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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Canning, Preserving and Dehydrating / NEED help with reprocessing jam and jelly that didn't set!!
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    NEED help with reprocessing jam and jelly that didn't set!!

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    imatrad
    Tue Jul 31, 2007 3:07 pm
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    I need some help from any of you experienced jam and jelly makers! I took the kids berry picking, and spent ALL DAY putting up 54 jars of boysenberry jelly and strawberry jam. Out of 54 jars, only 16 set up properly! icon_mad.gif I used a new kind of gel pectin, followed the recipe exactly and didn't double up on any batches. None of the boysenberry jelly set up, and only 16 of the strawberry jam did. icon_confused.gif I've waited the two weeks, and still no more set up. I'm very reluctantly planning to re-process it, but the lady at the Ball company said not to mix powdered pectin when reprocessing jams made with gel pectin. I don't know what went wrong. The flavor it really good, but I don't want 38 jars of "syrup"!! I hope some of you who are experienced, can offer me advice on how to correct this jam. I don't mind (too much) reprocessing, but I don't want to go through all that work again, to end up with unset jam again. Please help!!!!
    Molly53
    Tue Jul 31, 2007 9:05 pm
    Forum Host
    The_Swedish_Chef
    Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:48 pm
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    imatrad wrote:
    I need some help from any of you experienced jam and jelly makers! I took the kids berry picking, and spent ALL DAY putting up 54 jars of boysenberry jelly and strawberry jam. Out of 54 jars, only 16 set up properly! icon_mad.gif I used a new kind of gel pectin, followed the recipe exactly and didn't double up on any batches. None of the boysenberry jelly set up, and only 16 of the strawberry jam did. icon_confused.gif I've waited the two weeks, and still no more set up. I'm very reluctantly planning to re-process it, but the lady at the Ball company said not to mix powdered pectin when reprocessing jams made with gel pectin. I don't know what went wrong. The flavor it really good, but I don't want 38 jars of "syrup"!! I hope some of you who are experienced, can offer me advice on how to correct this jam. I don't mind (too much) reprocessing, but I don't want to go through all that work again, to end up with unset jam again. Please help!!!!


    Dear imatrad: I feel your pain, having just put up over 60+ 1/2 pints of various jellies and jams this past week.

    Okay, here's my take:

    1) I've never had good luck with liquid pectin, no matter what brand or how fresh. Yes...I can read, and know that liquid pectin is used after the mixture is brought back to a full boil. So, I stick with powdered Ball-brand Original Pectin and have NO problems. Some of my jellies do take 24 hours to set up, but they always do.

    So, with this "new" kind of liquid pectin that you used, is it diet? Or low sugar? When something is new, we, the consumer, always end up being the guinea pigs for their research and development.

    2) Did you use a Jelly thermometer that you know works? I always test my thermometers; lo and behold, the one that I've used for years, when I tested it in boiling water, it didn't register at all. Out it went and I bought a new one, also tested before I began. It is absolutely critical that your jam and jelly reaches 220 degrees (if you're NOT high altitude) and it may take much longer than the recipe states to reach that temp. I had a plum jam I was making that took 40 minutes to reach 220 degrees; recipe said "ten minutes"!

    3) Did you use vinegar or lemon juice??? Even if the recipe did NOT state to use it, all of my cookbooks state..."None of the fruits will gel or thicken without acid. The acid content varies with each fruit and the riper the fruit, the less natural pectin.

    The basic formula is 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice to each cup of juice or fruit puree. Even when a recipe does not call for it, I through in a 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Additionally, when a recipe calls for "adding a small amount of water to get the berries juices flowing", I add apple juice instead. Why? Apples are very rich in pectin and the small 1/4 to 1/2 cup's worth of apple juice that I put in does NOT affect the flavor at all, but aids in the setting up of the jam and jelly.

    3) Lastly, both boysenberries and strawberries have virtually NO natural pectin in them and if they were very ripe, even if you boiled the heck out of them, they wouldn't set. Old time jelly makers, like my Gran, would throw into every single jelly/jam mixture "one green cooking apple, peeled and cored." I'm guessing that this would work the same way that my apple juice for water method works for me.

    Hope some of these ideas help you!
    imatrad
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 1:37 am
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    Dear Molly and Swedish chef,
    You're both a HUGE HELP! icon_biggrin.gif I will plan to try out that liquid cement recipe, Molly.
    SC, the recipe I used was NOT a low sugar one. and I DID use the lemon juice called for (1/4 c. for the strawberry jam, and 3 TBS for the boysenberry) plus 7 cups of sugar for the 4 C. of fruit. Also, I didn't use a thermometer, as the instructions didn't say to. Just said to bring to a full rolling boil that couldn't be stirred down, then add the gel pectin and continue to stir constantly and boil another minute. After ladling the hot jam/jelly into the boiled jars, I put the lid and rings on, and then was to place them BACK into a boiling water bath for another 10 min. (I don't recall my mom doing that water bath thing after filling the jars. ) But I followed the directions and did it anyways. Do you do that second water bath?? Although I'm happy to find a solution to fixing the jam, I'm equally glad to try to figure out what went wrong in the first place! Also, the lady at the Ball company said that I couldn't mix different types of pectins when re-processing it. That I couldn't use powdered, if I'd originally used the gel. icon_confused.gif She said to get MORE of the gel to use to re-process, but I said "no way" it didn't work to begin with, I'm not going to waste more time and money screwing it up again! (But I said it more politely)
    Thanks a million to both of you. I'll let you know how it works out when I re-do it.

    Imatrad
    The_Swedish_Chef
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 10:41 am
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    imatrad: You're so welcome! I know that when I've come HERE to have questions answered I've received incredible help.

    Yes, I do the Water-Bath method. Things have changed drastically since our Moms and Grandmom's canned. I have jelly/jam cookbooks from 1917 and to read the instructions for processing....well, it's entertaining but also gives me the shudders! Some of them have you invert the jars for a couple of seconds to 5 minutes, and then flip them over, the theory being that the hot jam/jelly would sterilize the lid and create a vacuum. Well, unless you were canning the jelly while it was at the full boil, the temp drops with each second it's off the heat.

    Then, some of the older, more frugal cookbooks actually tell you to reprocess all those "peanut butter, pickle and other glass jars you collect..." to use for jam/jelly making! icon_eek.gif But, that was when people also used wax to seal their preserves so you could, again, in theory, use whatever container.

    But, what modern people forget is that older homes were NEVER as warm as we keep them today; all cookbooks say to store jams/jellies in "a cool, dark place" (temps no more than 50 degrees). I'd like to see the modern home that has a 50 degree room...unless it's a walk-in wine cooler!

    imatrad: it's absolutely critical to use the jelly thermometer! Recipes will not tell you to use it; they assume, when you're reading the general instructions for the entire process that you'll see where it states to use one. There are plenty of times that I've boiled jam/jelly for the requisite "1 minute" and the temp of the mixture isn't even 200 degrees, let alone 220 degrees. So, screw the 1 minute! I keep that mix boiling away until it reaches the temp of 220, since that is the scientific degree that causes gelling.

    You aren't High Altitude, are you? The jelling point is different for higher altitudes. If you need those temps, I can post them for you.

    One closing thought: did you make the jams/jellies in a HUGE batch or did you do it small batch at a time? All recipe books warn to NEVER increase or decrease a recipe since it will affect the setting time. I can't remember from your posts if you did big or normal batches.

    And lastly, if you can't stomach processing everything again and don't want to have a ba-zillion jars of syrup, think CHRISTMAS GIFTS!!! I only need about 20 jars of preserves for my family so when I ended up with the immense bounty that I just canned, my thoughts were "Guess what friends are getting this year for the holiday!?"

    Good luck and don't get discouraged!
    Kzim4
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:00 am
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    Thanks for posting this topic. I had the same problem when I made Apple Core and Peeling Jelly. It hasn't set. I've got to get more lids before I can reprocess, though. I'm sure I didn't use a thermometer to ensure it reached 220 when I processed the first time.
    The_Swedish_Chef
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:15 am
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    Hey, you're welcome, kzim4! What's so sad about your jelly not setting is that the basic ingredients of the apples is EXACTLY what is the basis for PECTINS main ingredient! So, adding powdered or gel pectin to apples to have it "set" is identical to adding concrete to concrete to help it set...it doesn't make sense! In fact, in my older cookbooks, they have you make your own liquid pectin so that you can use it vs. buying it and it's basically apples, water, sugar and lemon juice.

    Having the jelly thermometer is one of the most important components of preserves setting up. With some mixes I've made, even before it reaches 220 degrees, you can see it jelling in the pan. But, some of my more odd recipes, even when it reaches 220 degrees, the jelly is pure liquid and it sits that way for up to 2 days before jelling properly. I can imagine if I had just boiled for a single minute, that I'd end up with endless jars of syrup, NOT jelly! icon_evil.gif

    Here's the recipe for home-made pectin:

    Tart Apple Pectin

    4 pounds sliced green apples with peels and cores
    1/4 cup of lemon juice
    8 cups of water

    Simmer, over medium heat, until apples break down completely. Press apples through a sieve or food mill to remove cores and peels. Return liquid to a heavy kettle to cook briskly, stirring until the volume is reduced by half. Pour mixture into a jelly bag or cheesecloth lined colander and allow to drip without squeezing. Use immediately, can or freeze.

    4-6 tablespoons of homemade pectin for every cup of prepared juice gives a good gel.

    Anytime that a cook makes something that relies on science (candy making/frying/preserving) you have to get to the correct actual temperature of it just won't work. I found that out the hard way, decades ago. That's why I have thermometers for EVERYTHING: the oven, the frig, the freezer, meat, frying and jelly making. Time is valuable and I don't want to waste time/money/pride in making something that turns out a failure.
    Kzim4
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:22 pm
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    Thanks. I was surprised it didn't set, too.
    imatrad
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:45 pm
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    Swedish Chef, you are teaching me SO MUCH!!! And I REALLY, REALLY appreciate it. Now I understand, at least what went wrong! The Ball gel pectin instructions didn't state ANYWHERE on there to use a thermometer, or what temp to get it to at all!!! icon_mad.gif
    I did NOT make big batches. (was tempted to, but it said not to) I made tons of regular size batches.
    And I am planning to give many jars away to friends at Christmas, and was also planning to donate a couple dozen jars for our school's Christmas boutique, but I didn't want to donate syrup! icon_redface.gif It needs to be right, and I'll need to just break down and set aside a BIG chunk of time to reprocess all those jars, following your directions. Do you think that it will really be ok using different pectin, than the gel one that failed me to correct this? I keep thinking about how the customer service rep at Ball told me NOT to mix different pectins when reprocessing because it wouldn't work out. I can handle reprocessing once, but if it doesn't work out, I wouldn't do it again! I think that if I don't get this fixed, I'll just be so discouraged, that I'll never try to make it again! And I really do love homemade jam, but you know, you get to a point where you just feel like, "ok, I've wasted hours and hours and hours of my life making something that didn't turn out, and I spent about $100.00 on all those cases of jars and lids and packets of pectin at about $4.00 a pop, I don't want to ever do that again." But IF I CAN correct all these batches, then I'll feel like I CAN do this jam making thing again, in the future, just doing it the right way.
    Thanks again SOOO much!

    Imatrad
    The_Swedish_Chef
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:59 pm
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    imatrad: Bicycles and horse...remember? If you fall off, get back on!

    I have the tenacity of a badger so when I have a failed recipe I continue to bugger along and along until I nail it! My friends and family laugh at my tenacity, but hey, if I'm not bugging them about it or making them do it with me, what's the big diff?

    Regarding using a powdered pectin vs. gel, think of it this way: You don't want the syrup, you aren't planning on giving it away, so you are either going to be stuck with it and not use it or make another attempt that will either work or not. So, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain; you'll either end up with jelly/jam or back to syrup!

    Regarding the thermometer, this is exactly why I don't trust a single recipe until I've done alternate research. But, I'm very scientifically minded (job carryover) so it's a joy for me. I've found that the older the cookbook, the more thorough the directions. The newer Ball cookbooks are pure rubbish in my mind; just some that I have that are 2-5 years older have so much more thorough instructions. I have NO idea why, when they update, they are leaving out the more critical instructions!? Who cares if they now have Jalapeno Jelly recipes if they don't tell you how to set them up?

    I recently made a Plum Apple butter (to die for!!!) and the instructions in the cookbook said to "cook for 10 minutes". Yeah, right! The mix was the consistency of broth; I cooked it for an hour with the jelly thermometer in it the entire time; it took that long to bring it up to temperature!

    Please don't be discouraged! Find a recipe you like that makes just 6-7 cup volume, and adding lemon juice and the thermometer, I'm sure that you'll feel a whole lot better about your abilities.
    imatrad
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 1:55 pm
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    icon_lol.gif icon_lol.gif icon_lol.gif Thanks, You are SO encouraging!!! I'll go for it, but just one more time! Now where's that bike, or horse,...er....I mean jelly/syrup!?

    Imatrad
    JuliaM
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 8:40 pm
    Newbie "Fry Cook" Poster
    I quite agree about the new receipes - not a lot of help with instructions if you are new to jam/jelly making. I must admit I am of the old school, I use a thermometer as well as the saucer test. Spoon a few drops of the jam onto a cold saucer, pop into the freezer for a few minutes then test. You test by running your finger through the jam, if the channel stays clear the jam is setting and you can then bottle it. I agree also some jams/jellies take quite a long time to reach the setting point, I have to have a lot of patience sometimes.
    JuliaM
    The_Swedish_Chef
    Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:20 pm
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    RANT ALERT! RANT ALERT!

    JuliaM: I do the cold saucer test, too, along with the thermometer. When you have a formula that's so precise, as in the jelling stage, I hedge my bets on how ever many methods of setting up that I can get my hand on, including the "sheet test" off of the spoon, too.

    Now, about all those rubbishy books that are currently on the market: "Poo!", I say! I have hundreds and hundreds of cookbooks and at least 12 of them are BALL preserving books, the oldest from 1943 and Victory Gardens. In the 1991 Ball Blue Book there are magnificent pages of drawings, giving you step by step instructions on how to can tomatoes, peaches and do jelly/jams. But, in the 1995 book, they are gone, whisked away by some editor who probably never canned in their live and wanted to stream line the look! I believe that when Ball sold out their canning side of the business, they couldn't be bothered to put out a quality book any longer, preferring chic-exotic recipes over standards of just how to preserve them.

    And don't get me started on all the other trendy Jelly/Jam recipes that when you read the instructions you just know that the author only ate them at a Bed & Breakfast and never held a jelly bag in their live! If I never see another Jalapeno pepper introduced into a recipe, I'd die a happy woman! Jalapeno-Strawberry Jelly; Jalapeno Peach Jelly....good grief!!!! Die, Jalapeno, Die! Not everything or everyone wants/needs Jalapenos in their jam/jelly/breakfast cereal.

    And speaking of bad books for jellies/jams, I had the misfortune of actually ordering a book that was babbled about "to death" on another cooking site, without actually looking at it. BIG, BIG mistake. I pity any novice jam maker attempting these recipes, let alone us older gals that have been gelling our entire lives.

    It's called "Mes Confitures" by Christine Ferber who apparently is called "The Fairy Godmother of Jams" and sells them for anyone who wants to visit her shop in France; she wrote her recipes in this book. Bah, Humbug! Having read the entire book, and keeping a tally sheet next to me, there are 167 recipes that require TWO days to make some jam; there are 20 recipes that require THREE days to make a jelly recipe; and then there are the FOUR day and FIVE day jam and jelly recipes. icon_rolleyes.gif When I, or any other normal woman has 2-3-4 or 5 extra days in their lives to make 6 1/2 pints of jelly, I will have won TWO lotteries, traveled the globe three times, and become so bored with life that making a 5 day jam sounds like an adventure!

    Until then, give me a good old fashioned 1980 or earlier cookbook that does NOT take longer than 3 hours, total, and does NOT have a Jalapeno pepper anywhere near it...unless it's Jalapeno Jelly!

    Okay, I'm done with me rant. Nothing left to see here. icon_biggrin.gif
    imatrad
    Thu Aug 02, 2007 1:22 am
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    icon_lol.gif icon_lol.gif You are Hilarious, Swedish Chef!!! icon_lol.gif
    The_Swedish_Chef
    Thu Aug 02, 2007 6:50 am
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    That's what my Parole Officer keeps telling me, Imatrad! icon_wink.gif
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