Can I use a strainer instead of a jelly bag?

There are several methods to extract juice or strain out sediments from fruits or vegetables. One popular method is to use a jelly bag, which is a cloth or synthetic bag hanging over a bowl to collect the juice draining through. However, many people wonder if a strainer can substitute for a jelly bag, whether due to lack of resources or convenience. In this post, we will examine the differences between jelly bag and strainer, their pros and cons, and when to use each one.

What is a jelly bag?

A jelly bag is a type of straining device that is designed for making juices, jellies, and other similar recipes. It consists of a textile or synthetic bag that is suspended over a bowl or pitcher, and the ingredients are poured into the bag. The bag filters out seeds, skin, pulp, and other solid residues while letting the juice pass through. Jelly bags come in various sizes, shapes, and materials, such as cheesecloth, muslin, nylon, or polyester. Some jelly bags have a metal or plastic frame that keeps the bag open and steady. Jelly bags are commonly used for extracting juice from fruits such as grapes, apples, berries, or citrus, as well as vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, or cucumbers.

What is a strainer?

A strainer is a tool for separating solids from liquids or other mixtures. It typically consists of a perforated or meshed material such as metal, plastic, or nylon that allows liquids to pass through while trapping solids. Strainers are available in various shapes and sizes, from small handheld sieves to large colanders. Some strainers have handles or hooks for easier handling, while others can be placed over a bowl or a pot. Strainers are commonly used for draining pasta, retrieving fried foods from oil, sifting flour or sugar, or removing seeds or pulp from juice.

Can a strainer replace a jelly bag?

While a strainer can perform some of the functions of a jelly bag, it is not a perfect substitute. Using a strainer instead of a jelly bag can result in less clear juice with more pulp and sediment. Here are some factors to consider when choosing between a jelly bag and a strainer:


Jelly bags are typically made of a porous and absorbent fabric that allows the juice to pass through while capturing the solids. The texture and density of the fabric can vary, which affects the clarity and smoothness of the juice. In contrast, a strainer is usually made of a rigid or flexible material with evenly spaced holes or perforations. The size and shape of the holes can determine how much of the solids will be trapped in the strainer. Some strainers have finer or coarser meshes, which can affect the texture of the strained material.


Jelly bags come in different sizes and shapes, and they can hold various amounts of fruit or vegetables depending on the recipe. However, the capacity of a jelly bag is limited by its size and weight capacity. A jelly bag can also become clogged or overloaded if too much material is added, which can slow down the straining process or cause the bag to tear. A strainer can handle more volume and weight than a jelly bag without losing its shape or effectiveness. However, this also means that a strainer may let more solids pass through than a jelly bag would.

Time and effort

Using a jelly bag requires some preparation and setup, such as tying the bag, hanging it, or securing it to a frame. The straining process can take several hours or overnight, depending on the temperature and humidity of the environment, as well as the concentration and type of fruit or vegetables. Once the straining is complete, the jelly bag needs to be washed and dried before reuse. In contrast, a strainer is easier and faster to set up and use, and it can be cleaned quickly. However, using a strainer may require more active or frequent stirring or pressing to squeeze out the juice, which can be tiring or messy.

When to use a jelly bag?

Jelly bags are best suited for recipes that require clear, smooth, and sediment-free juice, such as jellies, jams, syrups, and sauces. They are also useful for making grape juice, cider, or wine, as they remove the skins, stems, and seeds that can add bitterness or astringency to the final product. Jelly bags are recommended for fruits or vegetables that have small or fine seeds, such as raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes, or cucumbers. They are also preferred for recipes that use delicate or expensive ingredients that should not be wasted or textured, such as elderflowers or saffron.

When to use a strainer?

Strainers are more versatile and flexible than jelly bags, as they can handle larger volumes and varieties of materials. They are suitable for recipes that do not require strict clarity or smoothness, such as soups, broths, stocks, or some cocktails. Strainers can also be used for removing seeds or fibers from citrus juice, as they can catch most of the pulp without losing the juice. Strainers are useful for recipes that use dense or sturdy ingredients, such as vegetables that require more pressure or force to extract their juice. Strainers are ideal for quick and easy tasks that require separating solids from liquids, such as draining canned food or rinsing grains.


In summary, a jelly bag and a strainer are two distinct straining tools with different strengths and weaknesses. While a strainer can replace a jelly bag in some circumstances, it cannot produce the same level of clarity and purity of juice. For recipes that require fine and clear juice, a jelly bag is the best choice. For tasks that require flexibility and speed, a strainer is more suitable. Ultimately, choosing the right tool depends on the recipe, the ingredients, and personal preferences. Regardless of which tool you use, make sure to clean and dry it properly after each use to avoid contamination and prolong its lifespan. If you are looking for high-quality jelly bags or strainers, check out our selection of kitchen accessories.


What can I use if I don’t have a jelly bag?

A jelly bag is a useful kitchen item used to strain out the solids from liquid, especially while making jellies, jams and even cheeses. But, if you don’t have a proper jelly bag, there’s no need to worry as you can make your own at home using everyday household items.

One of the easiest ways to substitute a jelly bag is by using cheesecloth or muslin cloth. They are readily available in almost every grocery store or online cooking stores. Cut a piece of cheesecloth or muslin cloth double the size of the instrument that you want to stain and fold it in half. Place the cloth over a deep bowl or pan and pour the liquid through it. Gather the corners of the cloth and twist them until you create a secure, tight package. Hang the package over the bowl using a hook or tying the corners to a wooden spoon placed across the top of the container. If there is too much liquid, you can secure a rubber band around the top of the cloth and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to extract the maximum amount of liquid.

Another alternative is using a fine mesh sieve. It may take a little longer to strain the liquid with a sieve than a jelly bag, but it’s a handy tool to have in your kitchen and great for smaller batches of liquids. Select a sieve that is fine enough to keep the solids out and pour the liquid slowly through the sieve, stirring occasionally. Do not press down solid particles as it will make the resulting liquid murky.

Lastly, you can use an old stocking or tights as a homemade substitute for a jelly bag. It might sound strange, but this is a quick and efficient method. Cut out the foot of an old stocking and stretch it over a large-mouthed jug or pitcher. Secure the ends tightly, so the stocking does not sag with the weight of the liquid. Pour the liquid through the stocking and let it drip through the fabric until no liquid remains.

There are many household items that can be used as a substitute for a jelly bag, such as cheesecloth or muslin cloth, a fine mesh sieve or even old stocking or tights. With a little creativity, you can make any of these items work like a jelly bag and get on with making your delicious jellies and jams.

What can I use a straining bag for?

Straining bags are a versatile and useful tool to have in your kitchen, home brewery, or winemaking setup. These bags are designed to strain liquids and solids and work by containing the substance inside while allowing the liquid to pass through.

One of the most common uses for a straining bag is in homebrewing beer. When brewing beer, a process known as ‘mashing’ releases the sugars from the grain. The grains are placed in a mesh strainer bag and soaked in hot water. The straining bag allows the grains to mix with the water while ensuring the liquid can be extracted easily. The grains are then removed, and the resulting liquid is boiled to make beer.

Another common use is for containing fruit pulp in winemaking. Wine can be made from fresh grapes, fruit, or fruit juice. In the case of using fruit, it is first pureed or mashed before being placed in a straining bag. The bag is then submerged in the liquid so that the flavors of the fruit get infused. The bag makes it easy to remove the fruit pulp at the end of the process and produce a smooth, clear wine.

In addition to home brewing and winemaking, straining bags have many other kitchen uses. They are ideal for making nut milk, since they allow the milk to pass through while retaining any solids. They can also be used to strain stocks, soups, and broths, removing any meat, vegetables, and herbs that may have been added during the cooking process.

Straining bags are a versatile tool that can be used for many tasks in the kitchen and home brewery. Whether you are brewing beer, making wine, nut milk, or straining liquid for cooking, a straining bag can make the task easier and more effective.

How do you strain jelly without cheesecloth?

Straining jelly is an important step in the process of making it. However, if you are making jelly and suddenly realize that you have no cheesecloth at home, you might be wondering what to do. Fortunately, there are several ways to strain jelly without cheesecloth.

Firstly, you can use a flour sack towel. Flour sack towels are made of 100% cotton, which makes them a great substitute for cheesecloth. Simply place the towel over a bowl or container, pour the jelly into the center of the towel, and let the excess liquid drain into the bowl.

Secondly, you can use a pillowcase. A clean pillowcase made of cotton works well as an alternative for cheesecloth. To use a pillowcase, place it over a large pot or bowl, pour the jelly into the center of the pillowcase, and let it strain into the pot.

Thirdly, you can use a bandana or a scrap of fabric. Simply place the bandana or fabric over a bowl or container, pour the jelly into the center, and let it drain. Make sure the fabric is made of 100% cotton to avoid any synthetic fibers getting into the jelly.

Fourthly, use a clean cloth diaper or a cloth napkin. Like other cotton fabrics, these will work well as substitutes for cheesecloth. Place the diaper or napkin over a pot or bowl, pour the jelly into the center, and let the excess liquid drain into the pot.

Lastly, you can use a jelly bag. This option is not as common as the others, but it’s one of the best ways to strain jelly if you don’t have cheesecloth. A jelly bag is a specific bag made to strain jellies, jams, and other products. Simply pour the jelly into the jelly bag, let it sit and strain overnight.

If you don’t have cheesecloth at home, there are other ways to strain jelly. Whatever alternative you choose to use, make sure it is made from 100% cotton to prevent any synthetic fibers from getting into the jelly.

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