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Help! Have you made jam?

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Hello! I decided to make strawberry freezer jam. I went and picked berries, got my ingredients ready, and went to work. I used Ball pectin and followed the recipe in the box, EXCEPT I used 1/2 as much sugar as the recipe called for because I tasted it and it seemed perfectly sweet.

This morning I was ready to have jam and it's liquid! The jam didn't set up. Maybe the sugar was for more than flavor? Can I salvage this by adding more pectin or sugar at this point? I would prefer more pectin, as I left out 4 of the 8 cups of sugar listed in order to have healthier jam. Any experience with this? HELP!

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  1. I made my first batch of strawberry freezer jam yesterday, in fact. Did you use the "freezer jam" pectin? One thing I read on line before I started was that you should use that stuff. I don't think (but I'm a novice too) that the sugar content would matter - there are savory jams - so my guess is that your pectin was not activated or that your liquid:pectin ratio was off.

    FWIW, I just followed the recipe on the back of the Ball freezer jam pectin, which calls for 4 c. of mashed berries and only 1.5 c. of sugar. It's very sweet, but I did see those recipes that called for MUCH more sugar and I just can't imagine how icky sweet those'd be.

    6 Replies
    1. re: gansu girl

      Gansu, I used the Ball pectin and it has the recipe inside for freezer jam. The recipe called for 2 cups of berries, 2T of lemon juice and 4 CUPS of sugar. I had doubled the entire recipe so I used 4 cups for the whole thing.

      What are anyone's thoughts about taking some of the liquid jam and adding more pectin, then remixing and bottling the whole batch?

      1. re: Main Line Tracey

        Sorry to say almost every recipe I have tried for jams, will instruct you not to double the recipe because it doesn't work. Never did it, but I wonder...

        1. re: chef chicklet

          huh - I doubled the recipe and it worked out great!?

          1. re: gansu girl

            you can definitely double a jam recipe, but the ratio of sugar to berries will change the amount it sets, so you can't just double the berries while keeping the sugar the same and expect the same consistency (you'll get berry juice if you take this far enough)...then again, in my family we don't use pectin in jam- just berries and sugar...

            1. re: gansu girl

              Really? My gosh all these years, I am not an expert but have made plenty of jams. I have read this more than once, and even though I wanted to try to double it and since I don't know enough about the chemistry part, I never did. Well now that just ticks me the heck off.

              1. re: chef chicklet

                I think if you double all quantities, then it's fine - that's what I did, that's what one usually does when doubling a recipe . . . . what Danielle's referring to is just doubling the berries so the sugar/berry ratio becomes off. The thought of using 8 c. of sugar is horrifying, though, I agree w/the OP!

      2. Sorry to say, Main Line Tracey, that the sugar content is the key to getting a jam/jelly to set up- even with a commercial pectin, you usually cannot modify the amount of sugar unless you use a sugar-free recipe and sugar-free pectin. That's probably the most likely novice mistake- it seems like so much sugar, but it's honestly necessary.

        I haven't tried the freezer jam, because I always can mine (I do strawberry, blueberry, hot pepper, apple jelly, etc every year) but I expect the same rule applies. You can find recipes for conserves or other lower-sugar recipes, but any regular jam will have about the same ratio. The only way I've been able to correct it is to reboil with the full sugar content.

        Another thing to keep in mind is that natural pectin in the fruit helps offset the sweet and to set it up. It's only present in under-ripe fruit, so you want to make sure you have some included in your batch. If you have only very ripe or over-ripe fruit you'll also get a more liquid result, and a sick-sweet result.

        1. I do freezer jam all the time and have no problems with it. I use Ball Natural Gel No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin. I've made pretty much every fruit or berry jam you can think of with it, herb jellies, and fancy jams (like strawberry with balsamic vinegar and black pepper). I've used as little as 1/2 cup sugar and I've used Splenda, all with good results. Well, except for blueberry. It gets kind of watery but other people have told me the same thing happens to them with blueberry. It's still good, just needs to be stirred before using. The nice thing about the low/no sugar pectin is, after you're familiar with using it and know what to look for and expect, you can actually start out with a minimum of sugar and taste it, if it's not sweet enough you can add a little more while it's still hot and sweeten it to your taste.

          If you're using regular Ball pectin follow the directions in the box and use all the sugar it calls for. It's too sweet for my taste and not fruity enough. That's one reason I changed to the Low/No Sugar pectin.

          My suggestions for your current batch would be: A) if it's syrupy, then use it as syrup for pancakes, ice cream and desserts or B) if it's just plain watery, put it back in the pan and gently cook it down some to a syrup, see if it sets up for you and if not, proceed from there with A.

          Don't give up! Jamming, traditionally or freezer jamming, is worth the trial and error, and even experienced preservers have their share of oopses from time to time. If you're new to jamming, just follow the directions exactly for whichever pectin you're using until you're comfortable and then go crazy with sugars, spices and added flavors (Peach with a dollop of brandy or kirsch at the last moment is very nice!)

          2 Replies
          1. re: morwen

            Morwen- I'm excited to hear that you use the no-sugar pectin, and can add real sugar to taste... I've never tried it, because I always assume it just calls for a bunch of splenda or equal, which I don't eat. But I'd love to try a recipe with just a little regular sugar and the no-sugar pectin. I'll definitely give it a try!

            1. re: happybellynh

              I've had great results using Splenda but if you know well what something with Splenda tastes like you can definitely tell the jam is made with that. However, if you are a person that needs to rigorously limit sugar intake as much as possible, freezer jam made with Splenda is far superior to any similar commercial product and my sweet tooth family members happily devoured it.

              If you prefer more fruity flavor and less sugar then the low/no sugar pectin fits the bill perfectly because it does allow you to play with amounts until you find what suits you best.

              I became a freezer jam fanatic because my old kitchen had no a/c and as I get older I get more intolerant to working in high heat. Being able to make jam without the fuss of over heated kitchen, boiling pots of water and fruit, and hot glass was a revelation! Now I have a high tech kitchen but I'm still making freezer jam and enjoying it more because I feel I have more freedom to experiment with flavorings rather than get-the-damn-jam-done-and-outta-the-kitchen syndrome!

          2. make jello!

            I had some extra strawberry syrup from canning this weekend and turned it into really good homemade jello.

            Search the boards you will find some good posts!

            1. It is fixed! I took all of the watery jam and put it in a pot. I added 3 cups of sugar and 2 additional boxes of pectin. I boiled for 1 minute and then stirred to cool (and in the hopes that some water would evaporate).

              The resulting jam is really good! My husband and son are eating it with a spoon as I am writing this.

              I have learned that sugar IS absolutely essential, unless you use the specially made low/no sugar pectin. Thanks to all for the suggestions and great information!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Main Line Tracey

                Terrific! So fabulous all that effort didn't go to waste . . . . Enjoy!

              2. I'm late ine th game on this, so I will echo what others have said. Follow the package and use the amount of sugar called for. It always seems like too much no what kind of jam I make, be it freezer or traditional, yet I learned the hard way too by trying it with less sugar once.

                I think freezer strawberry jam is wonderful. Glad it ultimately worked out for you!