Jam and Jelly Troubles

Jam and Jelly Troubles

Jam and Jelly Troubles.

Jam or jellies fail to gel or are not thick enough.
For jelly and jam to have the gelled-yet-spreadable consistency we expect from them, the magic trinity of sugar, pectin, and acid is required.

You may finally get an acceptable texture by boiling the ingredients until enough moisture drains out if any one of these components is deficient, but the long cooking period would significantly reduce the amount of fruit taste and color in the finished result.

There are a few potential causes if your jelly or jam didn’t gel despite passing the sheet test or wrinkle test stage (see the Sweet Preserves chapter). One is that you chose to economize on sugar and did so excessively. It’s also possible if there wasn’t enough pectin: Fruits with low pectin require an additional boost to gel (the Sweet Preserves chapter lists which fruits have high or low pectin content).

Another possibility is that there wasn’t enough acid, either from the fruit used as the main ingredient or from additional lemon juice. Another option is that you didn’t fully bring the mixture to a rolling boil and let it do so for at least a minute over high heat.
Reboiling the food for 5 to 10 minutes is one option.

Another is to reboil the mixture for an additional 2 to 5 minutes while adding a cup more sugar and a half cup of homemade pectin.

Adding commercial pectin and a few additional ingredients is yet another way to repair sloppy jam or jelly. Measure the preserves that need fixing first before attempting this. Add either 2 tablespoons of commercial liquid pectin, 3/4 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice for each quart of jam or jelly, or 4 teaspoons of commercial powdered pectin, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, and 1/4 cup water. In either case, stir the extra ingredients into the preserve you want to thicken, bring it to a boil, and boil it for 1 minute before putting it in freshly sterilized canning jars, covering with brand-new canning lids, and processing it for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath (see the Boiling Water Bath Canning chapter).

Even too thin jelly may be used as syrup. Just a thought.


Since you overboiled it, the spreadable preserve you were wanting was more akin to a thick block of fruit leather or a sticky, gooey syrup when it chilled in the sealed jars. There are a few techniques to salvage a useable, even delectable outcome even when there is no way to turn what you have into the original planned product.

There is something referred to as a fruit “cheese” in various cultures, particularly those in several European nations. Essentially, this is simply fruit butter, jam, or jelly that has been heated through until it is somewhat firm and slicable after cooling.

Comparable preservation is the quince paste from the Dehydrating chapter.
Consider placing a jar of your overdone preserve in a basin of really hot water for a short period of time.

Simply call it fruit cheese and serve it with crackers and the other kind of cheese if you are able to slip it out in one continuous piece (perhaps with a little assistance from a table knife swiped over the edges).

You might also re-cook the preserve with a little water after placing the jars in hot water for long enough to soften the contents and make them easier to remove. You can use this method to transform it into useful syrup, but it will never be jam or jelly.

Food Dehydration Problems


The only reason, assuming the containers were entirely dry when the dehydrated food was placed inside of them and if they were securely closed, is that the food wasn’t dried thoroughly.

You may easily solve the issue by just placing the food back in the dehydrator or oven at the temperature recommended for drying that particular kind of food if you notice this within a day or two after putting the not quite-dried food into the containers and if there are no symptoms of mold.

The amount of extra drying time required will depend on how underhydrated the food was to begin with. When you divide a piece of food in half, check to see whether any moisture beads develop along the split line.

If you see condensation on the interior of the container and the food was completely dried, maybe even crispy-dry, moisture entered from the outside.
Most likely, the container’s seal wasn’t enough.
Two recommendations are given below to prevent moisture issues with dehydrated foods:

• Give the dried fruits and vegetables and conditioning phase the time it deserves. This is the stage when you fill a jar only two-thirds full and shake it every day for a week before moving the food to completely filled containers (for details, check each component’s instructions).

This not only duplicates the instructions for each unique component but also redistributes them. This allows you to determine early on if the food needs more time to dry and also redistributes any remaining moisture in the meal.

• Keep dehydrated food in clear containers, at least throughout the first conditioning phase. Although I like using stainless steel food storage containers, it is important to detect even the tiniest amount of moisture with newly dehydrated food before mold growth becomes a problem.

Glass is the best option since you can’t see it through an opaque container and clear, solid plastic has its own issues (for example, BPA health hazards).

My celery resembles straw, so DRIED FOOD’S LOSS OF COLOR: WHY

There are two possible reasons why your once-orange carrots became a strange kind of pale mud hue and your once-bright green celery went hay-beige after being dried.
The first is that you disregarded the directions on blanching in the chapter on dehydrating.

Although certain items may be dried without first being blanched, if you don’t take the time for that “extra” step, many will lose their color during storage.

The second issue is that you kept your dried fruits or veggies next to a radiator or in a bright window where they were exposed to a lot of light or heat.

So, heed the advice to blanch the food before drying, and keep dried items away from heat sources and sunlight.
Can I still consume this? Cold Storage, Freezer, and Refrigerator Spoilage


When moisture from the food evaporates into the freezer or the air around the food in a frozen container, freezer burn happens. It generates pale discolorations on the food and looks like a frost on its surface.

Freezer burn doesn’t cause harm, but it has a negative impact on food’s flavor and texture as well as its ability to emit aromas.

Food that has been kept in the freezer for too long or that hasn’t been packaged properly are the two major causes of freezer burn.

It isn’t much you can do about the first issue other than label and date everything you put in the freezer, use up the oldest goods first, and mark and date everything you put in the freezer. You must limit the amount of air that food is exposed to when it is packaged for freezing.

That includes the air contained in tightly closed freezer bags and containers. The best way to avoid freezer burn is to vacuum seal food, but even pushing the air out of bags and properly wrapping meats may make a big difference.


Keep in mind that although cold storage may occasionally postpone rotting for months, it cannot completely prevent it. Remove any food that is deteriorating immediately to prevent the remainder of the food from spoiling more quickly.

The most probable cause of food spoiling more quickly than it should have in cold storage, excluding just being kept for too long or coming into contact with a decaying fruit or vegetable, is that it was incorrectly stored in the first place.

For details on how to properly store food in your refrigerator or root cellar, go to the Cold Storage chapter.

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