What To Do When Your Jam Turns Out Disgusting

I was lying in bed the other night, and thought to myself:

I’m going to make rose petal jam. I patted myself on the back for thinking of such a great idea and went to sleep.

I’d never made rose petal jam before even though I’ve seen recipes floating around the internet every once in awhile.  The roses in the garden are beautiful right now, and it seemed like a good enough idea.  I started the recipe and figured I’d thrown in some rainier cherries and some sliced lemon. Everything looked so pretty macerating in the fridge.

I thought about how nice the pictures would look for a rose petal jam.  I thought about how much I like flowers, and cherries.  Everything was going great. and then….I tasted some.


Oh my god, vomit.  It’s the most disgusting jam I’ve made in months.  Horrible. And it made me think…  how can I rationalize writing a post that still includes all these roses?

so here it is…

What To Do When You’re Cooking A Batch Of Jam And Realize That It’s Completely Screwed Up

If you get addicted to jamming, you’ll go through an awkward puberty phase where you’re breaking free from all the recipes in the pectin packet and starting to do your own thing.  Things don’t always go well.  These are a couple of the bad things that you might run into along the journey, with my hints for minimizing the damage.

It tastes bitter:

  • Try adding honey or brown sugar.  A cup of honey in a pot of jam can soften up the bitter edge of many citrus fruits.  Brown sugar (or other dark sugars) can help too.

It’s way too sweet:

  • Try adding some lemon juice. The tart flavor may help balance the sweetness.
  • If the jam is only partially cooked, stop cooking it and add more fresh fruit (but no more sugar!).
  • Can it as is…. there are some good applications for overly sweet jam, like using it in smoothies or mixed into yogurt, where you won’t notice the sweetness as much.

You realize, midway through, that the fruit on the bottom of the pot has burned:

  • Stop stirring immediately.  Remove the pot from the heat and, without stirring, pour the jam into a different container.  If you stir everything, the burnt fruit will definitely be in the whole batch and make it taste scorched.   If you separate the ruined part from the jam that was still potentially fine, you might be able to rescue it.  When the jam has cooled down a little bit, taste it and see if the flavors are worth putting into jars or whether it belongs in the compost.

The combination of flavors doesn’t work and it just tastes really gross:

  • Throw it away.  I used to try and save the jars with grand plans about somehow turning them into something edible, but ….  As you know, most jam has a lot of sugar in it.  If I’m going to bother eating sugar, I’d much rather it were from a perfect jar of wild blackberry jam, not that gross jar that’s been sitting in the pantry for a year already.  Yes, if you have a jar of jam with muddled flavors that didn’t turn out how it was supposed to, you can turn it into a really delicious glaze for stir-fried chicken by adding some soy sauce, chopped scallions and cilantro.  You could do all kinds of stuff with it, really. I never end up bothering with those ideas, though, because it usually involves turning what was a really light, healthy dinner into a sugary plate of junk food.   For me, it’s usually better to dump it in the compost and move on.

A last word of advice: 

I’ve found that if I mess up a batch of jam, the best thing to do is stop canning for the day.  If I’m frustrated, I tend to just mess things up even more.  It’s usually best just to go do something else instead and come back to the fruit when I’m feeling inspired and excited again.   I Try to learn from the experience so that I don’t do it again (rose petals are bitter, and so is the citrus pectin I made awhile back = disaster).

To make failures easier to handle, I try to never buy expensive fruit.  If you stick to local fruit when it’s in peak season, the prices should be low and if you mess up a batch or two it really won’t matter very much.  Try to remember that this is supposed to be something fun, and don’t get too worried about messing up a batch.

18 thoughts on “What To Do When Your Jam Turns Out Disgusting

  1. Rose petal jam isn’t something I’ve ever tried, but I did make a rose petal jelly several years ago that wasn’t bad (but not good enough to make again). My recent a failure was from an abundance of citrus from an indoor tree. It was a good lesson in taste your fruit first. What I had thought were lovely little sweet mandarins turned out to be very tart Rangpur limes. That marmalade is unbelievably tart! But for some reason I feel better about throwing it out if it sits on the shelf for a year first.

    1. dawn, i’ve had that happen too. Something about tart marmalade, though… I feel like it’s better for it to be too tart than too sweet. I think you can put it into other dishes easier if it’s too tart instead of too sweet (mixed into a dessert, like shortbread? or on grilled chicken or fish tacos? i could see it working out ok…)

      1. I’ve only used it once thus far, as a glaze (with some chile) for a pork loin. That was actually pretty good. And I think chicken will be really good also. I just wish there weren’t so much of it as it takes a lot longer to use up when it’s not being slathered with reckless abandon on toast and muffins.

  2. I made both the jam and the jelly. Loved the jelly (but my roses aren’t as flavorful as I’d hoped), the jam not so much. I made a mini bath of both to start with though, so I only had 3 pints total. I won’t be making the jam again, but I plan on finding some wild roses to make the jelly-its lovely as the sweetener in a cup of tea. And so pretty with a rosebud floating in the goo.

    1. angela, i think i might try the jelly actually. something about the texture of cooked rose petals was… really foul. I think they’d be okay mixed into a fruit jam if it was just a couple rose petals and mostly fruit, but this batch was mostly rose petals with a little fruit. The jelly sounds like it might be nice, though, and i really like the idea of sweetening tea with it!

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s done this. I made a gigantic pot of raspberry jam several years ago. The pot was cheap and thin on the bottom and ended up scorching the jam. The jam had a smokey flavor and I hoped it would go away because who wants to throw away 2 gallons of homegrown raspberry jam!!! Weeks and months later the jam still tasted bitter and smokey so I decided to turn it into a raspberry chipotle sauce and reprocessed it. In the end it was still too terrible and I finally dumped it all [sad face]. I threw out the pot and have been much more careful since.

  4. What do you do if your rhubarb jam is not only way too sweet, but there’s also WAY too much pectin in it?? I made a batch today, and since I can’t remember what recipe (if any) I used last time I made this (then-delicious) jam, I used store-bought pectin and followed their directions for strawberry jam. BIG MISTAKE! I have another batch macerating as we speak (thanks to your recipe here), but I’d really like to salvage the 7 pints I already made. Any tips for me? Thanks! 🙂

  5. OMG, LOL!! Just found your blog via one of my favorites (Lou Murray’s Green World), and thanks for “righting” a day where I’m feeling poorly. I plan on trying my hand at canning for the first time this summer since it looks like I’m going to have tons of tomatoes this year and we always get loads of guavas from the tree out front, so I’ll be making some jam too. Now I know not to expect perfection on the first try 😉

  6. Thanks for the tips. So the real question is – what did you do with your rose petal jam? Did you have to throw it away?

    I made a batch of jam with rose petals in it last year (and nectarines and mangoes) – I liked it, but some people thought it was a bit \’cloying\’. (Or was that the apple and rose water jam?) But, I did use rose petals bought from the tea shop, I don\’t know, but I\’d guess the type of rose might make a difference? The recipe didn\’t call for that much of the packet of petals I bought, so I\’ve been adding them to my tea pot on and off ever since – heavenly!

    1. My little recipe book of old fashioned jams and jellies” instructs to only use the rose varieties that have aromas, seldom the new modern hybrids bred for beauty of size and color but have little fragrance. It truly makes a difference in the fragrance of the product.

  7. Thanks for the tips. So the real question is – what did you do with your rose petal jam? Did you have to throw it away?

    I made a batch of jam with rose petals in it last year (and nectarines and mangoes) – I liked it, but some people thought it was a bit \’cloying\’. (Or was that the apple and rose water jam?) But, I did use rose petals bought from the tea shop, I don\’t know, but I\’d guess the type of rose might make a difference? The recipe didn\’t call for that much of the packet of petals I bought, so I\’ve been adding them to my tea pot on and off ever since – heavenly!

    (I think I just left this comment, but it doesn’t seem to be here, so if this turns out to be a duplicate comment, please do delete it!)

  8. I was just looking at a few forlorn jars of canned goods from years past and thinking it was time to finally dump them (weep weep). I have found that some jams may not taste good on their own, but are tasty ingredient in a larger recipe. I had wonderful results with a brandied fig jam added to smothered pork chops. Yum!

    1. thanks aimee. it wasn’t really the flavor of the rose petals, it was the texture… they were kind of weird and squeaky, and the citrus pectin i put in was so bitter. I’ll definitely try the rose jelly, that should be much better.

  9. NEVER ever use roses from the florist shop for consumption… ever. They are HEAVILY sprayed with insecticides, fungicides, etc. that are not meant to be ingested. Grow your own or buy specifically roses/flowers meant to be eaten.

    The older rose varieties (like old English strains, wild types, or rosa rugosas) are better for not just the hips but as well for making rose water and the like. The newer cultivars are more for looks, disease resistance, etc. and the treasured perfume was often one characteristic that was lost. (If the bloom smells like nothing.. it will taste like nothing.) The older strains as well offer rose hips.. while many of the newer type self-dead head (drop the hips before they can be used.. often these hips are tiny and not as good of quality for making jelly or tea.) Rose hips btw are a good source of antioxidants..very high in vitamin C, good source of vitamin A,E,K, Manganese, etc.

    Distilling (extracting the essential oils) to make rose water is lovely. It was as well commonly used as a facial cleanser. (Yep.. those rose petals in the bath had a mild benefit!)

  10. Thanks for this. My marmalade burnt and I didn’t put in a new pot to salvage, but I will next time!

  11. Thank you, my black currant jam last year was a little bitter.. I actually was just dong a saskatoon berry jelly, and it was a tad bitter.. It ant any longer.. I can now do another batch of the BC and see if I can make a stellar batch

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