Troubleshooting Questions

In most cases, yes, you can fix it. Since this is a longer answer, click here to match your issue with a solution.

Low-sweetener jam or jelly that is a bright color at first will begin to fade over time and with exposure to light. This is a process of color loss and does not mean the jam or jelly is going bad. The browning starts at the top of the jar and slowly works its way down. If your jars were properly sealed and the seal is still intact, the jam or jelly, although not as pretty as it once was, is safe to eat.

To slow down the process of color loss, store your sealed jars in total darkness. You can also add some lemon juice even when a recipe does not require it (1 tablespoon per cup of mashed fruit or juice at the most). Freezing your fruit and then making the jam or jelly closer to the time when you are going to eat it or give it away is also recommended.

Using citric acid powder instead of lemon juice can be more effective at preventing color loss/color change. One-quarter teaspoon powdered Citric Acid is equivalent to 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. 1 teaspoon powdered Citric Acid is equivalent to ¼ cup lemon juice (4 Tablespoons). Citric Acid lowers pH (makes the mixture more acid as does lemon juice) and imparts tartness to the fruit mixture (as does lemon juice), but it doesn’t add a particular flavor.

If your jam or jelly is too thick, the first question to ask is: Is it spreadable? The Pomona’s jell could be stiffer or firmer than you are used to, but it should be spreadable. If it’s not spreadable, then something went wrong.

The most usual cause for a too firm or rubbery texture with Pomona’s is that you used less fruit than the recipe called for. Our recipes are calculated for mashed fruit. So if you use pieces of fruit or whole berries, you are actually using less fruit than if it were mashed, or cooked to a mash and then measured, and you will get a firmer jell. Or you may have used more pectin than the recipe called for. For example, if you used Tablespoons of pectin rather than teaspoons.

Cooking can also affect the amount of fruit you are working with. For example, if you cook the fruit mixture for too long before adding pectin, you could reduce the fruit volume and make the pectin amount too high for the fruit you have left.

It is less likely that your jam would be too firm from overcooking after adding the pectin. Usually if you cook jam made with Pomona’s for too long after adding the pectin, it will de-activate the pectin and you will get a poor jell.

All of this being said, the typical Pomona’s jell is more like a fruit spread than a gloppy high-sugar jam. If you prefer a softer set, you can always use less pectin than called for in our recipes. We would suggest you experiment by using ¼ to ½ teaspoon less pectin than the recipe calls for, or perhaps up to a teaspoon less for recipes that call for 4 teaspoons of pectin. You would keep the calcium water amount the same.

Yes. Pomona’s Pectin will start breaking down if it is subjected to extended cooking. After you have added the pectin to your boiling fruit mixture, you can continue to cook for up to 10 minutes without harming the pectin. After 10 minutes you risk breaking down the pectin.

An extended boiling water-bath of the filled jars also risks breaking down the pectin. The pectin is likely to be totally broken down by pressure canning. If you follow the cooking times in the directions and recipes that come with Pomona’s, the pectin will retain its full jelling power.

For an immediate fix, gently stir some additional sweetener into the jar.

Another option is to empty the jar into a small saucepan. Add the sweetener you want to the mixture in the pan and bring to a boil, stirring well for 1 minute. Put the hot mixture into a clean, hot jar and put on a washed lid. Eat when thoroughly cool and the mixture has re-jelled.

If you want to fix a whole batch at once, pour the contents of all the jars into a pan – remove lids carefully if they haven’t been on the jars for very long and you want to re-use them. Add more sweetener. Bring the mixture to a good boil. Boil and stir for 2 minutes. Jar and process according to the recipe sheet that comes with Pomona’s Pectin.

Usually that thin, white film is jelled foam. If your fruit was foamy in the sauce pan and you didn’t skim the foam off, or if your mixture had a lot of air in it and you didn’t do air releasing before putting the jam in the jars, the foam or tiny air bubbles rise to the top of the jar and form that white film.

It is always a good idea to inspect a jar of jam that has been stored on the shelf before eating it. Do you see mold? Does the jam smell moldy or fermented (have a smell of alcohol)? If yes, throw it away. If not, taste it and if it tastes okay, it is fine to eat it.

Cloudy jelly is usually due to improper juicing of the fruit. Fruit should be cooked gently rather than boiled. Dripping should happen through a fine mesh jelly bag or layers of cheesecloth. Never squeeze the jelly bag or cheesecloth. High-sugar jelly tends to have a very crystal clear look from the fact that there is more sugar than juice in the jar. The high level of melted sugar in the jelly creates that look. You may be able to obtain very clear low-sugar jelly by straining the properly obtained juice a number of times.

What you have is called “fruit float.” When the jars of jam are very hot and there is no jell yet, the pulp, which is lighter than the juice, is able to float to the top of the jar. Strawberries are prone to fruit float although it doesn’t always happen. Other fruits can have fruit float also. You are not doing anything wrong. However, if you want to discourage fruit float from happening, you can mash your fruit a little more and you can cook your fruit for a little while before you bring it up to the full boil. You could even add a little of your sweetener to cook with the fruit, still leaving enough sweetener to adequately disburse the pectin powder without going over the sweetener limit.

In the future, when you take the jars out of the water bath, leave them for about an hour to start cooling and seal. Then come back and check to make sure they are all sealed. If you see that you have fruit float, turn the jars upside down to force the pulp to redistribute through the jar. Come back in about 45 minutes and turn the jars right side up to once again force the pulp to redistribute through the jar. Check again in another 45 minutes and if you have a distinct dividing line, turn the jars upside down again. Turn the jars right side up again in about 30 minutes. You always want the jars to end up right side up. By keeping the pulp well distributed throughout the jars, there will not be a dividing line when the jell finally starts and locks everything into place.

If your jam has jelled in a separated state, you can gently stir the pulp and juice back together when you open the jar to eat it. Separated jam in sealed jars will store safely.

There are several scenarios that can cause the pectin to clump together when it is added to the fruit mixture.

  1. The pectin was stirred directly into the fruit mixture.
  2. The pectin was stirred into an amount of sweetener below the low end of the sweetener range.
  3. The pectin was not well mixed throughout the sweetener.
  4. The pectin was stirred into a sugar with larger crystals, like turbinado sugar. The pectin may not mix well with these larger crystals.

The Fix: Turn off the heat and fish out the pectin clumps as much as you can. Put ¾ cup up to 1 cup of hot fruit mixture into a cup for immersion blender, or in food processor, or in blender. Add the pectin clumps that you fished out. It is very important to vent the lid (if there is one) to let steam out. Don’t use an enclosed blender that can’t be vented. Blend for a full minute until all clumps are totally dissolved.

Bring pan with fruit mixture back to a boil, add blended pectin-fruit, and stir well. Stir vigorously to break up any pectin clumps still in the fruit mixture. Bring fruit mixture to a full boil. Remove from the heat. Jar and process according to the recipe sheet that comes with Pomona’s Pectin.

Note: For this fix to work, your fruit mixture needs to be a “low-sweetener mixture” — that is, the sweetener that is already mixed in with the fruit has to be within the sweetener ranges on our recipe sheet. The pectin clumps can only fully dissolve in a low-sweetener mixture.

If the sweetener in your mixture is above the sweetener range, turn off the heat and fish out the pectin clumps as much as you can. Put ¾ cup up to 1 cup of boiling water or boiling unsweetened fruit juice into a cup for immersion blender, or in food processor, or in blender. Add the pectin clumps that you fished out. It is very important to vent the lid (if there is one) to let steam out. Don’t use an enclosed blender that can’t be vented. Blend for a full minute until all clumps are totally dissolved.

Bring pan with fruit mixture back to a boil, add blended pectin, and stir well. Bring fruit mixture to a full boil. Remove from the heat. Jar and process according to the recipe sheet that comes with Pomona’s Pectin.

If you stir the pectin powder into an amount of sweetener that is beyond the range shown in our recipes, or have too much sweetener already added to the fruit, the pectin powder will be inhibited from dissolving and may go grainy. Pomona’s Pectin can only properly dissolve in a low-sugar environment, so it is necessary to keep the sweetener low (within our range) while you are dissolving the pectin in the boiling fruit mixture. Additional sweetener can be added after the pectin is fully dissolved.

When the pectin becomes grainy from being stirred into a higher-sweetener mixture, you can’t get rid of the graininess by more cooking. The fix is to add enough more mashed fruit or unsweetened juice to bring the sugar or honey level down to within the original recipe’s sweetener range. This allows the grainy pectin to dissolve and do its job of jelling the original amount of mashed fruit or juice.

You will also add pectin, calcium water, and lemon or lime juice (if called for in the recipe) for the additional mashed fruit or juice. You will add the pectin by making liquid pectin using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender. You can make the liquid pectin with boiling water or boiling unsweetened fruit juice.

First determine:

  1. How much additional mashed fruit for jam or juice for jelly do you need to add to bring the sugar or honey level down to within the original recipe’s sweetener range? See example below.
  2. Using the original recipe, how much pectin will you need to jell this additional fruit or juice?
  3. Using the original recipe, how much calcium water will you need for the additional fruit or juice?
  4. Using the original recipe, how much lemon (or lime) juice will you need for the additional fruit or juice?

Example: If you made jelly with 4 cups of blackberry juice and stirred the pectin into 3 cups of sugar (2 cups is the sugar limit for 4 cups of juice), then you will have to add 2 cups of unsweetened juice to bring the sugar level to within the low-sugar range (3 cups of sugar is the limit for 6 cups of juice). You will also add 2 teaspoons calcium water and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice for the additional 2 cups of blackberry juice. Then you will make liquid pectin with ½ cup boiling liquid and 2 teaspoons pectin.

Use the table below to figure out how much water or unsweetened juice is required to dissolve the additional pectin.

Pectin to Add  :  Amount of Boiling Liquid
Up to 3 teaspoons  :  ½ cup liquid
4 to 4 ¾ teaspoons  :  ¾ cup liquid
5 to 6 teaspoons  :  1 cup liquid
7 teaspoons  :  1 ¼ cups liquid
8 teaspoons  :  1 1/3 cups liquid

Make liquid pectin by measuring the correct amount of water or unsweetened fruit juice into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Put boiling liquid in cup for immersion blender, or in food processor, or in blender. Add pectin. It is very important to vent the lid (if there is one) to let steam out. Don’t use an enclosed blender that can’t be vented. Blend for 10 seconds, then stop and scrape down the sides so all pectin clumps are in or on the liquid. Blend for a full minute until all powder is totally dissolved.

Fix Your Jam/Jelly: Empty jars into sauce pan. Add additional fruit for jam or juice for jelly. Add additional calcium water. Add additional lemon juice (if called for in the recipe). Stir well. Bring mixture to a full boil. Add liquid pectin and stir well. If you want to add more sweetener, do that now and stir well to dissolve. When mixture returns to a full boil, remove from the heat. Jar and process according to the recipe sheet that comes with Pomona’s Pectin.

Usually there is nothing you can do or need to do because it doesn’t cause serious problems. The jam or jelly is still safe to eat. You might notice that your jam or jelly is weepy (liquid seeps out of the jell and forms a puddle) or that the jell is stiffer than normal. It’s also possible you could experience a more acid taste.

Some fruits have calcium in them naturally. This natural calcium will activate the pectin. Wait until the next day to see if your mixture jells when thoroughly cool. If it has gelled, you don’t need to do anything.

If it hasn’t gelled, open the jars and put the mixture into a sauce pan. (If you made the jam or jelly recently and you carefully remove the lids without damaging them, you can re-use the same lids.) Add the missing calcium water and stir well. Bring the mixture to a good boil. Boil and stir for 2 minutes. Jar and process according to the recipe sheet that comes with Pomona’s Pectin.

If your recipe called for lemon juice and you forgot to put it in, your mixture will not be acid enough for safe canning. You have to open the jars and put the mixture into a sauce pan. (If you made the jam or jelly recently and you carefully remove the lids without damaging them, you can re-use the same lids.) Add the missing lemon juice and stir well. Bring the mixture to a good boil. Boil and stir for 2 minutes. Jar and process according to the recipe sheet that comes with Pomona’s Pectin.

There are several things that can prevent a jar from sealing:

1. Headspace too big or too small (headspace should be ¼ inch)
2. A chip on the jar rim
3. Using an old lid (new lids must be used)
4. Screwing the band on too tightly (band should be fingertip tight)
5. Jam on the jar rim (rims should be wiped clean)

Click here for our Step-by-Step Tutorial on Water Bath Canning.

Call our JAMLINE

Still having trouble or questions? Pomona’s Pectin operates a JAMLINE. A real person is available to answer questions and hear comments. The number is 559-760-0910. JAMLINE hours are Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm CST. If we don’t answer, please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as possible.

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