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.