How to Fix (or Remake) Jam or Jelly That Turns Out Too Soft or Runny - in Metric Units

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Sometimes after you have bottled (canned) your jam, jelly, preserves, conserves, etc. and let it cool, you open a jar, only to find it hasn't set properly an d is too runny! If your jam or jelly turns out too soft or runny, don't despair, and don't throw it away!  It can be fixed! Here's how!

If the jam is too thick, before you put it in the jars, just heat 1 or 2 cups of grape juice (or any other fruit juice of similar or neutral taste, like apple or white grape) to boiling.  Then, gradually pour and stir it in until you reach the desired consistency, then continue canning!

If the jars are already sealed / canned, then when you use them, just stir in a little grape juice until you reach the desired thickness.

If the jam turns out too runny, that is a little different to fix. Here's how:

Or click here for a PDF version that prints nicely! This page is in metric units; if you want this page in US/UK Imperial units (ounces, pounds, etc.) see this page. And Google has a great conversion calculator that will convert from any units to any units. 


Ingredients

  • The jars of jam to be remade
  • No-sugar-needed type pectin - available at most grocery stores and big box stores and online here, at right.  If you can't find no-sugar needed pectin (or at least "low sugar pectin"), then you use regular pectin, but it may make the jam or jelly too sweet because of the additional sugar needed! The boxed dry pectin is equal to 50 gm per packet inside each box.
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar

Supplies

  • New lids for the jars (you can reuse the rings and wash the jars, but you cannot re-use lids.)

Background

It takes 3 ingredients for jams and jellies to set: pectin, sugar and acidity. The amount of pectin that is naturally occurring in the fruit varies from one type of fruit to another and by ripeness (counter intuitively, unripe contains more pectin). See this page for more about pectin in fruit. It takes the right balance, and sufficient amounts of each of pectin, sugar and acidity to result in a firm jam or jelly. Lastly, it takes a brief period (1 minute) of a hard boil, to provide enough heat to bring the three together.  Generally speaking, if your jam doesn't firm up, you were short in pectin, sugar or acidity or didn't get a hard boil. We will correct that when we remake the jam or jelly!


Step 1 -Determine how much jam or jelly needs to be remade

Measure the jam or jelly to be recooked. Work with no more than 1 liter to 1.5 liter at a time. Check all the jars from the batch - if one failed to set, most or all probably failed.  You can check by just turning them upside down and seeing how quickly the jam or jelly shlooshes* around in the jar. 
(* - Schloosh - from the old German verb, "schlushen" meaning to flop around like a freshly caught trout)

Add up the volumes of all the jars to be reworked, to figure out the size of the batch (in liters) for step 2.

1 liter (litre) = 1000 ml

Open the jars to be fixed and dump them all into a large pot.

Since you will probably want to reuse the jars, get the now emptied jars washing in the dishwasher.

Step 2 - Measure out additional pectin, water, sugar and lemon juice

If you are using powdered pectin:

For each liter of jam or jelly to be fixed, mix 60 ml sugar, 60 ml water or white grape juice, 30 ml bottled lemon juice, and 60 ml of dry powdered pectin in a large pot. For the average batch of about 2.5 Liter total, that would be 150 ml sugar (measured by volume), 150 cup water or juice and about 75 ml lemon juice, plus about 1/2 box pectin, preferably the no-sugar variety. One half  box of pectin is about 25 gm, or by volume is equal to 105 ml.

This table may help you with calculations:

Amount of jam or
jelly to re-make
sugar water or
grape juice
lemon juice pectin
500 ml 30 ml 30 ml 15 ml 30 ml
750 ml 45 ml 45 ml 20 ml 45 ml
1 liter 60 ml 60 ml 30 ml 60 ml
1.25 L 75 ml 75 ml 40 ml 75 ml
1.5 liter 90 ml 90 ml 45 ml 90 ml
1.75 L 105 ml 105 ml 50 ml 105 ml
2 liters 120 ml 120 ml 60 ml 120 ml
2.25 L 135 ml 135 ml 70 ml 135 ml
2.5 liters 150 ml 150 ml 75 ml 150 ml
2.75 L 165 ml 165 ml 80 ml 165 ml
3 liters 180 ml 180 ml 90 ml 180 ml

If you are using liquid pectin:

For each quart of jelly, measure 180 ml sugar, 35 ml bottled lemon juice, and 35 ml liquid pectin in a large pot.  

.

Step 3 - Mix with the jam or jelly and bring to a boil

Add the jam or jelly to be remade to the pectin mixture and bring it to a rolling boil again, over high heat, stirring constantly. Keep in mind that one reason jams and jellies don't set is because people try to double batches, and there is non-uniform heating. That results in some pectin becoming over-cooked and some pectin in the batch is under cooked.  Never make a new batch of jam or jelly starting with more than 6 cups of crushed fresh or frozen fruit; and never try to remake a batch larger than 2.5 liters.

Once it is a rolling boil, boil hard for 45 to 60 seconds (1 minute).

Step 4 - Testing for "gell" (thickness)

I keep a metal tablespoon sitting in a glass of ice water, then take a half spoonful of the mix and let it cool to room temperature on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency I like, then I know the jam is ready. If not, I mix in a little more pectin (about 1/4 to 1/2 of another package) and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5 - Remove, from heat, skim and fill the jars

Remove from heat, and quickly skim the foam off jam or jelly.

Fill sterile jars (automatic dishwashers often have a sanitize setting, otherwise, wash and dry and add 5 minutes to the processing time), leaving ΒΌ-inch headspace. Adjust new lids (don't reuse the previous lids, they are single use) and...

Step 6 - Process in the water bath

... process as recommended in the table below.

Recommended process time for Remade Soft Jellies in a boiling-water canner.
  Process Time at Altitudes of
Jar Size* 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
200-250 ml or
500 ml size jars
5 min 10 15

*Sizes larger than 500 ml are generally not recommended for jams and jellies.

Lessons learned

  • If the jam was too runny, then next time you might want to add about 20% more pectin to start with, or make sure you bring to a full hard boil for 1 minute (not less, and not more than a few seconds longer).
  • If it was too thick, add a little less pectin, and/or a bit of fruit juice before you cook it!
  • Limit your batch sizes to no more than 6 to 8 cups of crushed fruit to start - meaning each batch should produce no more than 8 to 11 jars (8 oz each) of jam or jelly.

Feedback

  • A visitor writes on September 18, 2013: "My husband and I picked a bunch of beach plums this month, and rendered several quarts of juice. My usually reliable recipe for jelly failed, and I was horrified! If you have ever made beach plum jelly, you know that it's more precious than gold! I was so thankful to come across your instructions for remaking failed jelly - it worked beautifully! Not only that, but this website is AWESOME!! Thank you so much! I've sent the page to my daughter and all of my friends who can and preserve."
  • A visitor writes on July 17, 2013: "Made strawberry jam and it did not set properly. Followed your directions to fix unset jam and worked like a charm!! Thank you for saving my jam :)"
  • Comments from a visitor on November 05, 2010: "Your "How To Fix Runny Jam" worked great for me too. I made the "Grapefruit Marmalade" from the "Ball Blue Book of Preserving", but it didn't set at all. Marmalade is not usually as set as jam, but it's not liquid, which mine was. I reprocessed using your instructions and it worked perfectly, for a 16-cup batch no less. "
  • Comments from a visitor on July 17, 2010: "Thank you for your method to fix runny jam. I used it on my kumquat jam and it worked beautifully. My three little kumquat trees bear lots of fruit and I make jam every year with more or less success. This year it is the best ever - I have never made such beautifully set jam. Wish you could taste it too. Kind Regards, Claire"

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