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Nutrition and Food Safety

University of Wyoming Extension


Cooking to the right degree of moisture evaporation is important when making syrups, candies and jellies. Sea level recipes that call for cooking to a certain temperature, assume a boiling point of 212oF. But, just as water boils at a temperature below 212oF at high altitudes, all other liquids also boil at lower temperatures.

Boiling causes loss of moisture through evaporation. The lower the boiling point, the sooner moisture evaporation begins. At high altitudes, when sugar mixtures such as candies, syrups and jellies are cooked at the temperature suggested in sea level recipes, the faster loss of water causes the mixture to become too concentrated. Depending on the type of sugar mixture being prepared, the results may be "sugary" or hard.

To adjust sugar recipes for high altitude, the syrup will need to be cooked to a lower temperature than the sea level recipe indicates. If you use a candy thermometer, follow these steps in calculating the correct final temperature:

  1. Bring a pan of water to a rapid boil.
  2. Read the thermometer being careful not to let the bulb slip out of the water or touch the edge or bottom of the pan. The temperature you see will be the boiling point of water at the altitude at which you live.
  3. Subtract the boiling point of water at your altitude from the boiling point of water at sea level (212oF).
  4. Then subtract the temperature reached in step #3 from the final temperature given in the recipe. This will be the final temperature for your recipe at your altitude. (The temperature at which your product should be removed from the stove.)

EXAMPLE: If the boiling point of water at your altitude is 192oF:

  1. Subtract 192oF from 212oF (boiling point of water at sea level):
    212oF boiling point of water at sea level
    - 192oF boiling point of water at your altitude
    = 20oF difference in the boiling point of water at sea level and the boiling point of water at your altitude.
  2. Next, subtract this temperature difference from the finish temperature given in the recipe. For example, if the recipe says to cook your product to 252oF, obtain the finish temperature of the recipe at your altitude:
    252oF finish temperature of recipe
    - 20oF temperature difference
    = 232oF finish temperature of recipe at your altitude (when you remove product from heat)

If you don't have a candy thermometer, the cold water test works well at all altitudes. You may find that certain recipes mention cooking until 1/2 teaspoon of the syrup dropped into cold water forms a soft, firm or hard ball when removed. If the syrup separates into threads that are hard but not brittle when dropped in the cold water, we say it has reached the "soft crack" stage. If these threads are brittle as well as hard, it has reached the "hard crack" stage. Be sure and remove pan from heat while testing candy, so candy doesn't overcook.

In the case of jellies, the "sheet" test with a metal spoon can be reliably used at all altitudes. For this test, dip a cool metal spoon into the boiling jelly mixture. Then raise the spoon at least a foot above the kettle, away from the steam, and turn the spoon so the syrup runs off the side. If the syrup forms two drops that flow together and fall off the spoon as one sheet, the jelly should be done.

Source: Cooking and Baking it Up! Altitude Adjusters by Vicki Hayman, Phyllis Lewis, and Melissa Bardsley, University of Wyoming Extension Publication B-1310, 2018, with adaptations from UW Extension Cent$ible Nutrition cookbook.

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University of Wyoming Extension

Department #3354

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-5124


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