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Overcooked and underloved jam

Learn why some batches of jam turn out far too thick, and how to use them anyway

June 8, 2020
By RENEE POTTLE - Grit Magazine , Farm News


GRIT Magazine

I'm asked over and over: "How do I fix my overcooked jam?"

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-Submitted photo

Overcooked jam can happen when using too much sour fruit. Failure to check the gelling point can be the cause as well.

It's frustrating. You spend time, money, and energy to lovingly make a batch of beautiful jam. You have visions of tucking jars of it into Christmas presents or serving it on top of homemade biscuits. You imagine how impressed your family will be by the sheer variety of unique jam combinations you've created, such as apricot-raspberry, apple-pear, or cherry-lime. But then you open a jar and find that your jam is thick and gloopy-impossible to spread with a knife and almost like gummy candy. What went wrong? Why did this particular batch overcook? Can it be salvaged? And how can you prevent it from happening again?

Most of us, even experienced home food preservers, overcook at least one batch of jam or preserves every year. I tend to have difficulties with berry and cherry jams in particular. Some people struggle with stone fruit spreads. It helps to understand why the batch overcooked in the first place.

What causes overcooked jam?

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While there are nearly as many reasons for overcooked jam as there are preservers making it, these are the most likely culprits.

Likewise, halving a recipe without reducing the pan size can also lead to an overcooked batch. If the jam solution barely covers the bottom of the cooking pan, it will overcook within a matter of minutes. You can successfully halve a jam recipe, but be sure to use a smaller saucepan too.

It's all coming together

These are the four most common methods of checking the gelling point of jam.

Amanda's Chicken Cherries Jubilee

A couple of years ago I made several batches of cherry jam. Some of it was overcooked. One of my daughters-in-law turned two jars of it into this creative chicken dish served over rice. She cooks for eight people every night, so meals that are tasty and simple are always a bonus. Yields 8 servings.

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 pint overcooked cherry jam

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 medium onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, or until chicken is cooked through.

Salvaging overcooked jam

If the jam tastes scorched, then it's a lost cause. However, if the jam is just too thick, you may be able to repair the batch. The following technique usually doesn't work for me, but it's successful often enough that I still attempt it.

Spoon the overcooked jam into a large saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring to incorporate all of the water. Cook until the gelling point has been reached. Spoon into clean jars and re-process in the water bath.

If the above method doesn't work, you can try these serving methods for thick, overcooked (but not scorched) jam:

Peanut butter and jelly muffins

This recipe has been a family favorite for three generations. It's the recipe I make for potlucks, long road trips, and grandchildren's lunches.

Yields 12 muffins.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup peanut butter

3/4 cup milk

2 large eggs

1/4 cup jam or preserves

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and baking powder.

Using a pastry blender, cut in peanut butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Stir in milk and eggs.

Fill each muffin cup half full with batter. Top with about 1 teaspoon of jam. Finish filling muffin cups with remaining batter.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

Sweet and tangy barbecue sauce

I've successfully used overcooked cherry jam, blackberry jam, and mango jam to make barbecue sauce. This recipe can also be made with jam that isn't overcooked.

Yields 2 cups.

1 cup tomato sauce

1 cup homemade jam

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan, and heat slowly over medium-low heat, stirring until combined.

Use with grilled hamburgers, baked beans, or as a sandwich spread. Store in refrigerator.

Excerpted from GRIT. To read more articles from GRIT, please visit or call 866-803-7096 to subscribe. Copyright 2020 by Ogden Publications Inc.



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