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Difference Between Jam, Jelly and Preserves?

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Learn the difference between jam, jelly and preserves. Hint: it has to do with the amount of fruit in the final product.


Whether you like your jelly with peanut butter, or maybe preserves on a biscuit or jam on toast, there’s one thing we can all agree on, that fruit preserved in a jar is a timeless gift and practice worth preserving (pun intended).

Truth be told, I love to make homemade jams and preserves. For one, it is very satisfying and a great way to enjoy fruit all year long. Plus, “fruit in a jar” makes for a great homemade gift.

jars of preserves and jam

Remember that time…

I remember the first time I made jelly. It was quite a mess! I was quite a mess! Equipped with a little bit of canning know-how, a recipe from my neighbor, encouragement from my husband’s grandfather and plenty of determination, I attempted to make grape jelly.

Well, I more than attempted to make grape jelly. I made a LOT of grape jelly. And after that experience, I swore off grape jelly making forever.

Since then, I’ve made my share of jams and preserves, but I’ve only made jelly a handful of times. Granted I was only about 19 at the time and had never canned jelly before in my life. It wasn’t a fun or rewarding experience. Maybe your experience with making jelly has been a better one, I surely hope so.

What’s the Difference Between Jam, Jelly and Preserves?

Before we talk about the differences, let’s talk about what each of these have in common. Whether you’re talking about jam, jelly, preserves or even compote, marmalade, or chutney, they all involve some combination of fruit, sugar, and heat, and they rely on pectin — a natural fiber found in most plants that helps cooked fruit to gel.

Pectin

Pectin is the fiber found in fruits and vegetables and is most often made from apples or citrus peels. It’s a soluble fiber know as a polysaccharide. When heated in liquid, pectin expands and turns into a gel, making it a great thickener for jams, jellies, and preserves.

Citrus fruit like lemons, will gel naturally due to being high in acidity; whereas strawberries, which are low-acid and low-pectin, requires some help to transform them into a spreadable product.

jar of strawberry preserves and definition of pectin

There are different types and brands of commercial pectin. The two that I’m most familiar with are made by Ball and Sure-Jell. They are available in powder or liquid, full sugar and low or no sugar.

Learn the difference between jam, jelly and preserves. Hint: it has to do with the amount of fruit in the final product.

Difference Between Jam, Jelly and Preserves?

Instructions

WHAT IS JELLY?

Let’s start with jelly. Jelly has the smoothest consistency of jam, jelly and preserves. Jelly is made by crushing fruit and discarding the solid chunky leftovers. Which leaves just the juice of the fruit. The fruit juice is then mixed with pectin and heated to form a gelatinous spread.

WHAT IS JAM?

Jam is made in a similar manner in that you start by crushing the fruit. But, instead of discarding the solid chunky pieces of fruit and seeds, jam contains most of the solid pieces of the fruit’s fibers and seeds (assuming, of course, the seeds are small enough and safe enough for consumption). The crushed fruit is then mixed with pectin and heated to form a gelatinous spread.

WHAT ARE PRESERVES?

Preserves are made by chopping fruit into smaller pieces, mixed with sugar to help keep them fresh (sugar is a natural preservative) and combined with a syrup or jam. Preserves contain the most physical fruit — either chopped into larger pieces or preserved whole, like with cherry or strawberry preserves.

While we’re talking about the difference between jam, jelly and preserves, we might as well take a look at chutney, marmalade and compote, too.

WHAT IS CHUTNEY?

Chutneys are made by slow cooking fruit or vegetables with ginger, garlic, and chilies. Spices and vinegar are added to not only preserve the chutney, but to give it a tangy flavor. Chutney is considered a condiment and not a jam or preserve. The main difference is that jams are sweet and chutneys are savory.

Chutneys contain no added pectin, can be chunky and full of pieces of dried fruit and raisins, or they can be blended until smooth. Chutney is actually more similar to a relish, except it’s made with fruit.

WHAT IS MARMALADE?

Marmalade is simply the name given to preserves made with citrus. It includes the citrus rinds as well as the inner fruit and pulp. Citrus rinds, by the way, contain a ton of pectin, which is why marmalade oftentimes has a firmer texture that more closely resembles jelly.

WHAT IS COMPOTE?

Compote, a cousin to preserves, is made with fresh or dried fruit, cooked low and slow in a sugar syrup so that the fruit pieces stay somewhat intact. However, unlike preserves — which are usually jarred for future use — compote is usually used right away.

CHEAT SHEET:

  1. Jelly = fruit juice + sugar
  2. Jam = chopped or pureed fruit + sugar
  3. Preserves = whole fruit or fruit chunks + sugar
  4. Chutney = chopped or pureed fruit + sugar + vinegar + spices
  5. Marmalade = whole citrus (either chopped or left intact) + sugar
  6. Compote = whole fruit or fruit chunks + sugar (but usually eaten immediately, not preserved)

Jam, Jelly & Preserves Cheat Sheet

  • Jelly = fruit juice + sugar
  • Jam = chopped or pureed fruit + sugar
  • Preserves = whole fruit or fruit chunks + sugar
  • Chutney = chopped or pureed fruit + sugar + vinegar + spices
  • Marmalade = whole citrus (either chopped or left intact) + sugar
  • Compote = whole fruit or fruit chunks + sugar (but usually eaten immediately, not preserved)
jam, jelly and preserves cheat sheet

Of course, you would also add some pectin to each of the above to help it gel. But what makes each one different is the amount of actual fruit that is left in the final product. You can tell by now, hopefully, that jelly has the least amount of fruit left in the final product; while jam and chutney have more of the chopped or pureed fruit and preserves, marmalade and compote have the most amount of fruit left in the final product.

I hope my explanation of what is jelly, jam, preserves, chutney, marmalade and compote have helped you to better understand the differences between jam, jelly and preserves.

One thing’s for sure, no matter what you call them or what fruit you use, we can all agree that jams, jelly and preserves are flavorful ways to enjoy the flavors of fresh fruits all year long. And, as an added bonus, they make for a great homemade gift.

jars of preserves and jam

Jam, Jelly & Preserve Recipes

If you’re here learning about the difference between jam, jelly and preserves, then you might also be interested in some of my jam and preserve recipes, like:

If you have questions about the differences between jams, jelly and preserves, feel free to leave your question in the comments section below.

Happy preserving!!

Pam Baker from The Birch Cottage

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