What to do if Your Jelly Does Not Set

There is almost nothing more frustrating when canning than having your jelly not set. Yes, you can re-cook it!

There is almost nothing more frustrating when canning than having your jelly not set. When you’re jelly doesn’t set you may be tempted to just throw it out, but don’t, you can fix it.

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Yes, you can re-cook it! Measure jelly to be recooked. Work with no more than 4 to 6 cups at a time.

How to Remake Jelly With Powdered Pectin

For each quart of jelly, mix ¼ cup sugar, ½ cup water, 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, and 4 teaspoons powdered pectin. Bring to a boil while stirring.

Add jelly and bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil hard ½ minute. Remove from heat, quickly skim foam off jelly, and fill sterile jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Adjust new lids and process as recommended in Table 1.

How to Remake Jelly With Liquid Pectin

For each quart of jelly, measure ¾ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons liquid pectin. Bring jelly only to boil over high heat, while stirring.

Remove from heat and quickly add the sugar, lemon juice, and pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute. Quickly skim off foam and fill sterile jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Adjust new lids and process as recommended in Table 1.

How to Remake Jelly Without Added Pectin

For each quart of jelly, add 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice. Heat to boiling and boil for 3 to 4 minutes. To determine if the jelly is done, take the temperature of the jelly with a candy or jelly thermometer.

When done, the temperature of the jelly should be 220°F, 8°F above the boiling point of water, if you are at sea level. NOTE: For each 1000 feet of altitude above sea level, subtract 2 degrees F. For instance, at 1,000 feet of altitude, the jelly is done at 218°F; at 2,000 feet, 216°F, etc.

Remove from heat, quickly skim off foam, and fill sterile jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Adjust new lids and process as recommended in following table.

 

Recommended
Process Time for Remade Soft Jellies in a Boiling-Water
Canner
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 – 1,000 ft 1,001 – 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Half-pints or pints 5 min 10 15

This document incorporates information from the “Complete Guide to Home Canning,” Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA (Revised 2009) and information available from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

There is almost nothing more frustrating when canning than having your jelly not set. Yes, you can re-cook it!

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38 Comments on "What to do if Your Jelly Does Not Set"


  1. I made two batches of cherry jam this summer using liquid pectin. Neither batch thickened and I was so disappointed. I didn’t want to use it for just an ice cream topping so I opened a 6 oz. jar, took out a little of the juice to whisk with 1 1/2 teaspoons of thermflo. Then I heated the remaining jam contents in the microwave almost to boiling, stirred in the thermflo mix and put in the fridge. It thickened just like regular jam. I served it at the Thanksgiving table and it was a hit. I even got a call two days later asking for the recipe. I was concerned that the cornstarch taste might be evident and told those who were complimenting about what I did. Neither I nor them could tell. It’s a much quicker and easier way to thicken a jam that didn’t set. (It took me a few days to realize my jam didn’t set because the recipe called for two envelopes of liquid pectin per batch rather than just one.)

    Also, I have made strawberry rhubarb jam for years with jello as the pectin very successfully. I started out freezing the jam but have also canned hundreds of jars and always with success. Is there a safety factor?

    Reply

    1. Hi! I’m glad you found a fix for your runny cherry jam! I’ve never used gelatin for making jam. I know a lot of people do it, but according to the Illinois Extension Office it is not safe. It says if you use Jello as a thickener in your jam to put it in the refrigerator and that it is not safe for canning. I will have to do some more research on that and write something up about it because I know a lot of other people have the same question.

      Reply

    1. It would make it a little sweeter, but it is necessary to combine the sugar with the pectin in order for the jelly to set properly. The only other option would be to use the un-set jelly for syrup, which is what a lot of people do.

      Reply

  2. I’ve had issues this year with jelly (elderberry) not setting up. The first batch it happened with I recooked according to instructions on package of pectin. The second time I made jelly with the elderberries it happened AGAIN…then it dawned on me! I had so many berries…juice..that I had doubled the recipe both times. Big no-no. So if any of your readers are doing this it could be a source of trouble. Also I read several places that jello is NOT a substitute for pectin in canned jelly but it great for freezer jams. I use it all the time in a rhubarb/strawberry jam recipe. And I’ve never heard of surejel for jellies and jams but most usually for pie fillings. Just a note from a 60 yr old canner, farm gal. But by no means perfect country gal.

    Reply

    1. Hi! I think you are right about doubling the jelly recipe. Sometimes it does work but often it does not. I think you might be confusing surejel with clear jel. Surejel is a brand of pectin that is used for making jams and jellies. Clear Jel is a cornstarch substitute used for thickening canned pie fillings. Thanks for your tips! 🙂

      Reply

  3. Is there a max time to attempt remaking jam/jelly? I tried to make blackberry jelly and it didn’t set, but it’s been more than the recommended 2 week wait (probably more like 4 or 5 weeks) and I’m wondering if it’s still safe to try again, or if I waited too long?

    Reply

  4. My jelly still hasn’t set after doing it a 2nd time. Canning do it again or is it a lost cause? I used surejel both times and I’ve never had any problems using it until now.

    Reply

    1. Hi! I’m not sure if it’s worth doing it again, although I don’t think it would hurt it. You might have to use this batch as syrup for pancakes or ice cream!

      Reply

    1. Hi! If it’s been 10 days it will probably not set. I’ve never had jelly take that long to set so if I were you I would go ahead and try again.

      Reply

  5. My left over jelly set right away but my half pints over night did not. Will they after a longer period of time?
    Have you experienced the two week wait?

    Reply

    1. Hi! I’ve never actually waited the whole two weeks. In my experience if it hasn’t made noticeable progress in 3 days it probably won’t set. Overnight isn’t long enough sometimes, it can take a couple days for sure.

      Reply

  6. Hi…two days ago I made a batch of raspberry/strawberry jam. I cooked the juice with sugar the full 15 minutes then added one box of raspberry jello. It still hasn’t set. Can I recook it even though I really don’t want to add more sugar? Would bringing the jam to boiling then add another box of raspberry jello help?

    Reply

    1. Hi! I’ve never made jam with jello before, so I don’t really know the answer to that. I do know, however, that you need to add the extra sugar with the pectin to get the jam to set.

      Reply

    1. Hi! No, I don’t think that would work. To get your jelly to set properly it needs to be cooked again with the added pectin and sugar.

      Reply

  7. My jelly did not set this time but I believe the pectin I used was too old. My jelly is already perfectly sweetened so why do I need to add more sugar to re-cook the jelly with more pectin? Does it help it set?

    Reply

    1. Hi! You could use fresh lemon juice if you like, but I don’t think there’s another substitute you can use (that I know of).

      Reply

  8. I had to re-make my plum jelly and followed the directions given on the Liquid Pectin instructions it also said that it may take up to 2weeks to set up at room temperature, would it be faster in the refrigerator, why so long?

    Reply

    1. Hi! It doesn’t normally take that long, but it is possible that it can take that long, that’s why they want you to wait before trying to cook it again. Mine usually sets within a day, but I don’t use liquid pectin very often. I think liquid pectin may take longer to set than powdered pectin. Putting it in the refrigerator will make it gel faster, but I’m pretty sure it won’t stay that way when you take it back out of the refrigerator. I’m not sure it’s good to put it in the refrigerator and then take it back out again.

      Reply

  9. I tried remaking my jelly using the “no added pectin” method. It is still not set. Is there anything else I can try? I am wondering if I should remake it again using more surejel?

    Reply

    1. Hi! I’m not sure on the unflavored gelatin. It would probably help the jelly to set, but I don’t know if it’s safe for canning.

      Reply

      1. Hi I use any flavor of Jello and I mix it with crab apple juice and Bernardins original pectin and white sugar and it turns out the flavor of the Jello. It is awesome.

        Reply

    1. Hi! I know that honey can be used as a substitute for sugar in jelly, but I have not tried it myself. I don’t know if you would use the same amount or not.

      Reply

    1. water boils at 212 at sea level unless in a radiator or pressure cooker..dang get u info straight…or if u got antifreeze in it.

      Reply

      1. Please re-read the article. It says that the temperature of the jelly needs to be 220 degrees F, 8 degrees above the boiling point of water. The information in the article is correct.

        Reply

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