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.

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441 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.

  • Hay I need your help. I probleydid lost wrong this time. My 1st set 5 yrs ago made candy. 2nd was perfect. Now 3rd is not getting thick. First I chopped the pear with processer instead of hand cutting. Did the sugar and over nite thing
    Put pears in blue pokedot canner and cooked it on my propane burner. 3 hours I thought I was told somewhere to let it simmer so that’s what I did and I used a wooden spoon no reason just like them. Then it started sticking an tord thread of 3 hours I changed pots to a Stanly steel simmer it still runny added pectin powder. It Never got thick. Have not put then in jars. If you get this before 11:00 central time. going to do nothing untill I hear from you. You ok put in fridg. till tomorrow.

    1. Chopping in the food processor does break the fruit down more and can lead to a less firm set. You also need to boil it hard to get a set, not simmer it. Boil and stir frequently. That should get it there.

  • Oh thank you such for all your know I want make the same mistakes again still learning im 75yr old an love canning
    GOD Bless. Dyanne sapp I was gonna say in my first you can text ne if you want 13342081922 tanks again dy

  • I re did my plum jam did exactly what you said and it turned out beautifully. And i am a happy canner again. And by the way i used sure jell pectin . Thank you for sharing your tricks on how to save my jam. This was the first time since i started canning and that was 30 years ago that it didn’t set

  • A friend gave me a jar of her homemade raspberry, rhubarb, and strawberry jam. I took it on the airplane to fly home. It has lost it’s thickness. How to I make it thick again.

  • My fig jam is still a bit runny after cooking and waterbathing for 5 min.. Can I waterbath it again for say 10 min longer instead of opening the jars and to cook it again in an open pot?
    Please email me as soon as possible ….

    1. Increasing the processing time doesn’t have any impact on set. The reason recooking it works is that it allows you to evaporate out some additional water, which helps the jam thicken. Extra processing time won’t solve this problem.

  • I tripled my strawberry jam recipe but didn’t add all the sugar Sure Jell called for and my jam is runny, how can I fix? I used 5 cups strawberries with 5 cups sugar times 3 in one pot, help please

    1. It’s never a good idea to increase the batch size, especially if you’re reducing the sugar. The best thing to do it break it down into smaller batches and recook it.

  • Should I add more lemon juice to my mulberry jam if I put it back to thicken more. I don’t think I added enough.

    1. The lemon juice doesn’t have much impact on the set. If it is too runny, you probably didn’t cook it long enough.

  • Hello!! We made a batch of cherry jam and batch of strawberry jam 6-9 months ago that didn’t set. We were going to redo them but things got busy & we didn’t. Is it too late to try to redo the jam to get it to set?
    Thanks so much!!

    1. It’s not too late to redo it. You can still follow the instructions in this post to recook the jam.

  • Can I use powdered pectin for the second time around if I used the liquid pectin the first time? I have boiled this batch twice using Certo with no luck. Reading this I can see that I was cooking way too much at once the second time around. That’s an easy enough fix for me to try a third time & hope for the best. I just didn’t know if it is okay to change to powdered pectin in a batch that has liquid pectin in it.

  • I fallowed instructions on the sur gell ( pectin) box and and let set for 24 hrs after mixing strawberries with it. It still to runny. Was wondering why?

  • Thank you so much for this! I’m glad I found your page and helpful hints because I added my sugar too early this year. Will give it 24-48 hours and see what happens.

  • I’ve never had any luck processing jam the first time and always have to redo it. For some reason though I always end up with one less jar of jam after reprocessing. I start with 7 and after reprocessing end up with 6. Why is that? Am I doing something wrong?

    1. Are you recooking the jam because it’s not thick enough? Or are you redoing it because the jars haven’t sealed?

    1. Given that I don’t know the recipe you started with or any changes that you made to it, I can’t really advise you. Since it hasn’t set up twice now, you might be better off calling it syrup and moving on.