Canning 101: How To Save Runny Jam

jams for Barcamp Philly

A while back, I wrote a piece all about how to ensure that your jam sets. However, even when you keep all those tips in mind, there’s still a chance that you’ll wind up with a poor set. Here’s what you can do to salvage that jam.

If you don’t want to invest any additional work in that jam, all you have to do is change expectations. If it’s just sort of runny, call it preserves. If it’s totally sloshy, label it syrup and move on with your life.

However, if you’re committed to getting a nice, firm, jammy set, there is still hope. Here’s what you can do.

  1. First, you wait. Give the jam 24-48 hours to set up (because truly, sometimes it can take that long for pectin to reach the finished set).
  2. If it still hasn’t set, it’s time to open all the jars back up.
  3. Pour the jam into your widest pot.
  4. Set heat to high and begin to bring the jam to temperature.
  5. Whisk in one tablespoon of powdered pectin as it heats.
  6. Cook vigorously until jam appears visibly thickened. If it feels like it’s not thickening, add a more powdered pectin (start with an additional teaspoon and work up.
  7. Test set using plate or sheeting test (both described here).
  8. When jam has reached the desired thickness, remove pot from heat.
  9. Pour jam into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply brand new lids and screw on the same old bands.
  10. Process in a boiling water bath canner for the amount of time requested in the recipe.
  11. When processing time is up, remove jars from bath. Let jars cool and then test seals.

That’s it!


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300 Responses to Canning 101: How To Save Runny Jam

  1. 151
    Michelle says:

    So, this is bad, i made some hot pepper jelly a little over a month ago. It turned out runny but i had some family emergency to deal with…how long is too long to fix pepper jelly? Or do i have to settle for 6 jars of hot pepper sauce now?

    • 151.1
      Marisa says:

      You can still try to remake it. Jellies are tough, though. It might overset in the process of trying to fix it. I’d probably call it a glaze and tell people to drizzle it over things.

  2. 152
    Gail says:

    I did the step above with my wine jelly, twice and it still didn’t set. 🙁

  3. 153
    Dara says:

    I just made a beautiful batch of pear cranberry jam that didn’t set. The lids sealed, though, so it’s safe, right?

    • 153.1
      Marisa says:

      It’s perfectly safe! Set doesn’t play any role in safety, so even sloshy, your jam is perfectly edible.

      • Susana Smith says:

        I made blackcurrant and jostaberry jam yesterday (16 jars) as the fruit had been frozen but had started to defrost as the freezer setting had been accidentally changed. Plenty of lemon juice was added but I never use pectin as it is naturally occurring in blackcurrants. Not sure if the freezing altered the pectin level but after boiling the 3kgs of fruit with the sugar and lemon juice for at least 90 min, the resultant ‘jam’ is a couple of steps up from a syrup. Tried it on icecream as a topping and it was delicious, but too runny for toast as a jam. I don’t want to reprocess the contents of the jars. All the jars ‘popped’ so have good seals. Will this ‘sauce’ keep well in these jars on a pantry shelf indefinitely, like jam would, or will it form mould eventually due to its runny consistency? Thanks.

        • Marisa says:

          They jars are perfectly fine and will keep just as the jam would have. Consistency doesn’t play any role in shelf life.

  4. 154
    Donna says:

    Used liquid pectin, 12ouncesvblackberry juice, 7 cups sugar, 3 double packs of pectin, brought to a boil twice. Jelly still appears runny this morning, all sealed. Frustrated but I’m going to leave it a couple days to see if it’s just slow to set.

  5. 155
    Janine Ruiz says:

    I I made 5 batches of choke cherry jelly. I put 2 jars from two different batches and one of the jars in the fridge set up but none of the jars on the counter set up…. ??? It hasn’t been 24 hours yet so I will continue to hope but can’t figure it out.

  6. 156
    M’Shelle says:

    So if they changed the liquid pectin would you double the liquid pectin.

  7. 157
    Linda says:

    What amount pectin would you try for 1 pint jar?

  8. 158
    Mary says:

    Question – I made marmalade, it’s my first time, and it sooooo did not set. I haven’t waited 48 hours yet. I will. Here’s my two part question:

    1. I had processed the jars in a water bath canner before I realized I had a problem. I don’t have room in the fridge for my 13 jars of runny syrup – can I leave it out on the counter?

    2. Can I wait a full week to reprocess?? It’s kind of a big project and I don’t really have time to do it now. 🙁 I don’t want to get botulism, but in theory if the jars are sealed it might be ok?? I should add the caveat that I think one problem is that I may not have enough sugar. So it’s really watery. I boiled it a good 10-15 min and it wouldn’t go above 213.

  9. 159
    Gail says:

    After you put jelly in jars do you put it in a water bath to boil??

  10. 160
    Bernadette Gallegos says:

    My jalapeno jelly did not set I’m going to redo it. do I need to rewash the jars and resterilize them.

  11. 161
    Marie says:

    I made some jelly and it didn’t jell overnight and I was wondering if 1 1/2 boxes of surejell wasn’t enough for my 10cups of juice and 11cups of sugar. Can u tell me how to fix my jelly please

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