How can I “repair” too runny/too solid homemade jam/jelly?

It’s very definitely jam season at the moment (in the UK at least) and I thought it might be fun to hear people’s favourite fixes for sticky situations (ho ho!) when the preserves don’t come out quite as you’d hoped.

How do you test for the set point? The most common method seems to be the “when it wrinkles on a cold plate” test but anyone use any other methods?

What do you do if it’s too runny once in jars? Or too solid?

And, not quite in the question but related, do you use/reuse anything interesting instead of commercial-bought pectin?

And any tips for reusing old jars? Reusable alternatives for waxed discs?

Finally, what do you do with jam that can’t be saved – stuff that burnt in the pan for example?

(“Why is this on Recycle This?” I hear you ask because it is a little tenuous as a “repair”. Well, one, because with the giant piles of fruit in our kitchen at the moment, I’ve got jam on my mind. And two, because jam failures may lead to food waste – and if we can save some rescueable jam from going in the bin, that’s a good thing.)

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58 Responses to “How can I “repair” too runny/too solid homemade jam/jelly?”


  1. Alexis says:

    if its too runny I have two solutions:

    1) add an apple or two (mainly the core where most of the pectin is I think)
    2) pop out into your herb bed and pick some basil, or rosemary, or . . . (depending on your “jam” and your taste) and dump that it at the last minute – and turn a runny jam into a yummy accomaniment to savoury dishes.

    I don’t use bought pectin (to be honest i’ve never been happy with the results) but rely heavily on apples, and similarly med-high pectin fruits. I have seen a recipie for making your own pectin to store until needed, if you’re interested i’ll see if I can dig that up.

    • C McBrayer says:

      I would be interested in your recipe for making your pectin. You can
      email me at: clam5152@gmail.com. Thanks.

    • albie powers says:

      Hi Alexis,I would be interested in your home made pectin if you have found it.

      Regards
      Albie

    • SEREIMA RATU says:

      YES TEL ME THE HOMEMADE PECTIN

    • Beckie says:

      I would be very interested in your recipe for making your own pectin…I have also used jello as a way to stiffen refrigerator/freezer jam, usually the sugar free and then add my own sugar.
      Thanks for sharing..

    • Sandra McKendry says:

      I was wondering if you had found that recipe for the pectin. I’ve made marrow, ginger and lemon jam with sugar with pectin in it and it didn’t set its very runny. recipe said to boil for 10mins but sugar said 4, I followed the recipe. do you think I should just try and boil again with some apple cores (is it cooking apples) in a muslin bag or something.

      Thanks

      Sandra

  2. Bobbie says:

    I have always turned runny jam/jelly into syrup for pancakes, lol!

  3. john b says:

    I’ve never used pectin-never seen the point, if jam is too solid then declare it a “cheese” (such as damson cheese) if its too runny then you could always make it into booze with the addition of more sugar, water and yeast. i tend to just eat it anyway.
    plastic coated lids are a good reusable alternative to wax disks.

  4. I used lemon juice to make it set

  5. Dame Peggy says:

    I’ve been busy making all sorts of jams and marmalades over the past few weeks especially now the hedgerows are full of FREE blackberries!

    As far as I know, there is not much you can do if the jam is too hard – usually an indication that you have over-boiled it.

    If too runny, you can pour back into a pan and re-boil – that seems to work.

    I just use ordinary sugar for all mine – the cheaper, the better – and don’t bother with ‘jam sugar’ or ‘preserving sugar’ and I’ve had excellent results.

    Depending on the fruit you are using, tie cores, pips, etc, into a square of muslin and boil with the fruit mixture – obviously remembering to remove later! The pips are where most of the pectin is – adding lemon juice is also good.

    I invested about £6 or £7 in a jam thermometer – as long as you bring to ‘setting temperature’ (105 degrees) you shouldn’t have any problems.

    Hope that helps?

  6. megan says:

    runny jam is a great addition to yogurt and ice cream, as a glaze for muffins and sweet loaves, and as a base for sweet and sour or chutney or plum sauce or other dipping sauces.

    we made a hot pepper jelly once that we had to rename “hot pepper resin” it was delicious if you heated the jar in hot water to soften it.

  7. Judy says:

    If the jam is too runny then re boil adding either pectin (found in apples) or you can buy the liquid stuff called Certo. An apple chopped finely to the fruit will help thicken it up. Or if you use jam sugar at the beginning of making jam then runny jam doesn’t happen.

  8. chicgeek says:

    My mother always added a small amount of underripe fruit to the batch, to help with setting up. Don’t ask me why it should work. *shrugs*

  9. I just reboil it if it is too runny but I make mine in a microwave so none of this pectin/large jam pan/or thermometer business for me! many people think it’s cheating to use a microwave but when I can go from fruit to jam in about 10 minutes then that is good! The recipe is here if you fancy giving it a go :) http://swirlyarts.blogspot.com/2008/08/easiest-way-to-make-jam-ever.html

  10. Alice says:

    OMG – someone just suggested to me that I could chuck all my too-sloppy strawberry jam in a bucket, add some pectin destroying enzyme, and use it as the basis for strawberry wine :-)

  11. Cedar Wilde says:

    If the jam is too runny you could put it back in the pan and add pectin which is available from most supermarkets (in my experience) or you could add lemon juice or chopped apple. If it is too stiff I put it back in the pan and add water and dissolve it until it is the right consistency and rebottle. You probably won’t need much water.

  12. Eddie says:

    I have been experimenting a bit with jellies and this is the last batch with blackberries: http://www.roued.com/2010/08/31/more-jelly/

    I have also had a go at making jar lids a bit more fun: http://roued.com/design/the-jars-are-ready/
    and come up with an idea for recycled jar covers with the jelly type stamped on top: http://roued.com/design/what-is-in-that-jar/
    I rather like this last idea as it uses up old bits of fabric I had and they are reusable next time I make a batch.

  13. Lyndsey says:

    I have Strawberry Jam that has gone very hard even though I used my thermometer and watched it very carefully. I really don’t want to waste it, can any one suggest what I should do so we can enjoy the jam!

    • Kitty says:

      add boiling water and stir it in, bring to a boil if necessary to incorperate the water. works well.

      • Jasmine says:

        Brilliant. Thank you! My strawberry preserves refused to set so I reboiled them, and then they set too much! They are delicious to eat with a spoon but I cannot allow the children to know. ;)

  14. Alison says:

    Am going to try using my too-firm jam as a caramel on shortbread.

  15. Mrs. Howard says:

    When my orange marmalade set up too hard, and after I opened it to use it, I just added some boiling water to it stirred it and wala it was perfect. We ate it too fast to be an issue I think but I did sterilize the water. When i gave it away I told the people to do the same and we haven’t had any problems and it was still just as delish but easier to spread on the bread. Also, my recipe called to cook it 220 degrees, do you think that is too much?

    • Iolanthe Randlehoff says:

      I just boiled grape jam but it was too hard i will definately try the water and let you know. I also do my jams in the microwave!

  16. Mrs. Howard says:

    Anyone know the temp; to cook orange marmalde. My recipe said 220 degrees and twice it set up too firm. I am at 6200 ft altitude, does that make a differance? Thanks for any help!!

    • Kitty says:

      Mrs Howard, at 6000 feet there isn’t enough atmosphere to raise the temp on your jelly and keep it from all steaming off. I don’t know the technical terms but it goes like this.

      due to the low atmospheric pressure, the jelly boils at a lower temperature. so more of the liquid steams away before it ever (probably never) reaches 220. try the spoon test. when the jelly gets to the point that it coats your spoon about as thickly as thick cream, you’re done.

      • Mrs. Howard says:

        thankyou so much that will really help me since i think 220 is too high for this high altitude.

      • BoB Underwood says:

        “I don’t know the technical terms but it goes like this.

        due to the low atmospheric pressure, the jelly boils at a lower temperature. so more of the liquid steams away before it ever (probably never) reaches 220.”

        The technical term you are thinking of is called Boyles Law: PV is proportional to T, where P is pressure, V is volume, and T is temperature.

        A pressure cooker (autoclave) uses this principle in reverse to cook foods more quickly. When water is boiled in a closed container, the steam raises the pressure inside the container. As the pressure increases, the water boils at a hotter temperature. The hotter temperature cooks the food faster.

    • Sara says:

      The rule of thumb is that you reduce the temperature of a recipe by 2 degrees for every 1000 feet of elevation. Since I live at 5000 feet, I reduce the temperature by 10 degrees. When I go up to 9000 feet, then I reduce the temperature by 18 degrees.

  17. carolina moon says:

    I am just under 7000 feet as well and 220 does seem to be too high for me (likely because it takes longer to get to that temperature at this altitude). I have had more success at 210. As for pectin, I only use fruit pectin. Although I do agree that apple serves as a great source of pectin, I don’t like the slimy texture of cooked apples so instead, I found a great alternative that is a perfect alternative for my taste buds. I slice just below the surface of a lemon peel (avoiding as much of the white as possible as this is where the bitter taste is stored) and depending on the jam, I either leave it in long strips to pull out and eat as a treat prior to pouring into the jars (the balance of sweet to sour is delicious and the peel takes on a chewy texture that I like) or I chop up very finely and allow the peel to mingle with the fruit. It is my preferred alternative to apple and I use the peel in addition to the lemon juice that is typically called for in most recipes. I have also used lemon zest but for some reason, the cut method seems to set better. I don’t have a specific measurement that I use but usually (depending on the batch) I include no more than half a lemons worth.

    • Mrs. Howard says:

      Carolina, thanks so much for your comments. My marmalade at 210 degrees set up more like jelly which you can spread nicely. How is the marmalade suppose to be??? Quite firm??? When good eats alton took some out of a commercial jar it looked quite firm and he spread it on his toast with a spoon. Persoanlly I like it like jelly, so much easier to spread and it is my fav jam now. Even more than frozen raspberry jam which has been my fav for 40 years.

  18. Deb says:

    My hot pepper jam tastes & “looks” fabulous, but it turned to syrup. Any solutions to turn it to jam??

  19. Kitty says:

    Reheat it to boiling, then rebottle it as though it were fresh. use fresh lids don’t reuse the ones you took off.
    if it’s to thick, reheat it with a 1/4 cup full of water to thin it. I’ve done that with store bought jelly that was as thick as jello blocks. it was then spreadable.

  20. debby says:

    I made peach jam on a new stove and didn’t get the consistency right. The juice was runny. When I open a jar, I whizz it down with one of those hand-held blender sticks. The fruit chunks are gone then but it evens out the consistency.

  21. BoB Underwood says:

    The original post also asked about scorched jam. Here is a barbeque sauce recipe inspired by a batch of grape jam my wife once scorched. The units are American, so you will have to change them into SI. The recipe makes about a liter.

    I smoke meat with fruit woods (apple, plum, grape, cherry) and had a hunch this sauce would be a good compliment…. it was. But you can also use it with hickory, alder, or mesquite smoke, and probably whatever wood you all smoke with.

    2 cups Heinz catsup- for best taste in my opinion!
    1 cup brown sugar
    ½ cup Worcestershire Sauce
    1Tbsp. minced garlic
    1tsp. onion powder
    ¼ tsp. cayenne
    ¼ tsp. ground cloves
    1/tsp cumin
    2 Tbsp liquid smoke*
    ½ cup grape jam

    *the original recipe used scorched jam, I added the liquid smoke when I ran out of the scorched batch.
    I don’t know if you can buy commercial liquid smoke in England. It is simply smoke infused water. Set a pan of water in the barbeque while it is smoking.

  22. Melissa K says:

    I canned 19 jars of Grape Concord Jam yesterday, but it is runnier than Jelly today. It did not set. Can I still save it 24 hours later?
    It was so much work and I really am devastated, I spent a whole day off and ruined it. Not to mention I feel as though I ruined preserves that I was making not for me but my extended family. :( Is there any hope?

  23. BoB says:

    I had the same problem with a batch of plum jam I put up this weekend.
    But I noticed the jam in the “leftover” partial jar I put in the refrigerator had set up. So I put the whole batch in. 24 hours later, it is all setting up.
    So, before you do anything, just put it in the refrigerator for a day or so to see if it will set up.

    Cheers,
    BoB

  24. Melissa K says:

    Thank you, I will try that :)

  25. Barbra says:

    Apple Jelly… went to the shelf and the jelly was so hard it was like rock in a jar..why did this happen…just curious so that when I make my own I can avoid this situation

  26. Germania says:

    I made 16 jars of Mulberry Jam last week using jam setting sugar and it came out runny. I had previously made 19 jars of Blackberry jam last season using the same method and it set beautifully. I was so disappointed but didn’t want to toss the Mulberry jam out, so put it back into pot ( did it in 2 batches) and added Jamsetta Pectin to it. I then strained out the pips/fruit and ended up with delicious clear jelly style Mulberry jam. It set beautifully and I was so happy to have ‘rescued’ it!! Phew!

  27. Pauline says:

    I made a batch of tangerine marmalade today,used my usual recipe,but this time it hasn’t set. Bought jam sugar by misjake (was rushing round supermarket & stressed) didn’t think there would be a problem. As the sugar has a setting agent I left out the Lemon juice. Is this why it hasn’t set?
    Recipe is 1lb fruit, 1.5lb sugar & 1.5pints water.
    Thanks if anyone can help.
    Pauline.

  28. cappenzz says:

    You do need acid to get the pectin to gel. Lemon juice is called for if a particular type of fruit needs more acid. Here is a trouble shooting guide for jam making
    http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/jellyproblems.html

    Here’s another page on remaking soft jams and jellies, as we call them in the U.S.
    http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/remake_soft_jelly.html

    And here’s one on remaking too-stiff jams and jellies.
    http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/stiff_jelly.html

    Click the “How do I…” button on these pages for more helpful information.

  29. Meg says:

    I’m new to jam making, but I had really great success with my first jam, which was raspberry, then got adventurous and did a tomato jam and it set like resin in the jar : ( I really did follow the recipe, can anyone tell me what I’ve done?

  30. Row says:

    I rescued an overcooked batch of quince jelly today, it was practically toffee! After digging it out of the jars, I returned it to the pot, covered with boiling water. The big blobs weren’t desolving since it was so firm, but a quick whiz with the stick blender got it down to a meltable consistency again! Fresh jars and now its fine…Phew!

  31. Peter says:

    PLEASE HELP ! I had 10 cups of apple “juice”left over after stewing about 30 organic apples which have been frozen for pies etc.
    However with the remnant cores and skins I brought them up to boil in the 10 cups of apple juicr,added 6cups of sugar and 2 pits of jam setting powder ( at appropriate times) and poured into prepared jars.
    RESULT – thick but liquid apple jelly!
    Added another pkt of jelly setting powder after re- boiling.
    RESULT – thicker but still liquid jelly! #¥#¥#¥#¥*******.
    Have put into fridge overnight – but any ideas if this doesn’t work???

  32. juli says:

    my jelly called for 8 cups of juice and I only add for ( grandson was hollin Granny Granny) did not relived it till next day! DARN!!!! so can it be fixed ?
    anyone please , can I reheat and add the other 4 cups of juice/

  33. Robin says:

    I have made raspberry habanero jam many times and this last batch did not set for me so I reboiled it added everything that I was taught when jam does not set, so my question is can I redo this again or should I just call it a day and call this syrup

  34. Lisa says:

    HELP! I have made 6lbs of seedless blackcurrant jam in 2 different pans and I cant get either to set (ie wrinkle on a cold plate). Whats the best thing to do as its supposed to be xmas pressies … Cheers

  35. joxer says:

    how much water do I use to rescue strawberry jam that is too hard.

  36. joxer says:

    how much water do I add to strawberry jam that is too hard

  37. Lacey LeRoux says:

    I think I added too much water to my crab apple jelly when I was at the beginning boiling (turning it into much) step. The website I went off of said that I should put enough water to JUST cover the apples in the pot, so that’s what I did. After doing the next steps and when it came time to the actual final boiling and canning part of it, I did everything like it was stated on the website that I used. However, I sadly woke up this morning to overly sweet crab apple juice in sealed jars, rather than delicious jelly.
    I once again turned to the internet for answers (which brought me to this site) and it said that I might have added too much water and should re-do everything and add some pectin. I am okay with doing this all over again, but I need to know how long I need to do some stuff as well as how much more of everything I need to add. Here are the amounts I have used:

    Crab Apple Juice 8 Cups
    Sugar 6 Cups
    Lemon juice 2 tbsp.
    and 1 package of pectin

    How long do I simmer my juice for to get enough of the water out so I can try again?

    Do I have to add more sugar?

    How much more Pectin do I have to add?

    Do I have to boil it longer then the first time?

    Please someone help me out.

  38. Sandra McKendry says:

    Hi I have made marrow, ginger and lemon jam and I used sugar with pectin but its too runny not sure if it was under or I missed the setting point. Some had a recipe for pectin would it help and could some one email it to me or if I dissolved leaf gelatine would and mixed it in would that would. Or do you think I should just re boil. There is lemon in it and I’ve pips in muslin and everything. Ive made marrow and plum and it set great and apple and black berry no problem. Really don’t understand it at all.

    Thanks

  39. Sandra McKendry says:

    Hi I have made marrow, ginger and lemon jam and I used sugar with pectin but its too runny not sure if it was under or I missed the setting point. Some had a recipe for pectin would it help and could some one email it to me or if I dissolved leaf gelatine would and mixed it in would that would. Or do you think I should just re boil. There is lemon in it and I’ve pips in muslin and everything. Ive made marrow and plum and it set great and apple and black berry no problem. Really don’t understand it at all.

    Thanks Sandra

  40. Sean Xavier says:

    hey people im from india ,chennai.. I MADE MIXED FRUIT JAM and it set awesome yesterday but today its too runny:( what do i do??and one more thing im making 15 jars of mixed fruit jam everyday and selling it,its a fun business and hobby for me,!!id like to know what you add to PRESERVE JAM??waitin fr yaa’l reply

  41. Sue Stephens says:

    Pour it on ice cream or other desserts as a sauce.

  42. Gail says:

    Hi everyone! I have 2 questions…..

    I made grapefruit marmalade and overcooked it – if i put it back into the pot and add boiling water, then mix it up, will it be ok if I put it back into freshly sterilised jars?

    Also, my Mum gave me a huge jar of home made jam and I’d like to put it into smaller jars. Should I sterilise some fresh jars then transfer the jam in once they’ve cooled, or is there a better option?

    Thanks :)

  43. Barb says:

    Marmalade made for the first time. Tasted great. However Over cooked it trying to make sure I got a good set. So sticky when cooled like tar. I took some advice from here and tried adding boiling water to a small dish. Success!!! Suggest u only do a jar when u have opened it. To save all the sticky mess. Also added a little whisky with the water. Really good. Having made jam, jelly and chutney for the first time last year I am going to invest in a thermometer to save worrying so much about setting points and making same mistakes again. Lemon curd next challenge!!



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