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Jul 23, 2010 02:32 PM

Why is there liquid on the top of my homemade, set jelly?

Hi all,

I canned some jelly today. The recipe called for 6 cups of sugar and 2 packets of liquid pectin (6 oz). The only liquid that is called for is cider vinegar (2 cups). I processed them for 15 minutes. I have used this recipe before and it has come out beautifully. However, this time, a few of the jars have some liquid on the top. The jars are nearly cool and the jam is set, but there is about a teaspoon of liquid on the top. What do you suppose this could be and do you think it is safe to eat? I am worried that maybe some water got into the jars when I was putting the lids on before I processed them-- I keep the lids and rings in water to sterilize and perhaps some water dropped into the jar as I was screwing the lids on? So, presuming it is water, is it safe to consume? I'm going to put them in the fridge for now just to make sure.

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  1. You may have come down with a mild case of syneresis or weeping; well, not you, but your jelly. Excess acid in the jelly can make pectin unstable, which is what it sounds like your problem is, as you used a fair amount of vinegar in your recipe. The best jelly is obtained with a pH range of 3.3 to 3.1 What type of fruit? Cut back a bit on the acid next time when using the same variety of fruit; jelly is all about the proper balance of acid, sugar and pectin. Is your jelly basically a good jelled consistency, you mentioned that it set, with just a bit of liquid on top? You may find that when using the jelly, you will observe more weeping in the jar.

    The rate of the jelly setting and any mechanical disturbance (shaking, moving jars around) after the jelly starts to set may also influence syneresis.

    What was the source of your pectin? Powder or liquid, citrus-based, or something else? Citrus-based pectins in jelly can prevent syneresis even with a pH of 2.0 or lower.

    I've had many a jar of homemade jelly that wept a bit and I've lived to tell. I can't say
    whether it's a common problem with homemade jelly but it certainly occurs more with homemade, and virtually never with commercially prepared jellies.

    Not to worry, it is perfectly safe, most likely not water from your jar lids, and if it was, that would be ok to consume as well. I assume you have a viable seal on the jelly?

    Have you seen this website? Good info and troubleshooting tips for jam and jelly (and everything else canned):

    2 Replies
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      Wow! That was probably the most thoughtful and thorough response I have ever gotten on the Internet ever!! Thanks so much. I think I probably did overdo it on the acid. I am always so afraid that I am not using enough!! It was a jalapeño jam I was making, and the pectin was just ball brand liquid packets. The recipe is actually in the pectin instruction booklet in the box. I will remember this for next time and make sure to measure out just two cups of vinegar and no more!! Thanks again!! I find that I have so many questions about canning. I have been to the UGA site quite a few times but there's just so much information! Again, thanks!!

      1. re: cpilgrim84

        Ok, that's why you needed so much acid. I wondered. I have made jalapeño jelly as well, but it's been awhile. I don't think I used pectin in it but who knows, and I don't have the book the recipe it came from any longer, it was in Bill Neal's Southern Cooking. He was a Southern chef who wrote a few great cookbooks back in the late 80's/early 90's's. He has since passed away. The jelly contained scallions and fresh basil as well as red and green jalapeños; I love the stuff, whatever recipe is used.

        Anyway, I'm glad I could help, thanks for the kind words, and here's to success in all things jelly.