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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163 Responses to Canning 101: How To Save Runny Jam

  1. 51
    Miss K says:

    Meant to ask if can, can more then twice.

    • 51.1
      Marisa says:

      Miss K, I’ve never recanned my preserves more than once, so I just don’t know how your results will be if you try running the same jam through the boiling water bath canner a third time.

      • Miss K says:

        Thanks Marisa. Was just wondering if it could be done. Was going to add pectin if I could even tho receipe I used did not call for it, just sugar, but afraid I would not be able to reprocesses a 3rd time & add pectin to help set it up a little more.

    • 51.2
      becca says:

      This month I attempted making jelly for the first time ever after stumbling across tons of wild muscadine vines growing behind our house. 2 weeks ago I made a batch using 5 lbs fruit, 1.5 packs sure jell, and 6 cups sugar. It turned out amazing. So amazing that I went back and picked 10 lbs more of muscadines and made 2 more batches. It still tastes amazing but its definitely syrup. I feel so defeated after all the time and effort. 24 jars of muscadine syrup I now have. I was going to make gift baskets for Christmas gifts in an effort to save money this year and instead I feel that I have wasted money/time. Today after waiting 48 hrs for my jelly to set I emptied all the cans into the biggest pot I have and added 2 more packs pectin and let it boil for a few minutes. So in those 2 batches I have a total of 5 packs of pectin which is more than twice what the recipe called for. And its still runny! If making jelly is this hard I don’t know if I will do this again next year. But I would like to save what I have already made!

      • Bootsie says:

        Becca, you need to make one batch at a time. Look on our Sure Jell pack, it well tell you do not make 2 batch at one time. I have never hear of 1 1/2 packs ? Just remember one batch at a time and you’ll be ok. Don’t gave up. In the end you’ll be glad you don’t and proud if your Christmas gifts.

    • 51.3
      Molly says:

      I love your attitude. This was very helpful to my first time canning.

  2. 52
    Mike says:

    I made 2 batches of dewberry jam today and it’s wicked runny. I’m considering your suggestion to re-heat and give it another go. Any thoughts? Dewberry seems to be sort of an oddball because I can’t find a recipe for it. Thank you.

    • 52.1
      macincolorado says:

      Thanks for the tips! We recanned last night and … let’s just say that the threshold between “syrup” and “hard candy” is a mighty small one! It is now rock hard, and it happened FAST! It still tastes good, and we’ll be happy to heat and eat as crepe toppings, etc. but won’t be giving this batch away. Oh, well, this IS the Mile High City, so we’ll just chalk it up to “altitude” :-) and try again with fresh fruit. This time we’ll use your recipe – the best part of all this may end up being that it led me to your site!

    • 52.2
      Bootsie says:

      Dewberry is the best. I love it. Use your blackberry recipe on the Sure Jelly pack. Also add some lemon 4 teaspoon a recipe.

  3. 53
    Jennie says:

    I have hot pepper jam that I made in late October 2012. It did not set well, but the jars are sealed. Can I empty the jars and add pectin now and re-can or has it been too long?

  4. 54

    […] from Food in Jars really helped me save my batches: How to Ensure That Your Jam Sets and How to Save Runny Jam. I’ll be experimenting with this in the future and hope I’m successful in making a […]

  5. 55
    deborah kay braun says:

    I am just sick about my runny jam. i have been making strawberry jam for over 30 years. this has really never happened to me before, so i redid one of the batches, following the instructions on the Sure Jell box. it still has not setup. i am determined to make this happen due to the amount of money and time i have spent working on this project this past week. I would like to know what i did wrong in the first place. I followed all the instructions, researched “Rolling Boil” timed for 1 min. everything, and all three flats have come out bad. not one of them have setup.

    sick!!!!!

    • 55.1
      deborah kay braun says:

      has anyone seen my comments

      deborah kay braun

    • 55.2
      Marisa says:

      Deborah, this post contains my instructions on how to save runny jam. I am so sorry that your jam didn’t set up, but I don’t know what to tell you. You might want to consider recooking it with a different brand of pectin. I find that the Ball and Mrs. Wages pectins work better than the Sure Jell versions.

    • 55.3
      Yolanda says:

      Dear Deborah,

      I was told if the strawberries are too ripe they will not set up right. I chalked it up to a batch of strawberry syrup only to find a couple if months later that it had actually set. The flavor is good and a good consistency. Next batch I made I added a few under ripe berries – no problem with setting. Hope this helps.

    • 55.4
      Patricia says:

      I am convinced that the set of the jam has to do with how much water content is in the fruit. I too have made jams and jellies for close to 30 years and the fruit that I buy now seems to have a higher water content, not sugary juice. This is cause by the way the fruit is grown, i.e. constant drip irrigation like on blueberries. This gives them bigger berries, more weight. I’ve not had this problem with I use my own fruit. I purchased apricots to make jam, runny set. I have never had a soft set on apricots. I will reprocess them with added pectin, but will add some dried apricots to the mix too to try to stiffen things up.

  6. 56
    KimV says:

    I love this blog! I put up peaches last week, and after a frustrating 8 hours that involved more than one minor injury, I was determined to get the most out of every peach. After I did slices, preserves and jam, I turned to the pits and peels and made a tea infused peach pit jelly.

    The flavor is awesome! However, the jelly didn’t set. So, I found out you could remake it. =) Thanks for the info. I feel like the time I spent on this project taught me something, so it wasn’t a waste. I remade the jelly and reprocessed the jars and all was well. They started pinging as soon as I started to lift them from the canner. I lost 1/2 a jar, so I threw that in the fridge to have with my toast. Great. I checked the jars at 24 hours and 1… 2…. 3… 4… 5… 6… all perfect. 7… didn’t set… again.

    So my question is have you ever had this happen? One jar out of a batch set, except for one. Should I just call it syrup and move on?

  7. 57
    Jill says:

    How much time can pass before I fix or remake the jam? After a week we pulled out a jar and its runny. Can I still reprocess it or has too much time passed?

  8. 58

    […] with the sugar amounts unless you know what you’re doing. If your jam didn’t set: The internet has recipes that tell you how to re-cook and re-jar.  Unless you really need jam, don’t bother and find […]

  9. 59
    Heather Z. says:

    Honestly after putting in all of the time & effort to make a batch of preserves, if it doesn’t set up I just can’t be bothered to open up all the jars – buy new lids – & try to cook it again. So I definitely go with the “change expectations” approach. I just make up a new “syrup” label & call it a day … obviously that’s what the fruit wanted to be all along.

    One suggestion that I tell my customers if they purchase a syrup or a jelly that’s maybe not super firm/set is to use it as the base of a vinaigrette for a nice fruity dressing over a summer salad. Everyone’s like “OMG that’s such a good idea! I never would have thought about that!” … problem solved.

  10. 60
    Nancy says:

    My final batch of strawberry jam didn’t set so I am going with a label that reads “Happy Accident Dessert and Pancake Topping”. Who doesn’t like some yummy strawberries on their ice cream, pancakes and waffles?

    • 60.1
      Becky says:

      I made my 1st batch of pear preserves today & just was a syrupy mess! I called my motherlaw several times for help & she told me to get some sure jell. Her original recipe calls for as much sugar as fruit you use, just those 2 ingredients. She thought maybe b/c we’ve had so much rain here that was why so syrupy (a lot of water content to the pears). The sure jell didn’t thicken it any, so I finally just strained off some off the liquid into a bowl & proceeded cooking the pears. I kept doing the “drop of syrup in cold water til a softball” & was always dissolving. Finally it began thickening & I got 7-half pt jars out of it. I had a little leftover & put in fridge & just looked at it & is rather thick! So I hope it all doesn’t turn out too hard after all! I got to reading people’s syrup comments so I reheated the syrup I’d poured off & got 2 pts + some extra for fridge. I hope it all sets and seals properly after all the hard work! Luckily I love cooking & food so I enjoy doing it:) wish me luck that it turns out ok & doesn’t grow mold-lol

  11. 61
    Pam says:

    I made my second batches of strawberry and raspberry jam yesterday, not setting like first batch, same recipe. I mashed them in my processor instead of by hand, do i need to add more pectin and reprocess because if that?

    • 61.1
      Marisa says:

      First, give it a few more days to set up. I don’t know whether using your food processor made a difference or not. Then, if you really don’t like the consistency, add a bit more pectin, bring back to a boil and cook until it passes the set tests.

    • 61.2
      Laura Zoller says:

      I have found that using a food processor for strawberry jam changes the consistency and many times it won’t set up. I have had to re-process with additional pectin and start the canning process again.

  12. 62
    Jane says:

    Marissa– I was searching your blog because I have the opposite problem: I made blackberry jelly (no pectin, just berries, sugar, lemon juice) and it is hard as a rock! I know how to change my runny preserves into other things but have no idea what to do about this very thick, can barely get a knife in, jelly. Any thoughts? I cooked the ingredients, let them strain through a jelly bag overnight, then cooked again. Guess I cooked it too long? Thanks! :)

    • 62.1
      Marisa says:

      It definitely sounds like you cooked it too long. When you make blackberry jelly, you cook the fruit for a short time without the sugar. Then you strain, add sugar and lemon juice, and cook to set. You’ve got to stay on top of the set checks with jelly, because it can go from runny to solid in a very short time.

      I will say that overset jelly is terrific in thumbprint cookies. You can also pop it out of the jar, slice it into cubes, roll it in sugar and called it fruit candy.

    • 62.2
      Jamie says:

      Jane, Perhaps it would be good with plain greek yogurt…just a spoonful?

  13. 63

    […] possible to remake jellies that don’t set, but sometimes they get grainy so I just call it good at syrup (or “preserves” if […]

  14. 64
    Grace Smith says:

    Has anyone tried the Ball Jam and Jelly maker, I bought one and love it, jam and jelly perfect everytime. It cooks in small batches, ok with me. No stirring, it does it all. Love, Love, Love it. Got it online at Amazon, can buy it at Wal-Mart.

  15. 65
    Jo An says:

    Caramelized figs, anyone? First batch of the year got bit over-cooked…decided to take it one step further. On vanilla ice cream it is UNBELIEVABLE!!!

  16. 66
    Kevin Moyer says:

    My bro and I thought the runny strawberry jellie was the best mom ever made. We used it on ice cream,angel food cake and in milkshakes or drinks or whatever else we could think up. Thanks mom for that mistake 40 years ago. I sure would like to have more of that again.

  17. 67
    Sharon Miles says:

    I made my first small (thank goodness) batch of grape jam yesterday afternoon and it turned out runny. I thought I blended too much in the food processor and maybe used a little too much water and not enough sugar. I didn’t want it to be all sugary tasting.
    This morning, I made a peanut butter and jam sandwich, but figured I needed more jam, so I but some in a bowl. It was fun to dip!
    After reading the comments about too runny jam, I’ll let it set another day and check it. If it isn’t set, I’ll re-cook and add more pectin.
    Thank you so much for your advice and tips. Now, I don’t have to freak!! :)

  18. 68
    Mrs. T says:

    Hello! I usually follow all the steps but this time I forgot to bathe the jarred jam, is it recommended that I re jar everything or can I pop them in hot water now?

  19. 69
    Dana says:

    I, too, have made pear preserves this late summer with setting problems. I’ve been making pear preserves (the old country kind of pears) for YEARS and I’ve never had this kind of problem. Also, we’ve never had this much rain, so I am guessing the extra moisture in the pears has reduced the amount of natural pectin that occurs in fruit.
    The first batch we just went ahead and canned and they are tasty but more syruppy than I would like. The second batch, I cooked longer and harder, but still was more runny than normal.

    So today, I’m making a third batch! I’m going to cook these at a higher temp and get them good and amber, and then add a little powdered pectin to see if it helps.

  20. 70
    Jessica says:

    Hi there, I made guava jelly well any jelly for the first time ( worked very hard at it) but it never set. Unfortunately I was made to feel quite ensucure about it ;( and needed to find away to fix it( for my own commitment to the jelly) that’s how I came upon u. I will be resetting the jelly tomorrow but I have to say thank u!!!! The things u said and the positive support u give was very moving!!! “Don’t cry over spilled milk” nah… How about “Don’t cry over runny jelly”;)) thanks again!!

  21. 71
    Eric says:

    I made concord grape jelly, and it set beautifully when I tested it, but the canned versions are runny. I had a half of a pint left over that I didn’t boil with the rest of the cans, and that one set perfectly. Can something go wrong when boiling the jars? Any help would be appreciated.

    • 71.1
      Tania says:

      Eric, I just had a similar thing happen with our concord grapes. I actually made 2 batches earlier which set beautifully – my husband hand-pressed the grapes through a colander. We then got a food mill from Lehman’s because we had such a big grape crop this year and the two batches I made more recently both failed to gel and are clearly runny. However, there were “leftovers” that did not get processed (we use a steam canner, not a water bath) that had gelled beautifully, as you said. So it was a surprised to us that the ones that were processed were runny. There are several factors to consider here: first, our grapes may now be more ripe, less acidic and more sugary than were the earlier batches, and maybe this affected the sugar/acid/pectin balance; second, we used the food mill instead of pressing by hand which yielded more juice with less effort, but maybe this means we should have used more pectin than we thought (though we went according to the proper amount); third, it is possible that the jam that went into the jars that got processed came from the center of the pot whereas the last amount “leftover” came from the edges which might have gotten heated a little more or longer – in other words, there may have been uneven heating in the pot and the main bulk of the batch simply didn’t get hot enough for the pectin to properly react and set. We are using Pomona’s low-methoxyl pectin because it doesn’t require as much sugar, so I’m not sure how best to recover from this unfortunate problem. I plan to reboil each of the failed batches and add more of the low-methoxyl pectin mixed in with a small amount of sugar – I don’t want to add too much more sugar though because it’s not so good for health and we don’t care for really sweet jams. So, in short, I don’t think the problem arises when boiling (or in our case, steaming) the jam-filled jars, but arises from some factor before you filled the jars.

      • missy says:

        I just reprocessed my grape jelly. I wasn’t too sure if 1 tablespoon of pectin was enough for 6 small jars of jelly pints. I used a candy thermometer to boil jelly to 220. I do hope all this cooking a 2nd time works.

  22. 72

    […] articles from food in jars really helped me save my batches: how to ensure that your jam sets and how to save runny jam. i’ll be experimenting with this in the future and hope i’m successful in making a […]

  23. 73
    Deborah says:

    I’m not getting the ratios here. 1 tbsp of pectic powder to every 1 jar of jelly? Or maybe 1 tbsp of pectic powder to every 2 quarts of jelly? Just not sure I’m understanding your ratios above. Thanks for clarity.

    • 73.1
      Marisa says:

      I’m not operating on a ratio basis in this post. The suggestion is simply to add a little more pectin and heat back to a rolling boil.

  24. 74
    Larry says:

    How much pectin for 8 pints

    • 74.1
      Marisa says:

      Larry, there’s no one size fits all approach to the amount of pectin you add when recooking your jam. You start with a bit more and cook. Check the set and cook some more. If it’s not setting up, you add a little more pectin and cook awhile longer.

  25. 75
    Allison says:

    i have a batch of Habanero Apricot jam, well what was supposed to be jam. it is like syurp. They have been sitting in the pantry for about 3 months, is it all right to open and redo them?

  26. 76

    […] it is not ruined. According to this blog, we can reheat the jam in a wide pot and slowly stir in powdered pectin until it thickens. Practice […]

  27. 77
    Paul C. says:

    I made a double batch of strawberry jam yesterday. I made a mistake and only included 7 cups of sugar not the required 14. I put in 2 boxes on pectin and 10 cups of crushed strawberries. Is there a way to salvage this batch? Thanks.

  28. 78

    Awesome! “Ran” into some running jelly, and this worked like a charm! Thanks

  29. 79
    Mary says:

    I got my Strawberry Jam to sweet can I recook them and add some more berries, what do I do any suggestions thanks

  30. 80
    Becky says:

    Thanks! My first attempt yesterday and I ended up with floating fruit in a syrup. I think I did not cook it near long enough but today I redid it in smaller batches and it came out much better.

    • 80.1
      Jenny says:

      I had the exact same experience 2 days ago with my strawberry jam. I used liquid Certo, and I guess I used too much fruit, or maybe too ripe. I had the floating fruit in syrup too. I reprocessed it with powdered pectin (2 Tblsp for 6 cups of jam). I lost a whole jar in reprocessing – not quite sure how that happens…but it held together this time after waterbath, no separation. I’m patiently waiting to see if it jells.

  31. 81

    […] internet, I did a Google search on why the preserves were too runny.  I came across this wonderful blog site that not only saved the preserves from being too runny but told why they might not have set up the […]

  32. 82

    […] I have had great success for years using these directions. While I have never had to reprocess any jam (knock-on-wood), but if, by chance, you jam doesn’t gel, you will need to reprocess it. […]

  33. 83
    Kolleen says:

    Good Afternoon, I made blackberry jalapeno jam. When I originally made it, on Sunday the 13th it was spicy, so I processed it. Today, Thursday the 17th, popped open a jar, not spicy. Do you know if a can I open and re-process the jam?

  34. 84
    Linda says:

    Made Green Tomato Raspberry Jam with raspberry jello, but it didn’t gel. Can I remake it and add another box of jello?

    • 84.1
      Marisa says:

      Linda, I don’t make jam with Jello and so can’t advise in any way as to how to make it work. So sorry.

  35. 85
    LeslieM says:

    I’m not a very experienced jelly/jam maker. I was trying cherry jam for the first time but got distracted by uncomfortable conversation occurring at the time. I measured everything BUT the actual cherries. I had more cherries than I thought. So my jam never set and it has less sugar than it should. (Recipe said it made 7 half pints for 6 cups sugar. I have 12 half pints.)

    It’s been a week and a half. It hasn’t set. Can I start over and add sugar and pectin or is it unsafe now because I didn’t have enough sugar. (All jars are sealed.)

  36. 86
    Bethany says:

    Does this process also help thicken Freezer Jam? If I do each step except resealing the jars?

  37. 87
    mari says:

    I canned grape jelly a week ago ….they all sealed within 20 minutes. But they did not set up well (runny). Is it too late too open them and cook with more pectin and reprocess? I did go ahead and put a jar in the fridge. It jelled up some but still not to my liking as I wanted to give some for gifts.

  38. 88

    I made corn cob jelly again this year. Last year it was great. This year after boiling and adding more pectin a second time it still won’t set up. Can I yet again reboil and add more pectin. I used sure jell and won’t do that brand again. I don’t have anymore sweetcorn left to try a new batch.

  39. 89
    Clare says:

    Marisa,

    I made Cranberry Rosemary Jelly and Rosemary Jelly a few weeks ago approximating on some of the measurements (bad idea – not like pickling). It came out syrupy the first time, so I redid the batch, adding additional powdered pectin, which was what was called for in the original recipe. Things turned out significantly better, but still not a solid set. I ended up leaving it and calling it good enough. :(

    This weekend I made Texas Jalapeno Jelly which called for liquid pectin. I followed the recipe to the letter and I’d say I’m about 70-80% there in terms of consistency, but I was still not able to achieve a solid set. Did the plate test, got the film on the top, etc. and it just not “there”, you know? Can I recan this with the powdered pectin as you suggest in your post or should I use liquid pectin as that was what was originally called for in the recipe?

    I’ve been great with jams, but I’m starting to doubt my skills with jellies…

    • 89.1
      Marisa says:

      You could try to remake it with powdered pectin! Next time you make a recipe that calls for liquid pectin, make sure you’re using the Ball brand and not Certo. I find that it works much better.

  40. 90
    Ruth says:

    I have just made ( what I was told was cherry plum) was told not to use pectin as it was in plums, but it hasn’t set , I have put it in jars to see if that does the trick? I did wonder if I did to large a batch, have you any thoughts?

  41. 91
    Barbara says:

    HI, I had the same problem,I used pectin that expired and also made the mistake of adding water to it which wasn’t called for, its good to taste but Its runny. So what do I do make it thicker? Its sweet enough. Help.

  42. 92
    Stacy says:

    I made a whole 12 jar batch of jam and for the first time ever it came out like syrup. Found out afterward that my pectin was expired. When I recook, should I only add the tablespoon as you suggested, or should I add in more since I know the original stuff was bad?

  43. 93

    […] online to see what I could have done differently or what I did “wrong” and came across this website. It actually gave instructions about how to fix runny jelly. I followed the instructions the next […]

  44. 94
    Vianna says:

    I had 12 cups of juice. added 2pks sure jell. 12 cups of sugar. jelly did not jell. how do I redo jelly.

    • 94.1
      Marisa says:

      Vianna, you should divide the remaining jelly into two equal batches (because 12 cups is too much for a single batch) and proceed with the instructions in this blog post.

  45. 95
    canning old man says:

    learned never double the batch,NEVER

  46. 96
    Manda says:

    Ok I have never canned pears preserves before so I cooked as I thought was good but come to find out not long enough they are candied pears can I recook them and re water bath them

  47. 97
    Rochelle says:

    I canned plums about a month ago. I was impatience and didn’t wait till I KNEW it would set. I canned it anyway. Can I reopen now and cook it for a bit longer ? Advice?

  48. 98
    Roberta says:

    Hello there …I canned 6 pints of concord grape jelly in late September (2014) using fresh ripe concord grapes from Port Clinton, Oh .. when the jelly failed to set up I remade it again after 24 hours… I waited another 48 hours and still my jelly did not set up so I remade it again each time using more pectin as instructed in the remake directions… I did the sheeting test and the set looked good so I finally thought it would set, however, it never really did… After all this time (6 weeks) I still have “loose” preserves .. My question is, can this jelly be remade again, or should I just throw in the towel and settle for what I have…. please help !

    • 98.1
      Marisa says:

      If you’ve remade it a couple of times, I’d probably stop and accept it as-is. You’re probably not going to get a very firm set.

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