Preventing Jam and Jelly from Not Setting

This video describes the possible causes of jam and jelly not gelling or setting, as well as tips to prevent this from happening.
Preventing Jam and Jelly from Not Setting - Videos


Jam and jelly not setting or gelling can occur for a number of reasons. Good procedure as discussed in the video will help prevent this from occurring.


Food Preservation

More by Martha Zepp 

View Transcript

- Martha, look at this.

I put a lot of time and effort into this jelly and this is what I have.

What happened?

- Boy, that is really runny.

It's frustrating to have syrup instead of a jelly.

Let's discuss some possible causes.

Did you measure your ingredients accurately, and use the amounts specified in the recipe?

Remember the correct proportion of sugar, acid, and pectin are needed to produce a proper gel.

Use dry measuring cups to measure the sugar.

A dry measuring cup is a metal or plastic cup that can be leveled with a straightedge.

If the cup was heaping like this originally was, you have too much sugar, and that will make the jelly too firm.

But if you don't fill it, if you just shake it off and it's not quite full, it will produce a soft product.

If you need to measure the pectin, again, use a standard measuring spoon and level it with your straightedge.

And if you are measuring liquids, you want to use a glass measuring cup so that you can fill it without it splashing over the edge.

Another problem with liquid is if you're extracting juice from the jelly and you have to heat it, avoid putting too much water in the pan with the jelly.

Follow the recipe suggestions for the amount of water to use.

- And I was careful with my measurements, and it still didn't set.

- Overcooking is a problem that, it destroys the gelling capacity of the pectin.

That can occur when the fruit is being heated to extract the juice, or while cooking the jelly itself.

Likewise, undercooking produces problems because the jelly is not sufficiently concentrated.

Cook jams made without added pectin until it reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit at 1,000 feet or below.

Test the temperature, either with a thermometer or use a spoon for what's called the sheeting test.

If you are using commercial pectin, make sure that the jelly is at a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.

- Are there any other possibilities?

- Too little acid produces a soft set.

Recipes for making jam and jellies from no-acid fruits call for added lemon juice.

If you know that the fruit is overripe, you can add one to two teaspoons of lemon juice to compensate for the loss of the acidity.

It's recommended that only six to eight cups of jelly or jam be made at one time.

We refer to this as one batch.

Making too large of a batch, or doubling a recipe, takes longer for the mixture to heat and can affect the gelling ability of the pectin.

Moving the jelly, after it has been processed, weakens the pectin linkage that holds the gel together.

Do not move the jars for 12 hours after they have been made.

- So, what if the jelly's still not set after the jars have cooled?

- If the jelly hasn't set after they're cooled, don't despair.

Some jellies may take up three weeks or more to set.

Properly processed and sealed jars may set in storage for three weeks or longer, until you decide if you want to remake the jam.

Remaking jam involves reheating the jam and adding more sugar, acid, and lemon juice.

Pectin inserts include remake directions.

I'm circling them here so that they are easy for you to see.

Do not remake more than six jars at one time.

Since remaking jam takes time, and involves buying costly pectin, think of alternative ways of using soft or syrupy jam or jelly.

You can use them as a topping for ice cream, a syrup for pancakes or french toast.

Here we're going to really dress up these waffles.

You can combine spicy jams or jellies with sour cream for a fruit dip, or mix pepper jam with chile sauce for an appetizer with meatballs in it.

- So why is there a layer of liquid on the top of my jelly, at times?

- You can see this liquid rolling around here, and that is called weeping or syneresis.

In this case, a layer of liquid forms on top and it's caused by excess acid in the juice or the fruit, that makes the pectin unstable.

If the storage place is too warm or the storage temperature fluctuates, liquid will also seep out of the jelly.

Store sealed jellies in a cool, dark, dry place.

The ideal storage temperature is 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

To summarize, solve your problems of jam and jelly making...

Measure accurately, time the cooking process, or use a thermometer, control the acid and pectin, and make one batch at a time.

Enjoy jelly making.

- Thanks, Martha.

- You're welcome.


Only registered users can write reviews. Please, log in or register

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the technical requirements for watching videos?
What devices and browsers are supported for watching videos?
Can a video be viewed multiple times?
Can I share a video with multiple people?
Is there closed captioning available for videos?
Are videos accessible for people who require special needs or services?
Who do I contact if I have a question about a specific video?