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When you learn how to preserve, you’re bound to have some jam and jelly problems.
The first time that I made jam, it was so runny that it was more like a syrup than jam. I had no idea what I did wrong, but I knew I messed something up along the way.
Learning to make jam and jellies is a process, filled with trial and error. I’ve encountered dozens of problems, but what I’ve learned is that most problems are fixable.
If you have some jam and jelly problems, don’t worry too much. Chances are you can fix whatever went wrong. You didn’t ruin it or waste the food you preserved.
I’ve been where you are, and I want to help you fix these problems. So, let’s get started!
8 Jam and Jelly Problems + How to Fix Them
1. Your Jam Didn’t Set Right
The most frequent problem that you’ll face is issues with a poor set. What I mean when I say a poor set is that your jelly or jam is runny (remember I said I thought I made syrup not jam).
Setting problems can happen for several reasons, such as:
- Too much or too little sugar was used
- Not enough pectin used
- The fruit was over ripe or under ripe
- You cooked the jam or jelly for too long
The great thing is that a poor set is one of the easiest jam and jelly problems to fix. All you have to do is follow a few easy steps.
How to Fix a Poor Set
Don’t get upset, and don’t toss out those jars of jam! With a bit of work, they’ll be as good as new, and no one will ever know that your jam didn’t work out the first time around.
- Empty all of your jam or jelly back into the pot you used for cooking it. Bring it to a boil while stirring constantly. Don’t let it stick to the bottom of the pot!
- Let your jam or jelly boil for one minute, then retest the set. If the set seems better now (you can check by putting some on a spoon and put the spoon in a freezer for a few moments to let it cool down), then you can reseal your jars in a water bath canner and new lids.
- Is it still runny? Then, you need to add more pectin. Add half of the amount indicated on the recipe. It’s better to add too little than too much or you’ll end up with a jelly that is too hard.
- Test it again with the spoon and freezer test. Better? Now it’s time to reseal the jars with fresh lids.
2. All of the Fruit Floated to the Top
The good news is that, even if all of the fruit is at the top of your jam, it’s still edible. It might not look like you want, but it’s still going to taste just as good as it would otherwise.
The bad news?
You can’t actually fix this problem once the jams are preserved and sealed. Just enjoy those jars of jam as they are. You can present this problem in the future.
How to Fix This Problem in the Future
As I said, you cannot fix this right now, but you can prevent it from happening in the future.
In the future, let your jam rest for 10 minutes once the setting point is reached. When you do this, it lets you notice if the fruit rises. You can stir the preserves, redistributing, then preserve immediately.
3. Your Jelly is Cloudy!
If your jelly ends up with a cloudy look, that could happen for several reasons.
- You could have used under-ripe fruit that released starch, turning the jelly cloudy.
- For some jellies, some recipes want you to strain it through a jelly bag, cheesecloth, or muslin cloth. If you squeezed it instead of waiting for it to drain, a cloudy look can appear.
- If you let the jelly cool before canning, it could turn cloudy.
Luckily, you can still eat the jelly despite the cloudy look. It won’t hurt you; it just doesn’t look like you hoped.
How to Fix This in the Future
Since you know the reasons for cloudy jelly, it’s quite easy to stop this from happening in the future.
- Always use ripe fruit to avoid too much starch in your jellies.
- Let your jelly strain through the jelly bag or cheesecloth untouched. Don’t rush it!
- Process your jellies immediately after you fill your jars.
4. The Jam Has a Burnt Flavor
One time, I made a batch of jam, and I was so excited for it until I realized it had a weird burnt smell and taste. The jam stuck to the bottom of the pan and burnt while it boiled.
If your jam has a burnt flavor, you did the same thing that I did. Unfortunately, you can’t fix this. You can’t take out the burnt flavor, and that does suck!
How to Fix This in the Future
Since you cannot fix this now, you have to learn what to do in the future. To avoid a burnt flavor in your jam, you need to constantly stir your jams and jellies while bringing them to a rolling boil. That stops the food from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
5. There Are Sugar Crystals in My Jelly
If you find crystals in your preserves, you might assume it’s not edible, but you’d be wrong. This is one of the most common jam and jelly problems.
Crystals form in your preserves because the sugar used wasn’t completely dissolved before you boiled your mixture or you added too much sugar.
So, that’s not inedible, but it might not look like the jelly or jam you want to eat.
How to Stop Crystals Forming Next Time
So, you cannot fix this once the crystals are in your jars of jelly, but you can stop it from happening next time.
The next time you make jams or jellies be sure to use the right amount of sugar. Be sure the sugar dissolves thoroughly before boiling. Stir as much as possible to dissolve the sugar.
6. Why Are There Bubbles in My Jelly?
Bubbles in your jelly can be a problem that may or may not render your preserves inedible, but why did the bubbles form at all?
When you have bubbles present in your jams or jellies, it means that fermentation has occurred. These bubbles form as your preserves sit on the shelves in storage. It’s a sign that the yeast is present, reacting with the sugar in the recipe.
No, that doesn’t mean you used the wrong ingredients, but bubbles typically are a hygiene issue. It also can mean that there is too much-trapped air in the jelly, so try skimming the foam off of your preserves before filling.
If the bubbles are moving, it can be a sign of spoiling. Toss out that preserves. They are inedible.
How to Fix in the Future
The next time you make preserves, make sure you take the time to sterilize your jars thoroughly. They need to be washed in hot soapy water.
Also, be sure a good airtight seal formed after the canning process. If the lids are loose and you put it into storage, it could cause yeast or bacteria to enter under the lids.
7. The Jam Is Darker Than I Expected
Did you expect to have a nice jelly with a bright color but ended up with something darker than you expected?
If the color of your preserves get darker, it might be a result of cooking your jelly or jam for too long on the stove. The change in color also could be a result of storing your preserves somewhere that is either too warm or too bright.
How to Fix Darker Jelly
Luckily, just because it’s darker in color doesn’t mean it’s bad to eat. It’s just not what you expected!
So, in the future, make sure you follow the recipe closely. The recipe should have a listed time that you need to cook your jam, so follow that.
Also, be sure you’re storing the jams and jellies in a dark, cool location.
8. My Jelly Is Too Thick
While I’ve made runny jam, I’ve also made jelly that is way too thick. It’s impossible to spread. Imagine thick jell-O; do you want to put that on your toast?
Jam or jelly that is too thick is a result of two potential issues:
- You might have overcooked the jelly or jam.
- You could have added too much pectin to your recipe.
- The fruit you used had too much pectin, so use ripe fruit that isn’t under-ripe or over-ripe.
How to Fix Thick Jam
Thick jam is still edible, but it’s problem not what you wanted to eat. You can fix it though, especially if you notice that it’s too thick before you put it in jars. Always do the spoon test!
Put your jelly back into the pot (if you put it into jars), and add 1-2 cups of grape juice or any fruit juice that would go with what you’re making. Apple juice has a neutral taste.
Then, bring it back to a boil. Test again with a spoon and then can it as you would typically.
Fixing Common Jam and Jelly Problems
When you’re learning how to make fruit preserves, it’s going to happen – you’ll encounter a few jam and jelly problems.
Don’t stop making preserves! Seriously!
Listen, this happens to the best of us. Food preservation is a skill, and like any other skill, it takes trial and error. Yes, you’ll make mistakes, and you can fix some of the mistakes.
If you cannot fix them, you can learn how to not make those mistakes the next time. Keep trying and making new recipes.