Difference Between Jam, Jelly, & Preserves
Jelly, jam and preserves are all made from fruit mixed with sugar and pectin. The difference between them comes in the form that the fruit takes.
- In jelly, the fruit comes in the form of fruit juice.
- In jam, the fruit comes in the form of fruit pulp or crushed fruit (and is less stiff than jelly as a result).
- In preserves, the fruit comes in the form of chunks in a syrup or a jam.
Pectin is an indigestible carbohydrate (fiber). It is found in the cell walls of most fruit. When heated with sugar in water, it gels, giving jam, jelly and preserves their thickness.
Whether you’re shopping the farmers’ market or the aisles of a grocery store, you might come across several different types of that sweet, fruity spread that makes the perfect accompaniment to biscuits and toast. Jam, jelly, preserves—what differentiates these three from each other?
- The type of fruit
- How it’s prepared
- Proportion of ingredients
Jam is made of crushed fruits that are then cooked with sugar, pectin, and acid until the fruits reach a spreadable consistency. Jam has an organic shape to it, and often has chunks of fruit in it.
Jelly is more transparent and has a gel-like consistency. To make jelly, you must crush and cook the fruit so the juice can be extracted. The juice is then strained through a jelly bag, boiled with sugar, and occasionally pectin. Then it sets into its form.
Preserves are simply chunks of fruit that are stored in their own juices, jam, jelly, syrup, or water.
Jams, jellies and preserves are three very common types of fruit spreads that can be used for everything from topping a toasted bagel to adding a sweet center to a buttery bar cookie. When you’re reaching for one to spread on a sandwich, it doesn’t matter which variety you choose as long as you like the flavor, but these three spreads are very different.
Jelly is cooked fruit juice that is sweetened with sugar and thickened with pectin (naturally occurring in many fruits, it has gelatin-like properties), or by cooking the mixture until it reduces. Jelly is clear and smooth, with a gelatin-like consistency. It has the most “gel” to it.
Jams are made by cooking crushed fruit with sugar and pectin (from the fruit in the jam or added) until the fruit is very, very soft and almost completely pureed. Jams are less “gelled” than jellies and a texture similar to that of pureed fruit. Some jams still contain the seeds of the fruit, particularly berries.
Preserves are made by cooking fruit with sugar, until fruit is very tender and the mixture has thickened. Pectin is not usually added on top of what is naturally occurring in the fruit being used. Unlike jam, the fruit in preserves is left in medium to large chunks. Preserves have the least amount of “gel” to them and are the least smooth.
When it comes to baking, fruit preserves and jams are the best choices. Not only do they typically pack the most fruit flavor, they both maintain their consistency very well even when baked. It is also nice to have pieces of the fruit in your finished products for additional color and flavor.