Canning 101: How To Save Runny Jam

August 10, 2011(updated on March 15, 2023)

Did your homemade jam come out with a softer set than you’d like? Follow the steps in this post to save runny jam!

Six pints of jam on a wooden table, dappled with sunlight

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.

Before Reopening Those Jars

If you don’t want to invest any additional work in that jam, the best choice to make is to change your expectations. If the finished product is just sort of runny, call it preserves (they can be great stirred into oatmeal or yogurt, or spooned over waffles). If it’s totally sloshy, label it syrup and stir it into sparkling water.

Finished black raspberry jam in a red Dansk pot.

How to Save Runny Jam

However, if you’re committed to getting a nice, firm, jammy set, there is still hope. Just follow these steps.

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).

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.

For every 4 cups of jam that needs to be remade, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon powdered pectin.

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.

Place the pot on the stove over high heat and bring the jam to a boil.

Cook vigorously for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Look for signs of thickening.

Test set using plate or sheeting test (both described here).

When jam has reached the desired thickness, remove pot from heat.

Pour jam into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply brand new lids and screw on the same old bands.

Process in a boiling water bath canner for the amount of time requested in the recipe.

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.

Sharing is caring!

Posted in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

409 thoughts on "Canning 101: How To Save Runny Jam"

  • I have tried twice,, unsuccesfully to see my jelly/jam set up properly. I understand the jelly has to boil to 219 degrees. My problem is I can get it to 216 degrees and it’s all but foaming out over top of my pot. I have to lower the temp or remove it from my burner. Is that why it doesn’t set up correctly?

    1. It actually needs to cook up to 220F. It sounds like you might need to use a larger pot and stir a bit more often to tame the foaming.

  • I made a quadruple batch of peach preserves. I fully boiled rolling boil, I did the plate check and it still did not end up firm. I’m so bummed. What did I do wrong?

    1. It’s the batch size. When you increase the volume in the pot, you make it much harder to cook the water out of the fruit to the point where the preserves will set up. so even though the fruit at the top of the pot might have passed the plate test, the sheer volume means that you would have needed to cook for much longer to get the proper set. That’s why I never recommend increasing batch size.

  • I want to fix my running jam.
    I have 8 cups de jam but I used liquid pectin.please can you toll me how much sugar and pectin I have to add.

  • I made plum jam. And it is still a little running when I check it. Can I just put it in my canner and cook it a little while? So I don’t have to empty every jar? I don’t want to lose it, I put so much work in it. Any help out there?
    Thank you

    1. I don’t quite understand what you’re suggesting. But perhaps just let the jars cool and see how the consistency is later? I find that jam often firms up in the jar as it cools and sits.

    1. If it didn’t set after the first reset attempt, it probably isn’t going to work with a third try. There’s no safety reason to skip it, though.

  • Marisa,
    Thanks for saving my Beach Plum Jam! I used this recipe and the temperature method and it worked. All my Jams set.
    By the way I met you at a Canning Program in Lancaster, PA. I even purchased your book, Preserving by the Pint.

    Debra Kawaller

    1. How many times have you done it? After a second attempt, I typically look at what I have and rename it accordingly. Sometimes it’s ice cream topping, other times it becomes fruit for yogurt.