gummi candy.
  7. Makes 64 (1-inch) squares. (I cut triangles and made shapes with a small aspic cutter set and thus ended up with many more.)
Give yourself almost 5 hours plus overnight drying time to work on these (cook time is about 30 minutes).


  • jasmine January 8, 2013 Reply

    very educational post on gummies. im trying to hunt down a good recipe but everything involves jello mix. thanks for the scientific info!

    • story January 9, 2013 Reply

      Thank you! Yes – I totally hear you on the ingredients. I tried soooo many recipes before I found one that worked. My apricot-earl grey tea pâte de fruit recipe is closer to a candy jelly recipe, if you want that consistency rather than chewy.

  • bob douglas May 20, 2019 Reply

    if you bake it at 300 degrees it burns the sugar

    • story kitchen May 20, 2019 Reply

      There’s no baking here, just stovetop cooking. You may need to turn down the heat slightly after the boil step if you are having burned sugar issues. You may have a larger circumferenced burner and its high heat may cause burning if cooking too fast.

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