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 active).
  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. Test set using plate or sheeting test (both described here).
  7. When jam has reached the desired thickness, remove pot from heat.
  8. Pour jam into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply brand new lids and screw on the same old bands.
  9. Process in a boiling water bath canner for the amount of time requested in the recipe.
  10. When processing time is up, remove jars from bath. Let jars cool and then test seals.

That’s it!

 

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245 Responses to Canning 101: How To Save Runny Jam

  1. 101
    Christopher Q. says:

    Strawberry jam turned out more like “poached strawberries in syrup”.

    Since strawberries are so “juicy and have a huge moisture content”, how do you
    figure out the ration of pectin to fruit?

    I’m pretty exacting in recipes, and now I have 8 jars of “strawberry syrup” and followed the recipes to a “T”………..

    I know that not many guys post on these sites, but I’m single and learning how to do “stuff for myself”.

    Both batches of pickled turned out GREAT, so I don’t know what I did wrong here with the jam.

    Any hint would be great, TYIA ;))

    • 101.1
      Marisa says:

      It’s not so much about pectin content, it’s about cooking time and width of the pan. Cooking times vary a lot. Keep checking for set as the jam boils and don’t take it off the heat until it passes the set tests. Read this post: http://foodinjars.com/2010/07/canning-101-how-to-ensure-that-your-jam-sets/

      • Jennifer Cosby says:

        What does the width of the pan have to do with it?

        • Marisa says:

          The wider the pot, the more surface area you have for evaporation. That means a faster, more efficient process of cooking down your product.

          • Kimberly says:

            huh. The instructions always say “sauce pan”, but I find that my largest saucepan is still too small for one batch. I used a large skillet, but I think if I check after 48 hours (tomorrow) and its still not set up all the way, I am going to use my power burner. I don’t think that my batch got up to temperature. 🙁

    • 101.2
      Debi R says:

      Started canning last year and had great success with applesauce & fruit butters. Yesterday, I cooked up the strawberry jam (sat in the frig for 24 hours w/2 cups of sugar) and ended up with very thin jam. Decided I didn’t cook it down enough prior to adding the pectin; dumped it all back in a 16″ frying pan and let it cook down more. Back in the jars, processed it up and still have a thinner jam then preferred, but at Marisa’s suggestion on an earlier post – it will be labeled strawberry syrup – might add the word rustic. The taste is wonderful; my city’s altitude is just under 4000 ft (processing times are adjusted accordingly), I am fully prepared to have, at times, different results. My friends and family have yet to show any disappointment and have no issue with sending emails that a replenishment would be appreciated.

      Thank you Marisa for all the guidance you offer – have both books and love them!!!!

    • 101.3
      Julie says:

      Did you cook the batch for too long after adding pectin? If the recipe says to boil for 1 minute after adding pectin, don’t boil for longer than that or the pectin breaks down…I found out the hard way!

  2. 102
    Deb S. says:

    Today I canned the same blackberry jam for the third time. It looks great and acts great in the pot, but after I process it in the canner, it looks runny again.
    The first time I waited 48 hours and today’s I waited 24 hours.
    I’ve make blackberry jam for years and have never had this happen.
    Can you tell me what might have caused this.
    I used the same pot each year, I had fresh pectin, and I used the same recipe that I have been using for years.
    It’s still runny.

    • 102.1
      Marisa says:

      It could be that the blackberries had a higher water content than the ones you used in years passed. It could be that the pectin company changed their formulation. It could be that the day was more humid than years past. This is why it’s always good to check for set prior to canning, because there’s always going to be some natural variation.

      • Sarah E. says:

        See my above comment. When I called the Sure-Jell hotline, they said sometimes it’s the acidity of the fruit that keeps it from setting up. I’m going to try the method above again, and see if it works. I’m crossing my fingers. P.S. When I called the Sure-Jell pectin hotline, they also apologized and they are sending me coupons for two free boxes of their product. I thought that was fair since I have a lot of money invested in the jam so far! I’d hate to throw it out.

      • Joyce Payne says:

        I made blackberry jam and its running made three batches and all was good and set until water bath? ? I had alittle extra and put it in fridge and it perfect what is going wronG with this

  3. 103
    Amy says:

    I was trying to save time, I thought, by making all of my apple jelly in one cooking. When it didn’t set after 24 hours I was told to re-cook it again and add another box of surejell. I started with 21 pints from the first cooking and am down to 18 pints after the second cooking. If it does not set this time do I just tell everyone to enjoy the apple syrup?

  4. 104
    Michelle says:

    I have a batch of wine jelly made with liquid pectin that has failed to set. Can I use the method I see on your webpage and simply heat it in a wide pot and stir in a Tablespoon of powdered pectin? Is it possible to mix pectin types and still obtain a set?

    • 104.1
      Marisa says:

      You can try it. My method works best with jams that have some fruit fiber in them. It’s not as effective with jellies.

  5. 105
    ljmoore says:

    I am have the same issue with runny grape jelly. I have tried twice to thicken it. I am brand new at canning so I think I will label it syurp for the grand baby and move on. I made wonder pickles and salsa but the jelly thing is an art form.

    • 105.1
      phoebe says:

      I am having the same problem. I have 9 jars of grape jelly that did not set. want to fix it, but not sure how to go about it. hope you have luck with yours.

      • Debbie says:

        I made High bush cranberry jelly and it did not set..twice. I added more liquid pectin and brought it to a boil again. No luck. So frustrating. So many different ways to make it. Boil after adding pectin, don’t boil. Which is the correct way. I have done both.

  6. 106
    Sandy says:

    I made apricot jam with a recipe that called for no pectin. It is all very runny. Can I save these. The taste is great, but they did not set.
    Thanks

  7. 107
    Barbara says:

    I was thrilled to find Canning 101: How To Save Runny Jam. The beach plum jam I prepared is a candidate for the thickening recipe, but I’m not sure how much powdered pectin to use. I have 12 pints to thicken (24 1/2 pint jars). Is the one tablespoon in your recipe enough? Thank you!

  8. 108
    jon says:

    when remaking the jam are you using regular fruit pectin or no sugar pectin?

  9. 109
    Margaret says:

    Hi! I made a cranberry strawberry jam and my second batch is a bit runny. I’ve already processed it in the water bath and I’m waiting until tomorrow to see if it’s still runny. But if it is, can I open the jars and reheat and add more pectin? I used sure jell liquid pectin, and it’s four pints of jam. How much liquid pectin should I add? Thank you!

    • 109.1
      Jean says:

      Margaret, I made strawberry/cranberry jam yesterday too! I was using a Christmas jam recipe that I used last year with good results. This year’s batch turned out a little runny, although the taste is wonderful. I doubled the recipe, which I read now is a “no no”. I had about a cup and a half I did not have a jar for, that I was keeping in the refrigerator for personal use. I boiled it u til it reached 220 degrees, using a candy thermometer, while stirring continuously. I then did the plate test as described on this site, and it seems to have done the trick. It did get noticibly thicker, so I will wait and see. if it worked, I will buy new lids and reboil my jarred jam to 220, reseal and process in a water barh. Good luck with yours!

  10. 110
    ping says:

    your recipe didn’t indicate how may cups of runny jam to re-do

    • 110.1
      Marisa says:

      It’s true. Because it’s more of a technique than an exact formula. You reheat it with some additional pectin and see how it’s starting to set up. If it is still reluctant to set, you cook longer and perhaps add a little more pectin.

  11. 111
    Brandon Gerdes says:

    Hi I made 2 batches of strawberry jam and neither have set right they are soupy. How much liquid pectin do you recommend I use basically I have 6 quarts total to fix.

  12. 112
    Cory says:

    I made an orange jelly batch last night and the recipe says to wait 24 to set. The 24 hours are almost up and it’s still pretty runny. I’ll go ahead and wait 48 hours and see if it sets; if it doesn’t, i’ll attempt to reheat and add pectin. Due to work i won’t be able to be home til a day after, will it be ok to wait an extra 24 hours after the 48 before i attempt to fix it?

    • 112.1
      Marisa says:

      That is fine. I’ve waited weeks before remaking batches of jam.

      • beth says:

        so glad to see this comment! i have a batch of strawberry rhubarb that didn’t set up the way i wanted it to, although the jars did seal, and i’ve been ignoring the jars, as if that would make the frustration go away. 🙂 good to know it’s still okay to remake.

  13. 113
    Debra says:

    Frustrated! I have been canning most of my life and never had a problem. I am making peach jam, as I have for years. The only difference, this year I used liquid pectin and my jam won’t set! I am looking at 757 peaches that will rot quickly! I can’t use the powdered pectin as I get violently I’ll from any kind of artificial sweetener IT’S IN ALL OF THE POWDERED! When did they start using this poison? Does anyone have a suggestion? Thank you!

  14. 114
    Amy says:

    I tried making apple cinnamon jelly. I followed the directions and I can’t get it to thicken. I tried adding more pectin and it’s not thickening.. Any ideas this is the third time trying..

    • 114.1
      Marisa says:

      Without knowing the recipe that you were using as a starting place, I can’t even begin to attempt to help. So sorry!

  15. 115
    Tara says:

    Do you know will this work with a freezer jam recipe? I used a different pectin than normal and didn’t think the prep would be different – read after the fact that it was different and now have runny jam. I used Ball Classic Real Fruit Pectin. Thanks in advance.

    • 115.1
      Marisa says:

      Freezer jams are an entirely different beast. These tips will not save freezer jam, because it’s an uncooked jam.

  16. 116
    Sharon says:

    My head is spinning. I made 3 batches of jam. The first one perfect. The second ok. Third, runny. I’ve been reading directions for ‘remakes’ and came across yours which seems to be the easiest. But I’m confused. Others call for water, more sugar, lemon juice, pectin. I feel this added sugar is too much. I see you add only pectin. Will it work?

    • 116.1
      Marisa says:

      There is no perfect solution to remaking jam. This technique works for me, but honestly, I can’t promise that it will work for you, because there are no guarantees in life or jam making.

      • Sharon says:

        It worked! I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive to try it. But it was either that or syrup! My jam came out just right. I reboiled each batch, added the pectin and this morning my jam is great. Thank you Marisa. I’m glad I came across your site!

  17. 117
    nancy says:

    can you fix jelly ( that did’nt set ) the same way you fix jam .

  18. 118

    […] I was faced with several jars of syrup instead of jelly. Happily, I was able to find directions on how to rescue jelly and this story had a happy […]

  19. 119
    Brittany says:

    Can I do this same rescue with liquid pectin?

    • 119.1
      Marisa says:

      I don’t recommend it, because you have less control over the amount of pectin you end up using.

  20. 120
    Stacey says:

    Can I use this method of I started with liquid pectin ?

  21. 121
    Sarah V. says:

    Is there a companion post for jam that set up too firm? I used the recipe on your guest post from Todd Van Atter, for blueberry jam, and it is SET. (I was suspicious of two packets of pectin but I’m a new canner so I went with it. Oops!) Any advice?

  22. 122
    Kassy says:

    I have a question… I made my first batch of jam tonight but the recipe didn’t call for a water bath processing. I had hot jars and lids (not boiled lids), and I used boxed pectin in the recipe. I didn’t use as much sugar as the recipe called for, which I think now was a mistake. I added probably 3 cups of sugar instead of 4 cups. It seemed like a lot of sugar and tasting the jam while cooking tasted really sweet. It’s only been an hour since I finished making the jam, but my jam isn’t setting. I am nervous it won’t set! So if it doesn’t set, I would like to try to re-set it, but I am not sure how long to process it for. It’s Strawberry Saskatoon jam. Can you help me? Thanks!

    • 122.1
      Marisa says:

      Before you freak out about the set of this jam, let it sit for at least 24 hours. Jam rarely sets up immediately. It often needs to fully cool for a day before you can determine whether the set is too soft or not. However, if it doesn’t set, the issue may be the reduced sugar. At this point, you’re best off calling it sauce and not worrying about the set too much. For more about what sugar does in canning, read this blog post: http://foodinjars.com/2012/07/canning-101-sugars-role-in-home-preserved-food/

  23. 123

    new to this site and it answers all my questions – Great !

  24. 124
    LuAnne says:

    I made a tomato jam recipe that didn’t call for pectin. I was skeptical about it thickening enough but people were saying it turned out great so I tried it. I should have listened to myself because it’s very runny after 2 days…even the partial jar I put in the fridge is still runny. Can I use this method to thicken a jam that didn’t have pectin added to begin with? Instead of reprocessing, could I just heat the jam and add some pectin every time I open a new jar, then just keep that jam refrigerated? I used half pint jars, though, so that might be tricky.

    • 124.1
      Marisa says:

      I don’t think that this approach would work for tomato jam. Most tomato jams thicken through reduction, like fruit butters.

  25. 125
    Megan says:

    You say to add 1 TBSP of powdered pectin to the jam – but exactly how much liquid would be in the pot? There are many recipes out there – each one with difference jar sizes/amounts. Would it be 1 TBSP to 8 half pint jars?

    Also, it this no sugar required pectic or sugar required pectin? I have both on hand.

    I am planning on reprocessing my jam tonight so this information would be very helpful!

    • 125.1
      Marisa says:

      I use 1 tablespoon of conventional fruit pectin (the one that needs sugar) for an average sized batch of jam, which to my mind is one that starts with between three and four pounds of jam. However, there are a lot of variables here. Was this a low sugar batch of jam? If so, this approach may not work.

      Before you proceed, make sure to read this post: http://foodinjars.com/2016/08/jam-didnt-set-what-to-do/

  26. 126
    Jimmy johnson says:

    My wife used original sure jell when revipe called for no sugar pectin and peach jam did not set any thing we can do to save we tried the save or fix thst vomes in box but did not work

  27. 127
    Kathleen says:

    I worked for 10 hours yesterday trying to make peach jam…my husband had gotten up early and peeled ALL the peaches, thinking he was helping me. I had 3 pots going all day long, one I was doing 1 batch in at a time, 1 had 2 batches at a time, and 1 had 3. I used liquid pectin for all. I never even water bathed them because I was falling asleep! Now I wake up this morning and none of them are set. I am new to canning jam and had no idea making large batches wouldn’t work. I have 60 quarts and 11 pints!!! Do you think I can fix them?

  28. 128
    Mo says:

    I just canned some peeper relish that required 16oz of liquid certo. I made a big mistake and only used 5.7 oz (what a dummy!!). I processed the jars and didn’t realize my mistake until after. I realize that the relish will be more runny, but will the relish still be preserved ok with the smaller amount of certo? I don’t want to poison anyone…thanks for any help you can give.

    • 128.1
      Marisa says:

      Pectin doesn’t make something safe or unsafe, so your relish is fine. I’m surprised that you have a recipe that calls for 16 ounces of liquid pectin, though. That’s a hell of a lot of pectin.

  29. 129
    Molly says:

    Reading through all the comments I see that you don’t recommend this method for jellies that had liquid pectin in the original recipe. Is there absolutely no hope for those? Could you point me to any other post you might have done covering this. The recipe I followed for rhubarb/habenero pepper jelly had a yield of 13 half-pints and I was counting on them being Christmas gifts but who wants syrup like that? Not a very useful product. Sad Canner Face here. Pomona’s from here on out, no more liquid pectin recipes!

  30. 130
    Margo says:

    Help! My red pepper relish recipe started with 4lb (9 large)sweet red shepherd peppers and 2 small hot (London like Italy) red peppers.6 cups sugar 1cup vinegar . After cooking for two hours and adding to pouches liquid certo (new) at the end (and keeping simmering as I quickly filled my 16 oven sterilized jars and added sterile lids…I got 11 cups of TOO hot unset “jelly”.how can I “cool” it and set it? I have more Liquid Certo and after I wait longer (so far refrigerating is no help)can I make a batch with No hots and combine? ( I only have two sons in law who like spicy) Did I kill the pectin by simmering while filling jars? (10 mins)
    I’m a discouraged rookie.

  31. 131
    Wanda says:

    I made 2 batches of strawberry jam (using the recipe included in the MCP pectin)… neither one set up :(, tried the ‘reboil, add a box of dissolved pectin) fix as per instructions… 1 batch set, 1 did not… now I’m not sure what to do?… just reboil 1 more time ?… add any more pectin?

    • 131.1
      Marisa says:

      How big are the batches you’re making? Try using a low wide pan and dividing the jam into two pans, for better evaporation.

      • Wanda says:

        each batch was per recipe… 5 3/4 cup of fruit and 8 1/2 cups sugar… = 11 cups
        … so just bring the jam back to a boil for …1 or 2 minutes???

        • Marisa says:

          You need to boil it until it thickens. One or two minutes isn’t going to be enough. Cook until the temperature elevates to 220 degrees F. That’s the point at which sugars thicken and bond with the pectin.

  32. 132
    Tina says:

    I’m just relieved to know it’s safe – this was my first attempt at jam and I was planning to give the jars as gifts. I’ve been online trying to find out if the texture meant my food wasn’t safe (the jars sealed just fine and I boiled them the whole time the recipe said to boil them). Now that I know my runny jam won’t kill anyone, I’ll just add some chocolate chips to the gift box and call it “ice cream topping”.

  33. 133
    susan says:

    what is the difference between Sure Jell and MCP by Sure jell?? Thanks,

    Sue

    • 133.1
      Marisa says:

      Unfortunately, I really don’t know. I don’t use a lot of Sure Jell. I typically use either Ball or Pomona’s Pectins.

  34. 134
    Lewis Groome says:

    I tried to make cinnamon apple jelly with red delious apples. I measured 5 1/2 quarts of juice after straining the apples. I added 4 cups sugar and a box of or one package of Sure Jell and cooked the sure jell for 1 minute and mixed it in the apple juice. I checked the temperature at 220 degrees and removed from heat and added 2 drams of oil of cinnamon and stired real good and filled 8 oz jars a 1/4 inch from top and placed the seals and bands on tight and waited for the jars to seal. All the jars sealed, but none of them set. I went to bed for 7 hours to set. I got up this morning at 5:15am December 2 2016 and none of them set. How can I make this right? I was hoping to have Christmas presents made from this jelly and now I have nothing but runny solution. HELP!!!!!!

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