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Before refrigeration was available, many crops of fruits had to be canned for later use. This could be accomplished through stewing the fruit in syrup and merely canning the results, which led to a wide variety of recipes for jams, jellies, preserves and conserves. The now popular fruit spread is differentiated from jams and their like as it usually is sweetened with fruit juice only, instead of sugar. There are also noted differences between jams and jellies, and some people like one variety more than another.
The basic difference between jams and jellies is that jelly is made from the juice of the fruit only. Fruit is crushed, strained, and then is boiled with sugar and pectin in order to make a spreadable product. Jams on the other hand, feature crushed fruit, often with seeds left in berry jams. This means when you spread a jam, it will be somewhat lumpy since it contains some whole fruit. It is not the same with jelly, which spreads evenly.
Preserves may not differ at all from jams. Preserves is a term simply meaning fruit that is preserved through a canning method. In commercial preparations, preserves may be used in place of jams because it has higher sugar content and is somewhat more syrupy than jams. Some varieties do not contain pectin. However, this varies — some people use the terms preserves and jams interchangeably.
Another related term is conserves, which is often a combination of several fruits made in jams or preserves fashion. Orange apricot jam is an example of conserves. Other recipes for conserves might include nuts or raisins. You may also run into various fruit butters, and a few made from sweet winter squash.
You can certainly note the difference between apple mint jelly and apple butter. Apple butter is essentially cooked down applesauce that becomes thick and is loaded with spices. It is often a rich brown in color and an excellent spread for toast. Apple mint jelly is a clear green substance that is often highly “gelled” with additional pectin.
Neither butters nor jellies feature fruit pieces. Apple butter, pumpkin butter or pear butter are all run through sieves to strain out any pieces. They may also be whipped or mashed. If you like whole fruit in sweet bread spreads look for jams or no sugar fruit spreads instead.
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