Your recipe (or your hungry belly) is calling for peanut butter’s BFF…jelly. So you find yourself in the grocery store staring at a floor to ceiling isle of fruit in a jar that stretches on for days. The jelly selection has grown considerably since the good old days of “grape” and “strawberry” and now it seems that they will put anything into a jar. Cactus jelly, pumpkin spread, habanero jam, dandelion jelly!? As if having a million different flavors wasn’t enough they have to go and make it in a half a million variations.
Jam, Jelly, Preserves, Spreads, Marmalade…what the hell is the difference!? It’s enough to make you turn and run. Okay maybe not that much…you really do want that tasty pb+j sammich. So if you aren’t brave enough to just close your eyes and pick at random, then stay tuned because I am going to tell you the difference. It’s fruit in a jar education time!
Jelly is made from fruit juice. There are no actual pieces of fruit in jelly, only juice, sugar and pectin, which is why it is just a jiggly goo that’s easy and smooth to spread. Jellies can also be made from ingredients other than fruit, such as herbs (mint jelly), flowers (hibiscus jelly), and vegetables (rhubarb jelly).
Jam is made from pureed fruit. So there is actually a bit of smooshed-up fruit in your jam as well as sugar and pectin. They are usually somewhat lumpy in texture and may still contain seeds from the fruit (except in the seedless jam varieties, of course). Jams are great for fillings.
Preserves are the most fruity of them all. They actually contain larger chunks of fruit surrounded by jelly or syrup and tend to have a higher sugar content. However, be careful because some brands use the terms “preserves” and “jam” interchangeably. Usually if you can see some good sized chunks through the jar, you are in pretty good shape.
The term “marmalade” is usually used for citrus spreads made from oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. Marmalades are made from the peel and pulp of the fruit, rather than the whole fruit as using the rinds would result in a bitter flavor. Marmalades have no pectin, and are generally used as spreads and glazes.
Oh and that pesky “fruit spread”? That’s just a jam or preserve made without sugar.
The more you know! =D