A Sticky Situation – Jams, Jellies, Preserves and Marmalade

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What’s the difference?  Coming out of Mama’s over-sized kettle, they all smelled and tasted fantastic. Making jams, jellies, preserves and marmalade was an all day event that culminated that evening with a hot batch of homemade biscuits to test the results.  If they passed the grade with Dad (which they always did), it was into the fresh-boiled mason jars with the fruit du jour with melted Gulf wax on top to seal the deal.  Ah…memories.


But what is, exactly, the difference between jelly, jam, preserves and marmalade?  Well, the differences are slight, but important.  If your breakfast biscuit demands a precise explanation, try this on for size:

Jelly –  The clear consistency of jelly is due to the fact that jelly is a product of the fruit juice alone.  No fruit pulp makes it into the jelly jar.  Generally, jelly will also contain pectin which aids in the gelling of the jelly.  If it’s clear and it wiggles, you’ve got yourself a bowl of jelly.

Jam – The key component of jam is a a bit of pulp mixed in with the fruit juice.  The first jam was most-likely produced by a slip-shod jelly maker who let some pulp slide through.  Not bad, she thought…all we need is a new name.  And Jam was born.

Preserves –  Holistic jam makers prefer to save the entire fruit, not just the juice or bits of pulp.  Thus, preserves are thicker renderings that comprise the vast majority of the fruit.  If you use a knife instead of a spoon to get it out of the jar, chances are, you are into preserves.

Marmalade –  Traditionally, marmalade is made with citrus fruit and features thin bits of rind.  Orange marmalade is certainly the king of the marmalade hill.



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