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Dec 16, 2007 02:47 PM

Help! My jelly isn't setting up...?

I made some prickly pear and muscat jelly as gifts for christmas...I'm no jelly expert...and unfortunately the jellies are not setting. I'm wondering what I can do to fix it at this point. Can I put the jars back in a waterbath (they're already sealed) and cook them and get them to set that way?
Is it worth taking them all out of the jars and re-cooking the mixture? If I do that, do I need more pectin? How long/what temp does it need to get to for the pectin to set? They're beautiful and they taste's just more of a syrup than a jelly. PLEASE HELP! I've got to get them in the mail in the next day or so!
Any thoughts would be great!

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  1. Hopefully you'll get more educated answers. My husband had the same problem this fall when he made plum jelly. I'm guessing the issue is the amount of sugar that you used or didn't use. I think the pectins are somewhat sugar amount specific. We had to find pectins for low sugar jellys. We haven't done it but we were considering "re-making" the ones that didn't set up by using the lower sugar pectins. Whole Foods near us had pectins for different sugar levels. You might try googling sugar and pectin and see what you find.

    1. Okay, you can do this. First...deep breath. Second, open all the jars and recook it. Sorry, but it's the only way. I'm going out on a limb here and guessing you used a liquid pectin. It seems to me that liquid pectin doesn't set quite as reliably as powdered. So, open the jars, dump each batch into a pot, and wash the jars. You will have to go through the canning process again, but that's the easy part.

      Your trick will be adding the pectin again and getting it to gel just right. Your box of pectin should have an insert for recipes and tips. And remake directions. Have you checked that? What kind of pectin are you using?

      Here's an old Chowhound post on a similar topic:

      1 Reply
      1. re: eightlegeddj

        Okay, so I found this from a website ( and this I believe should be the remake recipe from your packet insert. Now, I am a bit of a rebel and have just remade the whole batch at once. If you're a bit nervous, you may want to follow the rules. Here ya go! Good luck!


        Measure the jelly to be re-made. Re-make batches can be no larger than 4 cups (1 qt).

        Combine in saucepan, then bring to a boil, stirring:

        1/4 c sugar

        1/2 c water

        2 Tb bottled lemon juice

        4 tsp powdered pectin

        When a boil is reached, add 1 quart of the soft jelly and quickly bring back to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Bril for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, skim foam, process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes at sea level, 10 minutes at altitudes from 1001-6ooo feet; 15 minutes at altitudes 6001-8000 feet.

        Return to Jam and Jelly Menu
        Return to Main Menu

        There are several different procedures for this, depending on the recipe used for the original product that failed. Contact your local county Cooperative Extension office for one tailored for your situation, or use the following one if the original product was a cooked, powdered pectin recipe.

        First re-make a trial batch of 1 c then repeat the procedure using a maximum of 8 cups jelly.

        For each cup of jelly or jam to be remade measure and set aside:

        2 Tb sugar

        1 Tb water

        1 1/2 tsp powdered pectin

        Combine the pectin and water, then bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and failed jam or jelly. Stir. Bring all to a full rolling boil quickly, stirring constantly. Boil mixture for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, skim foam, and process in a boiling water canner for at least 5 minutes, or the time specified in the original recipe.

      2. If you're pressed for time just re-name it prickly-pear and muscat sauce or coulis and recommend it over ice cream. Had to do this with a whole batch of strawberry jam.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Procrastibaker

          I did exactly the same thing with some ginger jelly that didn't set. Told people it was ginger syrup and to pour it over fruit, pancakes, and ice cream or to make ginger martinis with it. The recipients never knew it was a total screw-up.

          1. re: Procrastibaker

            I've played that game many, many times... Sometimes, you even want to recreate that "mistake." I'm sure there's not much you can do about it now, since Christmas has long since passed, but I liked the answer above me.

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          2. What did you do? I'm dying to know how the story ends!

            2 Replies
            1. re: eightlegeddj

              Here's what happened...due to indecision and lack of time...we left them as they were. We shipped some off to my husband's family and drove with the rest of them to my parents house for the holidays. We renamed them as recommended...and shared that it would be good over ice cream and fruit. We also thought it would be a great syrup to use in cocktails. It has a great flavor when mixed with sparkling water or club soda as well as a lemon/lime soda...add in some vodka...or make margaritas out of s fantastic. On a more successful note...I made some very tasty and unique brittle that went over very well...inlcuding things like rosemary and cashews...all in all it turned out fine! Thanks for all the this will not be my last canning attempt!

              1. re: gentry

                Don't give up on the canning. Once you get the hang of it, the reward is sublime. It's surprisingly fast too! I use recipes on the Kraft website. I'm not sure if I said it before or not, but I really prefer the powered pectin to the liquid kind. Read up on the lower sugar recipes too.

                Good luck!!

            2. Every year my mother made quince jelly and syrup. The syrup was wonderful over French toast and also for pancakes and waffles. I was never sure whether the syrup was deliberate, or re-purposed weak jelly.