How to Repair Overcooked or Undercooked Jam – Canning Month

Filed in Canning and Preserving by on August 13, 2013 24 Comments

overcooked jamWe continue with Seed to Pantry Canning Month with a common problem. No matter how much jam we make, sooner or later we will all end up with a batch that is either overcooked (and ends up a sticky, gooey mess) or undercooked (great for syrup over pancakes, not so great on toast). Luckily both extremes can usually be remedied.

Undercooked Jam: There are a variety of reasons why old fashioned jams and preserves might not set. Since we don’t add pectin, the fruit acidity is very important. Some fruits are just not acid enough to ever set without pectin added (melons for example). But sometimes the fruit is just too ripe so the acid level is a little low. Sometimes the jam wasn’t cooked long enough to set. Cooking time fluctuates with the weather, so even if your raspberry jam last week cooked in 30 minutes, this week it may take 40 minutes or even 20 minutes. So here’s what to do:

  • Spoon all the undercooked jam into a large saucepot.
  • Add about 1 tsp lemon juice for each cup of jam.
  • Bring to a boil and cook until jam sets.
  • Remove from heat and pour into clean jars.
  • Seal and process in a water bath canner for 10 – 15 minutes.

Overcooked Jam: It’s is harder to salvage overcooked jam. If the jam tastes scorched it’s best just to throw it away and try again. If the jam isn’t scorched but is too thick to use as jam, slowly heat it in the microwave with a little added water and use it as syrup. I also have used overcooked jam in place of honey in homemade BBQ sauce, stir-fry sauce, or in the center of muffins. You could also melt overcooked jam in the microwave and brush it over pound cake or bar cookies.

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About the Author ()

Renee Pottle, an freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at Find her professional food writing info at

Comments (24)

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  1. Sheila says:

    I attempted to make a sugar free jam recipe for my father who has diabetes. The recipe called for honey as the sweetener. When my dad went to try it (now two months later) it’s extremely runny. Can I still try to reprocess this jam after two months?

    • admin says:

      Sheila, as long as it was originally processed correctly, and the jars are still sealed, you can re-cook and process the batch. On another note though, do be aware that a honey sweetened jam has just as many carbs as a sugar sweetened jam – so keep that in mind if you are trying to reduce carbs for your father.

  2. Kat says:

    I’m pretty experienced in making fudge so when I read a jelly recipe I thought I could do it. I tried to make apple jelly and after two days it was still just syrup. I just used leftover apples I needed to get rid of so it made 1 and a little over half a second jar. Took the full jar and reboiled it while trying to pay close attention to the frozen spoon method. The liquid finally came up thick and streaky on the spoon so I called it there. Day later and it’s thicker than honey and caramel put together. Not spreadable. So I put it in a boiling bath and added the leftover syrup fail that I hadn’t touched yet until the goop was completely incorporated. Wish me luck, unless you already know it probably won’t work.

    • admin says:

      Kat, I am anxious to hear if your solution worked! Sometimes basically remaking the jelly fixes the problem, so it’s possible. It sounds like your original problem was not enough pectin. In other words, the apples probably needed a nice green, under-ripe apple added to boost the pectin and perhaps acid level. On another note, apple syrup is nice too!

  3. Nancy Gephart says:

    I have a question. Yesterday I made a batch of strawberry jam, put it in jars, lids and caps. Then put it in a water bath canner to be gently boiled for 10 minutes. Well I received a very important phone call and the jam was in the canner for anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. The jam looks perfect, color beautiful, jars are sealed but the question is do I have jam or gummy bear goo?
    Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

    • admin says:

      Nancy, sorry – I suspect that you have have goo. But you never know! The only way to find out is to open one of the jars. Please let me know the result! This is bound to happen to any of us.

      • Nancy Gephart says:

        Thanks for your quick response. I’m afraid I omitted something very important. I used Sure Jell low sugar product. I did open one. It tasted good but was a little runny but not liquid. But should work well for pancakes or waffles. After sitting in the fridge overnight it is not runny and will be perfect on my morning biscuit.
        Thank you again. I’m sure I lucked out!

  4. Sharni says:

    My mixed berry jam has turned a lovely shade of brown, however its still incredibly runny! Is there anything that I can do to fix it at this point?

    • admin says:

      Goodness. Do you have any idea why it turned brown? What kinds of berries did you use? Did you use a long cooking method (no added pectin) or a quick cooking method (added pectin)? I am thinking it should be “fixable.” Let’s figure it out.

  5. Joan treon says:

    My jam turned to sugar, can it be fixed

    • admin says:

      Joan, it sounds like it is very overcooked. If it has crystalized, it cannot be repaired. So sorry. But, if it isn’t scorched you may be able to use it for something else! Try using like a specialty sugar – sprinkled on cookies or muffins or quick breads. It’s worth a try anyway.

  6. Barbara J McStravick says:

    Thank you for your suggestions for overcooked jam. My daughter and I picked rasberries and decided to make pectin free jam. It came out like taffy, delicious but taffy none the less. We were so sad, but much happier after reading your suggestions. I am going to try microwaving a bit of it for my muffins in the morning. I am excited to try the chicken crockpot recipe and the barbecue sauce. I will not give up. I will make more jam, and hopefully it will turn out better, and am overjoyed that the overcooked berries will be put to good use! Thanks!!

    • admin says:

      Barbara, glad the post was helpful. I have been making pectin free jams for decades, and still end up with the occasional overcooked batch. I am working on some new recipes for “gooey” jam and hopefully will post soon!

  7. rose theoret says:

    make blackberry jam even removed the seeds lots of work , open a jar and it is extremely thick like glue what can i do I have 10 jars I was hoping to use them for Christmas presents but now I have no idea

  8. Baking says:

    So I made pear jam for the first time. It came out a light honey color beautiful and tasted delicious. The second batch I made came out a green almost green salsa looking and very gooey. What went wrong?

    • admin says:

      How frustrating! It could be one of three things; the pears weren’t ripe enough (this is probably what happened), the jam was cooked too quickly, or it was cooked too long. If it is beyond repair you could try making paste out of it. I would warm it up slowly, puree with an immersion blender, and follow the cooking directions from the apricot paste recipe
      It may or may not work, but worth a try. Good luck.

  9. Lorna says:

    I overcooked the pectin… from SureJell and did exactly as instructions stated. However, they were wrong. So instead of cooking for 1 minute, it was put in at boiling then added sugar brought up to a boil and boiled for one minute. Wrote to SureJell, no communication back though. So, I decided to try this, I added about 3 cups of fruit to 7 jars of jam. boiled again for about 2 minutes and reprocessed. It’s a bit less jelled than it should be but it sure beats the glue like jam I had before.

    • admin says:

      Lorna, good work! Sometimes we just have to be creative. I seldom make jam/jelly using commercial pectin. This is mostly because it sets up too hard for my liking, and because commercial pectin doesn’t agree with my stomach. But, like you, I have not had very good luck with the process with commercial pectin.

  10. Pat Crow says:

    Good advice, thanks for the tips. Made 30 low sugar Spiced Grape Preserves yesterday. A kind neighbor gave me two large buckets of Spanish Black grapes that he grows and harvests for wine. Had to wear rubber gloves the whole time because I had cut my finger 3 days ago and did not want any infection exposure to the fruit. Please caution canners about keeping everything clean and safe. Thanks, PC

    • admin says:

      Wow! That is a lot of preserves for one day. Sounds delicious. Great tip too Pat. Clean and safe is the way to go in the kitchen!

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