Thursday, March 17, 2022

How to Fix Runny Jam or Runny Jelly

Learn how to fix runny jam or jelly.  If your homemade jam or jelly didn't set up, there are a few ways that you can fix it, including how to fix runny jelly without pectin.  You can either fix your runny jelly by the jar or by the batch and reprocess it.

How to Fix Runny Jam or Runny Jelly

Two years ago, I had to buy all new pectin.  I bought both sugar free and regular pectin.  I had to buy the name brand boxes of pectin instead of bulk due to not being able to shop my regular stores.

None of my sugar free pectin worked.  I made six batches of runny jelly didn't set.

I'm not sure what happened, but I think there was a quality issue due to world events that year.

In all of my years of canning, this was the first time I've ever had a batch of jam or jelly fail, so I was a little frustrated.

So I learned how to fix runny jelly and fixed it.  

If you have some jam or jelly that didn't set, this post will teach you all fixing runny jelly.  First we will go over what causes jam or jelly that didn't set and then how to fix it, including how to fix runny jelly without pectin.

Also check out my posts about canning lids not sealing to correct common canning problems.

Check out my favorite jam and jelly canning recipes:

Keep track of your favorite canning recipes with my printable canning journal pages.  This has a cover sheet, recipe pages, divider pages, and labels to help you stay organized.

I also have the information from this post in a printable page that you can add to your canning journal!  Enter your email at the bottom of the post for the free canning printable.

How Long Does Jam or Jelly Take to Set Up?

Give your homemade jam or jelly 24 to 48 hours to set up.  Sometimes it can take that long for the pectin to work.  Don't try to fix it because it might end up setting up.

Is Runny Jelly Safe to Eat?

Yes, it's perfectly safe to eat runny jelly.  Runny jelly may not have the consistency that you like, but it won't harm you to eat it.

How Do You Use Runny Jam?

You can either learn how to fix runny jam or reprocess it.  If it's not quite as thick as I'd like, I'll usually just put it on the shelf.  

You can also use runny jelly in one of the following ways:

  • Ice cream topping
  • Coffee syrup
  • Milk flavoring
  • Pancake syrup

What Causes Jelly to Not Set Up?

There are several reasons that jelly didn't set.  This is why it's important to follow jam and jelly recipes carefully for better success.

Under or Over Cooking

The most common reason for jelly didn't set is cooking the jelly too high or too low.  If you cook it too low, the pectin won't set set up.  Cook too high, and you can break down the pectin.

For most jam and jelly recipes, you'll add the sugar and bring the fruit to a full boil and boil for 1 to 2 minutes.

Waterbathing Too Long

Jam and jelly can also be thin if you over process them.  You should water bath half pints and pints for 10 minutes in a water bath canner.  

Let the water in the water bath get hot and almost to a boil when you add your hot jars of jelly.  Starting with cold water can cook your food too long.

Don't Double the Recipe

There's a ratio of fruit to sugar to pectin that has to be followed.  Don't double a jam or jelly recipe with pectin.  

If I make two batches, I prepare my fruit all at once.  Then I prepare one batch.  While it's cooking, I get the next batch ready.  

But always add the sugar and pectin to each batch separately and cook it separately.  

Using too Much Fruit

If you have an extra cup or two of fruit, you might be tempted to just add it, but this can cause soft or runny jam or jelly.  You'll have to learn how to thicken runny jelly to make it thick again.

Use the Right Pectin

You can buy powdered or liquid pectin.  Some recipes can use either type, but you can't use powdered pectin in a recipe that calls for liquid pectin unless the recipe says it's okay.

It's also important to use a low sugar or no sugar pectin with a low sugar recipe.  You can not simply use less sugar because your jelly or jam won't set up.

Bad Pectin

Pectin will last about 18 months to two years on the shelf.  After that, it starts to get weak. 

Moisture is the enemy of pectin.  I do buy bulk pectin, but I store it in an airtight container.  I vacuum seal mine after  I use it to extend the shelf life.

How to Fix Jelly That Didn't Set

So you have some jars or jelly or jam that didn't set.  Learn how to thicken runny jelly to save it.

How to Fix Runny Jelly or Jam Without Pectin

If your jelly didn't set, you can fix it without using pectin.  Try one of these methods for fixing runny jelly:

  • Place a jar in the fridge until it is cold, preferably overnight.  If it gets firm in the fridge, place it on the counter and let it get to room temperature.  This may fix your runny jelly.  You can then refrigerate all of the jars or refrigerate each jar as you need it.
  • Place one quart of runny jam or jelly in a large pan.  Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and boil for 3 to 4 minutes.  Then test for a gel.  You can then reprocess for 5 minutes in a water bath.
  • Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to each 8-ounce jar of runny jam.  Stir well and refrigerate.  The chia seeds will create a natural jel.  You can also learn how to make chia seed jam with any fruit.
  • Recook the jam or jelly.  This can fix an improper gel due to not cooking long enough, and it can reduce the water to firm up the jelly.

Fixing Runny Jelly With Pectin

If your jelly didn't set, you can also learn how to fix runny jelly or jam by adding more pectin.  You can do this by the batch and reprocess the jars for 5 minutes in a water bath.

Here's how to fix runny jam or jelly:

  • For each quart of runny jelly, you will need 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 4 teaspoons powdered pectin.  
  • Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring.  
  • Add your runny jelly and bring to a hard boil over high heat while stirring constantly.  Boil hard for 30 seconds.
  • Remove the jelly or jam from heat and skim off foam.
  • Fill your jars with jelly and leave a 1/4 inch headspace.  
  • Wipe the rims and add new lids and place the bands on.
  • Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes. 

When I am fixing runny jelly, I always add sugar, pectin, and lemon juice.  Lemon juice affects the acid levels and helps the pectin work better, so I add it just to make sure this works.

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I hope this helps you learn how to fix runny jam or jelly.  Happy canning!

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