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


  1. Shirley JOHNSON says:

    i made blackberry jelly and after the jars cooled, I tilted the jars and saw that it was too runny. So I followed instructions to thicken it and reprocessed it. However I added too much pectin and now the jelly is too thick. I would like to know if I could add juice to the jelly and reprocess again?

  2. Lynne Pattison says:

    Over boiled marmalade and it was close to toffee. Emptied all the jars back into the jam pan (placed them in a pan of hot water to loosen first) and added 200ml boiling water. Slowly dissolved and did the setting test with the plate in the freezer. Still a bit sticky so added another 100ml and stirred thoroughly. Marmalade saved :)

    • beryl says:

      my fig jam wont set,is there anything I can do please?There is not a lot of liquid..beryl

    • kim bemis says:

      I did the same thing, going to try your fix and see if it works. I’ll let you know if it works for me too.

    • caroline says:

      Hello Lynne,

      this is the first back during the last 4 years to have gone absolutely solid with me…….
      I have 13 jars of the size of Bonne Maman size (about 300ml) – how much water do you think I should add please.

      Thank you for your help.
      Caroline
      wiggywigdor@hotmail.com

    • caroline says:

      Hello Lynne,

      That was a typo – I meant to type batch of marmalade

    • Lizette says:

      Hi Lynne, My Maramalade Is more like caramel than jam too and I came across your comments from 2015. I was just wondering do you mean you reheated your pan with the marmalade in a pan of boiling water like Bain Marie? So the marmalade doesn’t come to the boil? Hope to hear back from you. Thanks

  3. Andy Paton says:

    I have just tried to make marmalade with 3 Kg’s of oranges, a very large grapefruit and a lemon. Interpreted instructions, did not find any pips etc, 5kg of sugar but still very runny. What can I do now please?

    • Anonymous says:

      I usually start my marmalade with simple syrup by juicing fruit and measuring. Equal parts liquids to sugar then low simmer ans reduce liquid volume. After reaching desired reduction in volume , I add cut up rinds and continue to simmer until they are translucent.
      For other types of jellies or jams that turn out too thin and runny, I reheat and rescue with a box of jello or you can add pectin purchased from canning supplies section of your grocery store.

  4. Chris Crothers says:

    Help?I am making Seville marmalade but have simmered the liquid on too high a heat and all the liquid has boiled away so I am just left with rind. I have not added sugar yet. What can I do to salvage it? Can I just add more water and simmer again?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes just make up to the amount you should have left. 3 pints boil then add the suger. Did the same thing myself it seems to have worked

  5. Bevvy says:

    My fig jam has crystalized and would like some ideas how to fix. I have 6 jars already bottled.

  6. Jillian says:

    my mom made some guava jelly but it turned out to be hard but it did taste good I hope that either me or my mom get through into fixing it

  7. libby mangosi says:

    My strawberry jam is too runny. I made it this morning and followed instructions (saucer in freezer for the test etc). I have 5 300ml jars waiting to fixed! Can you help me?

    • Jet Black says:

      Hi Libby

      That one is easy. Pour them all back in the pan and boil up again until it gets thicker and the colour will go darker too. Then re-bottle them. I’ve done that myself before, especially with strawberries. Good luck!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I made Muhlberry jelly with strawberry jello and added pectin as the recipe called for. I reheated it and added more pectin, still runny. What else can I do to thicken the jelly. I made another batch without the jello and it turned out fine.

  9. Gill GAFFNEY says:

    how do. I fix Runney jam. Please

  10. GenieJen says:

    If jam fails to ‘set’, you can rescue it. You need gelatin. So reheating in your maslin/jam pan. I had 4 litres of blackcurrant that hadn’t set, I used ‘Dr Oetker’ dry gelatin. You get three sachets per package, each sachet sets one pint of jelly/jello. I used all three, by dissolving dried gelatin into one ladle of heated jam in a pyrex jug. Mixing well into the whole heated unset batch. I washed and re-sterilized jars and lids. I had only one package of dried gelatin, meant to set three pints of liquid. As my jam was already syrupy my thought was it should at least firm it up. It did, not solid like a wobbly jelly but enough to look like I hadn’t messed up big time ! (At my own expense) So yey ! Good luck all x

  11. Iris Gardner says:

    I had a batch of Crabapple Jelly that didn’t set. i put it back in the pot with 1/ 1/2 cups more of juice just to use up the leftover juice I had & an extra cup of sugar & some lemon jiuce. After it boiled, I added another pouch of pectin. Well, this one was starting to set last night, but this afternoon I’m right back where I started from with runny jelly. I was thinking of giving the jars of jelly another hot water bath for 15 to 30 minutes to see if that would do the trick. Would that work? I really don’t want to start over again & it already has 2 pouches of pectin in it already. Adding more pectin doesn’t seem a good idea to me. Is there anything that can be done or do I have 8 jars of syrup?

    • Anonymous says:

      Crab apple jelly should not need pectin! I make jelly and use it as a pectin source for other jams (rhubarb and raspberry). The pectin is in the peel and pips, did you boil with everything in?

      • Ginna says:

        I just made some crab apple jelly and it didn’t set. I used sugar and splenda and a 1/2 package of no sugar pectin. I cooked it for the amount of time in the recipe but it still didnt set. Maybe I didnt cook it to a hot enough temperature as I made about 14 1/2 pints. I am going to try reheating it to a higher tempurature and add the rest of the pack of pectin.

  12. Ann says:

    My damson jam is still not set how do I get it to reset, after its put in jars

    • Chris Darby says:

      Hi there, I have made several batches. The first with ordinary sugar and lemon juice was too runny but l have left it.

      The second batch with jam sugar. That set fine.

      The third unset batch (using jam sugar) boiled up again and addes a sachet of pectin. It set but a bit too much for my liking. It seems to be trial and error. Good luck.

  13. Beverley says:

    Help my strawberry jam has very strong lemon taste.
    Recipe used 400 gms strawberries had to use zest and juice of one large lemon.

  14. Anonymous says:

    my Loganberry jam has set solid in the jars, is there any way of softening it again?

    • Anonymous says:

      I didn’t get any other suggestions so I reheated it (quite a struggle to get it out of the jars!) & added some hot water then as soon as it was boiling I put it back into clean jars. It seems to have worked as its now a much softer consistency.

      • Anonymous says:

        How much water did you add?

      • carol maguire says:

        so did it work and did you water bath seal or just use heat of jam to seal. made alot in one night and tested next day on my so super thick never happened before. really want to fix this .

  15. rosa says:

    Imade jalapeno red pepper jelly and the 3rd batch didnt set {its runny} and its already in the jars HELP
    Is there anybody that can help me?

  16. Margaret says:

    I made some plum jam last year, but it didn’t set, it is still sealed in the jars is there any way I can redo it so I don’t have to throw it away, there is a lot???
    thank you for any help.
    Margaret.

  17. Gillian says:

    I have made some blackberry and apple jam with the wrong sugar(sugar with pectin in it} I should have used granulated sugar and the jam is solid. how can I put it right please. Do I boil it again and put more sugar or should I add water? Please contact me by gillytoots@hotmail.co.uk. Thank you

  18. jay says:

    With crab apples, quinces and other high pectin fruit I don’t wait for the wrinkle test – eg, frozen saucers, jelly on saucers, does it wrinkle after 5 minutes. Usually the set is better if you just take a flyer.

    My problem is slightly different – I ran out of jars while doing quince jelly so I have a set jelly in a pan which I need to get liquid again. I’m adding more lemon juice, a tad more (boiling water) and seeing how it goes.

  19. Amanda says:

    My jelly is solid… Help! Last night was my first attempt at making jelly and I chose Apple since was already making applesauce. I had way less juice than the recipe called for ( 1/5 the amount) so I cut the whole recipe by the same amount, but I added a little extra pectin since some stuck to the measuring spoon (this may have been my problem.) The instructions I followed said to rapid boil for 45 mins but at only 25 mins it was clearly done and when I put it on a frozen spoon it seemed to harden rather than jell. I only had enough for one half pint jar and this morning I opened it and it is rock solid. Can it be salvaged? Maybe put the jar in boiling water and if it melts put it in a pan and add some apple juice? Please help. I know it’s only one little jar but I was so excited to make it. Thank you

  20. Melissa says:

    I am having a problem with Peach Preserves. They are very watery. I think it is the type of peaches. I pick my own @ an orchard that is just so wonderful. These are Elberta’s. I use a method that is just so wonderful. Please help.

  21. Mike says:

    My crabapple jelly is way too thick. Didn’t use pectin, just sugar. Any ideas on how to make it jellyfish again?

  22. Mike says:

    I meant jellyish

  23. Anonymous says:

    Solid jam

  24. Linda says:

    Have made marmalade for years following instructions on Mamade tin but adding rind of 1 lemon and 1 orange to add more flavour. Perfect. Decided 4lb of sugar was too much so reduced sugar by half, added rinds plus juices of both fruits. very runny marmalade. Realised that should probably have reduced stated recipe water content and added fruit juices to make up the required amount stated in recipe. what can i do to rectify and thicken my batch of marmalade?

  25. Lee says:

    Please help! I used a lot of raspberries to get 4 C of juice. Then I cooked it, using a recipe from Pomona’s book, using their pectin and calcium water. I think I boiled it too long, and it came out really thick and only filled 2 8-ounce jelly jars, and about half of a third. I was supposed to get 4 to 5 jars. I think I know what I did wrong, but I don’t have the money or time or even an open store, so I need help salvaging what I have. Please help me!

  26. joan Damerell says:

    Hi,
    My Orange marmalade is solid. By mistake, I put in 2 pints (U.K.)water instead of 2 litres (U.K.) water . I used 1kg. Seville oranges.
    What should I do?

    Your truly,
    Joan Damerell

    • Phil says:

      Hello Joan
      I’ve got a similar problem with a Delia recipe which with 3 to 4 hours of simmering means it is easy to miss the set point. My solution is briefly reboil with the addition of some old non-set marmalade but that won’t do for you.
      Short answer – marmalade back in pan, add missing water, boil briefly, into jars as your normal procedure. Longer answer – put solid marmalade jars into saucepan, surround with water, bring up towards boiling till marmalade will come out of jars (grandma and egg sucking point comihg up) using oven gloves for handling jars & getting marmalade into jam pan. Add the 1.5 pints of missing water to the pan. Gently heat to boiling, let boil for a couple of mnutes, remove from heat and follow your normal jar filling procedure.
      If in your recipe the water content reduced substantially during cooking it is probably sensible to reduce the 1.5 pints by the same percentage as it is only going to be boiling for that couple of minutes.
      Good luck
      Phil

  27. Cathy says:

    When I had a bunch of jam not set up, we used it for syrup on pancakes and waffles. Was great!

  28. Lori says:

    I add a little lemon juice to most fruit when I make jam; it helps the setting. If the jam looks as though its still going to be too thin I stir in a small amount of psyllium husk in the last several minutes to thicken it. While hot it will still be thin, but thickens as it cools. Just don’t add too much or you get a gluggy jelly-like mass.Experiment a time or two and you’ll soon get to know about how much to add to a batch.
    If jam is still too thin I use it in old-fashioned steam puddings where you place jam in the bowl before adding the pudding mixture; add some to fruit salads, or just use it anyway on toast and lick the excess off my fingers when it runs off the toast. If jam is too thick I sometimes add extra water and reboil it for a few minutes, otherwise just cut it thinly like cheese and add to bread or toast anyway. If it has overcooked and started to go like toffee it sometimes becomes too bitter to enjoy any way at all and we put it in the chooks (hens) food bowl They will clean it up so it’s not completely wasted.

  29. Donna says:

    I made berry jam and made a mistake on the amount of fruit and the jam is too thick and doesn’t taste right – it has too much sugar and pectin. How can I fix this? Can I cook more fruit and put the canned jam back in the fruit and recan it? I hate to lose 10 jars of jam.

  30. Susan Sargent says:

    When I made Strawberry jam, I boiled it as directed til thick,I even added liquid pectin. It looked and tasted great. After pouring it into jars, I waterbathed them as directed. After they cooled they became runny. What did I do wrong? Can I fix this? The leftover jelly that was not waterbathed is perfect.

  31. Caroline says:

    Hi, I’ve made a batch of rosemary jelly, Set is good but I want to add some colour. Can I put the whole lot back in a pan , re-heat add colour and then bottle them again? Worried that I’ll have a ‘skin’ floating in the jars.

    Thanks

  32. Neale says:

    i have found on several occasions that bought jams or marmelade from time to time need repair , sometimes they go mouldy and have this smell(fermentation)
    Take out all this grey mould, then simply place the tin on the centre of the hot plate spiral & switch on to medium to low heat then allow to boil in the tin for about a minute then set aside to cool . when cool take a sniff in there, the jam is set better than before, the smell (being alcohol from fermentation) has evaporated and the whole show is brand new…. love Neale , sunny south africa.

  33. Kathleen says:

    I boiled my crab apples as normal with sugar but had to stop halfway through. The following day it was all lumpy and boiling did not seem to get rid of the lumps. Any suggestions?

  34. Jak says:

    Hi guys,

    So I made a chilli jam. A recipe I followed stated 4 cups of sugar. I only used 3 as I’m English and I don’t use cups so didn’t realise how much that actuslly was! Jam was perfect but a little over sweet. I put into jars and left over night. It’s now a solid toffee consistency that I nearly bent my spoon into……So do I stick back in a pan and add more water to loosen it up? Is the aim to.disolve more of the sugar?

    Thanks



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