Jam & Jellies Problem Solver

Jam and Jellies Troubleshooting

Have questions about why fruit floats in your jams, your jelly is filled with bubbles, or your soft spreads seem too soft? The chart below provides simple solutions to ensure your jams and jellies are perfect with each serving.

What happens if soft spread is too stiff or tough?

  • There may be too much natural pectin in the fruit.
    • Make sure fruit is fully ripe.
  • Soft spread is cooked too long.
    • If you are not adding commercial pectin, use a gel stage test to check doneness before filling jars.
  • Too much sugar used.
    • When not using commercial pectin, add ¾-cup to 1-cup sugar for each cup of juice or fruit.

Why is the soft spread fermenting?

  • Typically, this is the result of not bringing the soft spread to the correct temperature before filling jars and/or under-processing, which prevents spoilage. Always bring soft spread to a full rolling boil when using commercial pectin or to 220°F when preparing a recipe with no added pectin. Fill Ball® canning jars and adjust lids and bands. Use the processing time and method recommended in the tested fresh preserving recipe.

Why does liquid form at the top of the soft spread?

  • Syneresis, or “weeping,” occurs in quick-setting soft spreads and is due to an imbalance of acid and pectin in fruit mixture - or the quality of pectin in the fruit. There is no way to prevent or solve for it.
  • Less-than-ideal storage conditions may also result in weeping. Store soft spreads in a dry, dark place between 50-70°F.

Why does my soft spread contain glass-like particles?

  • Too much sugar used. Follow recipe instructions and sugar measurements.
  • Mixture was undercooked. Undercooking prevents sugar from dissolving completely and mixing thoroughly with the juice or fruit. Follow cooking instructions closely!
  • Mixture cooked for the incorrect period. Long, slow cooking results in too much evaporation of the water content of the fruit. Again, follow cooking instructions closely for best results.
  • Undissolved sugar (that was sticking to the pan) may have poured into the soft spread as it was prepared. Carefully wipe the side of the pan free of sugar crystals with a spatula during cooking or with a damp cloth before filling jars. Instead of pouring, ladle soft spread into jars.
  • In grape products, tartaric acid, a natural substance in grapes, causes crystallization. Refrigerate grape juice for 12-24 hours. Ladle juice from bowl, being careful not to disturb sediment that may have settled on the bottom, and strain through a dampened jelly bag or several layers of dampened cheesecloth.

Why is my soft spread too soft?

  • There is an imbalance of sugar, juice or fruit, acid and pectin. Make sure to follow instructions precisely for soft spreads with no added pectin.
  • The batch is too large. Never make a double batch and use no more than 4-6 cups of juice or fruit in each batch.
  • Fruit was too ripe. Select fruit that is fully ripe but not over-ripe. Using some slightly under-ripe (but not green) fruit will help to provide natural pectin and aid with gelling.
  • Soft spread not boiled to the correct temperature. Use a gel stage test to check doneness before packing Ball® canning jars.

Why is my soft spread cloudy?

  • The fruit was too green or under-ripe. Fruit should be firm and fully ripe.
  • Fruit cooked too long before straining for juice. Cook fruit only until tender.
  • Fruit pulp extracted during juicing process. To obtain the clearest jelly possible, let juice drain through a dampened jelly bag or several layers of dampened cheesecloth. Do not squeeze jelly bag.
  • Soft spread ladled into jars too slowly or allowed it to stand before ladling. When done cooking, work quickly to fill jars before spread begins to set. Process immediately.

Why is there fruit floating in my soft spread?

  • Immature or porous, textured fruit used. Be sure to use fully ripe, freshly picked fruit and berries (fresh or frozen). Some imported, out-of-season fruits are textured and tend to float more easily.
  • The sugar content of your soft spread was too dense. Measure carefully and cook mixture at a full rolling boil for the time indicated in the recipe before filling Ball® canning jars.
  • There is air in the fruit, which can be dependent on the growing season. There is no solution if this is the case.

Download a printable version of Jams and Jellies Troubleshooting here.