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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187 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:

    • 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!!!!

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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?


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