Jam and Jelly Problems – Cause, Prevention, and Remedy Resources

Jar of strawberry jam.

Sometimes jam and jelly recipes just don’t turn out right. When problems occur, it’s time to figure out why it went wrong, how to remedy, and how to prevent the same thing from happening in the future.

Fruit gels require the exact right amount of fruit, pectin, acid and sugar for a firm gel to form. Imprecise measuring, too-ripe fruit, failure to use the right type (or amount) of pectin, or adding ingredients incorrectly can all contribute to too-soft or syrupy jam or jelly. Doubling recipes can also be a cause for issues.

The best place to turn for answers is the National Center for Home Food Preservation where one can learn more about problems, causes, and prevention strategies. A list of problems encountered, causes, and possible solutions are presented in easy-to-follow tables for jams, jellies, and fruit spreads.

The Ball® also has a problem solver page to help with questions like why fruit floats in jams, cloudiness, fermentation, liquid float and more.

If the problem is a soft gel, remaking may be a possibility. Washington State University Extension has an excellent publication on remaking soft jams and jellies. Stiff jams and jellies are more difficult to remedy; remaking a stiff jam or jelly for long-term storage is not expected to result in a quality product and is not recommended. If remaking is considered, the National Center for Home Food Preservation provides directions for doing so.

Sometimes the best solution is just to use the product as is. Soft fruit spreads make excellent syrups for pancakes and ice cream. Hard fruit spreads can be used as meat glazes or thinned with water/juice and used also for pancakes or ice cream.

A product experiencing a problem is usually safe to eat. Products showing cloudiness or bubbles are safe unless there are moving bubbles or there are signs of spoilage. Any products showing signs of mold should be discarded. When a jar has a larger than recommended head space or air was not removed prior to processing, the fruit will darken but is safe. Improperly processed or stored products may develop a wine-like flavor or color; this is due to fermentation of the sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. If there is no mold on or in the product, it is safe to eat.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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