How to Fix Overcooked Jam

Is your homemade jam thick and almost like candy? Here’s how to fix it.

raspberry blueberry jam

We have touched on this subject before, but it remains one of the most asked questions – “how do I fix my overcooked jam?”

It’s frustrating. You spend time, money, and energy to lovingly make a batch of beautiful jam. You have visions of tucking it into Christmas presents or serving it on top of homemade biscuits. Your family is impressed by the sheer variety of jammy combinations; apricot-raspberry, apple-pear, cherry-lime, combinations you won’t find on any grocery shelves. And then you open a jar and find that it is thick. Not just thick, but gloopy – impossible to spread with a knife, almost gummy candy, gloopy. Ahhhhhh!

You are in good company. Most of us who make pectin free jams and other spreads overcook a batch or two every year! I personally have no problems making peach jam, apricot jam or plum anything, but have great difficulties with berry or cherry jams. I know people who are the exact opposite and struggle with stone fruit spreads. There are some ways to salvage overcooked jam. You usually don’t have to toss the whole thing, unless….

  • It is scorched. If the jam tastes burnt, you might as well face facts and just get it out of your sight and into the garbage. There is no way to rehabilitate scorched jam.

If it isn’t scorched though, here are some ideas to try:

  • Slowly heat it in the microwave, a few seconds at a time and then use it as usual.
  • If it is still too thick, add some water while heating it in the microwave and then use it as a delicious and unusual pancake or ice cream syrup. (Really, where else would you find Orange Marmalade Ice Cream Sundaes? Your family will think that you are brilliant. And you are!)
  • Whisk some overcooked jam together with vinegar and tomato sauce to make your own BBQ sauce.
  • Spoon it into the center of homemade jam surprise muffins. I often use up my overcooked jam tucked into the center of peanut butter muffins.
  • Make your own version of Chicken Cherries Jubilee. See my daughter-in-law’s version here.
  • Melt the jam in the microwave and brush it over a freshly baked pound cake or bar cookies. It adds flavor and helps keep the baked goods moist.
  • Add a spoonful to stir-fried vegetables for a flavor boost.
  • Beat some into buttercream frosting and spread on cupcakes.

Can you feel your frustrations melting away? Good. You may decide that overcooked jam is your cooking secret ingredient, and next year you’ll be intentionally overcooking it. At least, that is what you can tell people!

Find the answers to this and other canning questions. Download a copy of The Confident Canner today.

What to you do with your overcooked jam?

by Renee Pottle

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

October 13, 2014

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9 Comments

  1. Donald

    Yikes! First time bachelor plum-jam-maker here. My first attempt (using pectin-free 1946 recipe) came out with what you might call ‘plum-gum.’ I added water and microwaved it as stated above and that improved the texture so that–though it’s a bit too runny now for jam–it can now be used a syrup or ice cream topping. I’m going to try another batch. Would using pectin make the mixture smoother and more jam-like or do I just need to reduce my cooking time?

    Reply
    • admin

      Donald, good for you! Mistakes can still be tasty. You could use a pectin-added recipe, although I personally avoid pectin-added recipes. Yes, they usually are easier to make, but set up too thick and gummy for me. And you don’t get that nice caramelized fruit flavor. I would recommend that you try again. Use the plate method to check for when the jam is ready (plate in freezer for a few minutes, drop jam onto plate, run finger through jam, if it stays separated it is done). Or you could also use the thermometer method (220 degrees) or both! Remember that your jam still needs to be processed in a water bath so will be subjected to more heat after cooking. Once you make a few batches of long cooking jam you’ll begin to recognize that it is getting close to the gelling point just by the look. Let me know how it works out!
      You can find many other no pectin jam recipes in my newest book, Creative Jams and Preserves https://www.amazon.com/Creative-Jams-Preserves-Recipes-Handcrafted/dp/0976013754/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507820509&sr=8-1&keywords=creative+jams+and+preserves . Good luck.

      Reply
      • Donald

        My recipe didn’t mention the post-cooking water bath. How does that work?

        Reply
        • admin

          Donald, quite a bit has changed since 1946, even in the canning world 🙂 Water bath processing helps to assure a safe product and extends the life of your jam. Older recipes just called for sealing the jam jars or topping the jam with wax. (I remember my mother using this method.) Both of those methods allowed molds and bacteria in resulting in a ruined and unsafe product. You can find my simple water bath tutorial here: https://www.seedtopantry.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/waterbathcanning.pdf. It is also in the book I mentioned below. Most jams should be processed for 15 minutes. I also recommend that you get a good beginning canning book like the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving or So Easy to Preserve by the University of Georgia. I also have another book, The Confident Canner that answers many canning questions. https://www.amazon.com/Confident-Canner-Answers-Canning-Questions/dp/0976013789/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507909589&sr=8-1&keywords=confident+canner
          Although most older jam recipes are still safe it is imperative that you use an up-to-date recipe if you are canning anything else! Old pickle recipes or vegetable recipes, etc. may not be safe now because our products have changed and our knowledge has increased. Happy to answer any other questions.

          Reply
          • Donald

            Great information! Thanks for all your help.

  2. Marilyn

    How long should you boil blackberry Jam. Last year, its turned out fine. this year quite thick. I boiled it for 10 minutes…

    Reply
    • admin

      Marilyn, blackberry jam usually sets up quickly. Things that affect how long to cook it include; how humid it is outside, how ripe the berries are, how well the pot you cook it in holds heat, etc. So it’s really hard to judge. Even after all these years I still struggle with berry jams. I find the plate method or the temperature method (to test for gel) work best for berry jams. I hope you are able to “repair” your batch!

      Reply
  3. Jeanette Weyer

    I hav overcooked tomato jam. Lovely colour and taste, just too thick to spread. Can I put back into a pot and add water and then rebottle?

    Reply
    • admin

      Jeanette, you can try. I have had this work – although it’s not perfect. If it doesn’t I recommend using the jam to cook with. You could turn it into a glaze for meatloaf or ham or roasted veggies, or make BBQ sauce with it, or even add it to a big pot of marinara sauce. Good luck!

      Reply

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