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I made a batch of jelly last night that just isn't sweet enough. Can I now unseal the jars, reheat, add sugar and re sterilize and seal them?

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Yes, though to be clear, you unseal, empty the jars into a pot, heat & add sugar, (while re-cleaning/sterilizing the jars) then fill the hot jars and process. You don't just add sugar to the jars.

To suit the food safety fanatics, use new lids.

I, personally, figure that if I use old lids and they seal, it's fine, because it sealed, and I know that because the lid is designed to indicate that. Sealed is Sealed.

If I use old lids and they don't seal, I know they didn't seal, and treat appropriately, just as I would new lids that didn't seal. But the official recommendation is to toss the lids and use new ones every time, even if they were new until last night and have only been on the jars for a day (unless you are using "specifically made to be reusable lids.") I note that the official doom and gloom warns of failure to seal (which is obvious) not some dire subtle thing, so I choose to ignore them on this one point so long as a lid is in good physical shape. But it's not the official recommendation.

  • I think with old lids there's also some risk of the seal not holding quite as well long-term, not just the next day. Either way, it's true that if you get a good seal it's okay, as you say, it's just a question of whether you want that added chance that they may not end up sealed. – Cascabel Dec 12 '16 at 2:31
  • I have been "off the reservation" on this issue for long enough now that I can report no cases of re-used lid seal failure for times up to several years, in some small number of hundreds (or large-ish number of dozens) of jars. Plenty of lids I've thrown out without using again due to scratch/rust, bend/dent, already used 3 times, etc, but zero cases of seal failure soon or late, so far. – Ecnerwal Dec 12 '16 at 4:11
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    Strictly speaking, this would NOT be absolutely safe advice if there was a lack of sugar compared to what the canning recipe suggests. Safe if "not sweet enough", not safe if "forgot to add half the sugar in the recipe by mistake". – rackandboneman Dec 12 '16 at 8:17

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