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 determine how much jam needs to be recooked. You don’t want to remake more than 8 cups (4 pints) at a time.
  3. For every 4 cups of jam that needs to be remade, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon powdered pectin.
  4. Pour the jam into a low, wide pan and add the sugar and pectin combo. Stir until the sugar and pectin has dissolved. At this point, prepare your canning pot. Clean the jars and prep new lids.
  5. Place the pot on the stove over high heat and bring the jam to a boil.
  6. Cook vigorously for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Look for signs of thickening.
  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!

Note: I have closed comments on this post because I am not able to offer jam set solutions on an individual basis. The instructions above should resolve most underset jams. For more on the topic of underset jams, read this post.


Related Posts:

, ,

336 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. 🙁

    • 152.1
      Marisa says:

      It could be that your pectin was bad. Were you getting visible signs of set during the recook?

    • 152.2
      ann blankenship says:

      try putting a couple tablespoons of lemon juice in an boil for a few minutes sometimes this works

  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??

    • 159.1
      Marisa says:

      Yes. Always.

      • Susan says:

        I’ve made a lot of jelly over the years. I use paraffin in hot jars, seal with hot lids and bands. As long as the jars vacuum seal, I have kept them for a year or more w/o bad results. I have never used a water bath. The same has been true of bread and butter pickles.

  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

  12. 162
    Beth says:

    It sounds like you just didn’t boil it long enough to reach a temperature needed to allow it to set. You can rework it to get it to the correct consistency.

  13. 163
    Jess says:

    I made two batches of dandelion jelly and one did not set, even after giving it a week. Looked all over for help on getting it to set and found your post and immediately tried it. I think the second batch didn’t set because I used a tall, narrower pot. Your fix worked like magic. Thanks so much!

  14. 164
    Bug says:

    This is my third batch of strawberry jame and the only one that didn’t set. I used 6 cups of strawberry purée instead of 5 cups (I didn’t want to waste them) is this why it didn’t set? Can I do the thing where I add it all back in and add more pectin?

    • 164.1
      Marisa says:

      Adding more fruit could definitely the be the cause.

      • Stacy Patterson says:

        Is there any way to fix it if mine is done but runny because I used too many strawberries?

        • Marisa says:

          If you used more strawberries than the recipe suggested, you can open up all the jars and cook it down some more. Or you can embrace it as it is and call it strawberry sauce.

  15. 165
    Pam Stine says:

    Okay, I made a lot (about 40 8oz jars) of strawberry jam using liquid pectin (Certo). I doubled the first batch, but the rest of the batches were about 6 cups each (of fruit). None of the jam set properly. I set some aside to use as syrup, and reprocessed following the directions on another website. I did not add more sugar, as I was using liquid pectin, but I did add lemon juice. After about 72 hours, it still did not set. Can I reprocess a third time, and use powdered pectin? Do I have to add more sugar? Or can I just pour the jars into the pot and boil the jam longer? Please help!!

  16. 166
    Jana says:

    On May 31 I made strawberry jam and used liquid pectin (Certo). I wasn’t careful and realized that I had twice the amount of fruit and sugar than the recipe for 1 package of liquid Certo called for. To save the jam … After I dump all the fluid back into a pot — Do I add 1 teaspoon at a time until it thickens or do I add the 2 packages of liquid pectin that the recipe called for?
    After 24 hours the jam has not set and the test product in the fridge is firmer, but still not set.

    • 166.1
      Marisa says:

      If you used double the fruit, you need to use double the pectin. I’d just add in the total amount needed and boil until you see signs of thickening.

  17. 167
    Trudy Hoffmann says:

    When I made Apple jelly, it gelled on the spoon and the pan, but it did not set in the jars, I had a smidge left over and put in fridge, still syrup.

  18. 168
    Louisa says:

    Can you just boil the jars in a pot on stove for better thickness if I didn’t do that yet.

    • 168.1
      Marisa says:

      No. The increased thickness comes from evaporating water out of the jam. If you boil the closed jars, no evaporation is occurring.

  19. 169
    Barbara says:

    Please help!!

    I picked 5.5lbs of strawberries on Saturday (06/23/2018), cut them up, crushed them and used them in a jam recipe (7 C sugar, .5 Tbl lemon juice, 5 C crushed strawberries, 1 packet liquid pectin). They aren’t setting. They aren’t like WATER, but they definitely move easily in the jars when tilted. I called CERTO (Kraft, really), and the guy told me to add 3 Tbl sugar per C of jam plus 1.5 tsp fresh lemon juice and 1.5 tsp pectin. That is a LOT of sugar.

    First: can I just put all the jam back into a pot and re-boil, adding powdered pectin until it starts firming up?

    Second: can I re-use the lids, or must I buy all new ones?

    Third: thanks much in advance, hopefully someone can let me know ASAP.

    • 169.1
      Marisa says:

      Barbara, you will need to put all the jam back in the pot and bring it back to a boil. I would use more pectin and some additional sugar to prevent the pectin from clumping.

      You do need to use new lids.

      • Barbara says:

        Thank you Marisa! Must I re-boil the jars, or just the new lids? I’ve already got the jam in a big pot, will add a bit more sugar (probably 1/4 C) but the glass jars haven’t been re-boiled. I hope that’s okay!

        • Marisa says:

          You have to do the entire canning process again. Boil jar, warm jars, wash new lids, and proceed.

  20. 170
    Danielle says:

    I made a double batch of strawberry jam last night and only after processing realized I did not double my sugar. The jam is predictably runny. I DID double the pectin appropriately. When I redo, do I add the full amount of sugar that was missing? Do I add even more pectin even though the amount already included was technically right?

  21. 171
    Meg Rutan says:

    I made cherry jam according to recipe in the Ball Blue Book. I added my sugar to the cherries and got that boiling and then realized I had powdered pectin, not liquid. Looked online to see if I could substitute and got the conversion raster, but it said powered had to be added to sugar from the beginning. Now my jam is mostly liquid with cherries floating on top and not gelling at all. It’s only been about 10 hours so I know I need to let it set but I’ve got a feeling nothing is going to happen. Can I start all over again? I have no need for cherry syrup!

  22. 172
    Carol Patterson says:

    I have the same problem as Trudy Hoffman, comment #167. I made mustang grape jam and it jelled on the plate and spoon. After the water bath, the jars sealed perfectly but the jam is now very liquidy. I plan on redoing it, but why would it turn back to liquid from the water bath?

  23. 173
    Della says:

    Hi Marie! I just wanted to Thank You for all the answers you provided everyone! Must take up a tonne of time, you are appreciated!

  24. 174
    Audra says:

    I made some peach jam and let it set over night and it did not set right, still a little runny. I want to pour it back in the pot and redo it, how much more pectin should I add and should I add any more sugar or lemon juice to get it to set right? Also when I reset the lids and rings back on how long should I boil the jars ?

    • 174.1
      Marisa says:

      Audra, I just rewrote the instructions in that post to be more clear. It now tells you exactly how much pectin to use for every 4 cups of jam that needs to be remade. Once the jam is remade, you proceed as if it is a new batch. New lids and the same water bath process that you did the first time.

  25. 175

    My apricot jam didn’t set. I want to make more can I add more pectin when making a new batch. I use sure jell less sugar. When I remake my jam do I measure using a liquid measuring cup or dry cup

  26. 176
    Tim says:

    Please help. SOS. I’ve been trying to make apricot jam for 4 years from my tree. Every time I try (Every year) it comes out the same. I try everybody’s suggestions on getting the jam thicker, nothing seems to work. I’m at my whitts end. Does anybody have any idea’s? Please.

    • 176.1
      Marisa says:

      Are you using a recipe? Pectin? What’s the ratio of sugar to fruit? I need more detail to be helpful.

  27. 177
    Eileen Wood says:

    I made watermelon jelly that has not set up. Its been 24 hrs and still runny. I will give it another 24 hrs but just in case it doesn’t…I used 6 cups of watermelon juice, 1 cup of lemon juice and 10 cups sugar. I used 2 boxes (4 pouches) of certo. If it doesn’t set how much more certo to I need to add? Also actually i had one box of certo left and 1 box of liquid ball pectin. Could it fail if i used 2 different brands of pectin? and if I have to reboil can I use a box of powdered fruit pectin or do I have to stick to liquid pectin?

  28. 178
    Tessa says:

    I have made two lots of strawberry jam . One is too stiff the other too runny. It has been suggested that I put them both together back in the pan and heat it to even them up.What do you suggest?