Before the invention of home refrigerators and freezers, it wasn’t easy to find strawberries in the cold winter or oranges in the hot summer and importing them from other countries definitely wasn’t an option at the time. This pushed people to look for ways to prevent food from spoiling in order to have sufficient stock for the colder seasons or for long journeys and voyages.
Fruit preserves were thus developed as methods of keeping fruits (and vegetables) fresh even out of season and when with the arrival of modern kitchen appliances, they were no longer a necessity, they become traditional delicacies.
There are so many varieties of fruit preserves available today, but have you ever wondered what the difference is between them all? What distinguishes jams from jellies? What are marmalades and conserves? Isn’t preserve just a term to define every type of fruit spread? If you don’t have an answer for these questions, then you just need to keep reading!
Jam is made of whole fruit cut into pieces or crushed, then heated with water and sugar, ingredients which not only make this preserve deliciously sweet but also serve as a preservative. The mixture needs to cook until it softens and reaches setting point (generally 104 °C). Although the result may still contain some small pieces of fruit, it will present a thick and spreadable consistency. This is possible thanks to the action of natural or added pectin, a polysaccharide used as a thickening agent: since different fruits have varying levels of natural pectin, the type of fruit used, as well as its ripeness, will determine the amount of necessary additional pectin. Some fruits, like apples or quinces contain enough natural pectin to thicken on their own, others, like apricots and peaches, usually require a little help and can be combined with fruits with a higher pectin concentration, such as lemon juice, or with commercially produced pectin.
As it contains a rich portion of fruitiness, jam is perfect for those who search for an authentic flavour with a bit of texture.
The term jelly comes from the French gelée and defines a smoother, firmer type of preserve. However, its production process does not differ much from the one we have just described: fruit is crushed and cooked with water and sugar but, unlike jam, which is simply left to boil until set, jelly needs to go through some additional steps. The mixture obtained from the cooking is first placed in a cheesecloth or a jelly bag, a specially designed strainer, to drain and filter out the fruit pulp and seeds. The strained juice is then boiled again, often with added pectin to produce a clear, gelled mixture.
Jelly is perfect for those who like the flavour of a certain fruit, but not the added texture.
Marmalade is made from the juice and rind of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. Bitter oranges, also known as Seville oranges, are probably the most popular fruit used for marmalades, but lemons, grapefruits, mandarins, limes and other citrus fruits can be used as well. It differs from jam for the presence of suspended citrus peel and the addition of a larger quantity of water during its cooking process, which makes its appearance and texture similar to those of a jelly. However, its fruit pulp is not strained out of the liquid but retained. Also, marmalade does generally not require added pectin as citrus rinds already contain a large amount of this natural gelling agent.
The term preserves is often used as collective noun for all sorts of preserved fruit spreads. This can generate some confusion as the word can also refer to preserved whole fruit or fruit cut into large pieces boiled with sugar. During cooking, the fruit becomes tender but maintains its shape and can be then stored in its own juices, syrup or even jelly, obtained by adding pectin.
We could say that preserves are a step back from jams and are thus perfect for those who look for greater texture.
Probably the least known form of fruit spread, a conserve, is a jam made from more than one type of fruit. Occasionally, nuts, dried fruit or even spices can be added to the mixture.
Food & Wine. 2017. The Differences Between 7 Kinds of Fruit Preserves. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.foodandwine.com/condiments/jams/differences-between-7-types-fruit-preserves [Accessed 25/01/2021]
Encyclopaedia Britannica. What’s the Difference Between Jam, Jelly, and Preserves? [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/story/why-do-television-shows-use-laugh-tracks [Accessed 25/01/2021]
The Flour Handprint. 2019. Types of fruit preservation: the difference between jams, jellies, and other home preserves. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.theflourhandprint.com/the-difference-between-jam-jelly/ [Accessed 25/01/2021]
Kitchn. 2009. What’s The Difference Between Jam, Jelly, Conserves, Marmalade, & Fruit Spreads? [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-jam-jelly-conserves-marmalade-87558 [Accessed 25/01/2021]
MasterClass. 2020. What’s the Difference Between Jam, Jelly, and Marmalade? [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/whats-the-difference-between-jam-jelly-and-marmalade [Accessed 25/01/2021]
Written by Irene Zanardi, Schuman Trainee at the Euramis Pre-Translation Unit. She holds a Bachelor’s in Intercultural Linguistic Mediation and a Master’s in Specialised Translation and Terminology.