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Canning Jams, Jellies, and Other Preserves (And 100+ Recipes to Get You Started!)

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When I worked at a fruit stand eons ago, people regularly asked, “What’s the difference between jam and jelly?” If you’re planning to transform some of this year’s fruit crop into a sweet spread, you’ll need to know the difference between the two.

red jar of jam with a spoon scooping some, from above.

Think about what you like to spread on your morning toast. Do you like a sheen of fruity sweetness that spreads evenly across your toasted bread? Or do you prefer a chunkier, lumpy spread with fruit bits and maybe even little seeds?

THAT’S the difference between jam and jelly!

Jelly is an almost-transparent sweet spread. It’s made from fruit juice. One of the reasons some people prefer jelly is that it doesn’t have any seeds. All of the seeds and fruit pulp is strained out to make a fresh fruit juice. (It’s probably the most important difference between jam and jelly for denture wearers and those who are sensitive to tiny seeds.)

You can also use ready-made juice, such as the 100% grape juice that’s available at grocery stores.

Jam, on the other hand, utilizes the entire fruit — seeds (in the case of berries), skins, and all. To make jam, you cook down the fruit and mash it, creating a lovely pulp that can be turned into jam.

So, the difference between jam and jelly in a nutshell: 

  • Jelly: Made from fruit juice
  • Jam: Made from the entire fruit, crushed into a pulp

Jams and jellies are one of the absolute easiest methods of preserving fruit and a great way to delve into home food preservation. The home canning process is easy. All it takes is some mixing and cooking, and a quick water bath for filled jars and you’ll have a pantry full of jellies and jams made with fresh, local produce.

assortment showing difference between jams and jellies in glass jars, each with a metal spoon

What is pectin?

You’ll find that many recipes for canning jam and jelly call for pectin. Pectin is derived from fruits and vegetables — it’s a type of starch — and it acts as a thickener. In order for pectin to do its thickening magic, it requires sugar, acid (from the fruit), and heat.

If you want to avoid added sugar entirely, consider trying fruit butters, as those are thickened by cooking ingredients down until enough evaporation occurs to create a thick product.

When I make jams and jellies, I like to use Pomona brand pectin, since it allows me to use less sugar and doesn’t include GMO ingredients. It’s also possible to make your own pectin from natural ingredients. Here’s how. Making jam and jelly from fruits that are naturally high in pectin is another way to circumvent the need for pectin.

Many apples, grapes, plums, and raspberries are high in pectin and can be made without the use of added pectin. Like this apple jelly recipe.

Fruit butter, preserves, and chutney

Jelly and jam are probably the most recognizable fruit spreads, but there are some others to consider, too.

Fruit preserves are similar to jam, but generally have larger chunks of fruit or whole berries.

While jam and jelly is often thickened with pectin, fruit butters are cooked down, evaporating the liquid until it’s a thick spread. Because the fruit flavor is condensed, it’s easy to make fruit butters unsweetened or just lightly sweetened.

Chutney is a condiment that’s a bit like a cross between relish and jam. They tend to be sweet and savory, and are frequently served alongside Indian food such as curries. You probably wouldn’t use chutney in a sandwich with peanut butter.

cherry jelly in glass jar with a metal spoon; fresh cherries around the jar

Preserving jams and jellies (or not)

A homemade batch of jam or jelly, preserves or fruit butter, usually makes several quarts. It will keep for a month or so in the refrigerator, but that’s more than my family can go through in a reasonable amount of time.

If you’ve got a larger family that can power through a good amount of jam or jelly in a short amount of time, by all means, just tuck the jars into the refrigerator. For the rest of us, there are two ways to preserve fruit spreads so that they’ll take us through the winter. (There is nothing — nothing — like opening a jar of homemade blackberry jam in the depths of winter!)

Now that you understand the difference between jam and jelly, you might be inspired to try making some of your own from fresh fruit.

Here are 100+ recipes for jam, jelly, fruit butter, preserves, and even chutney. Your pantry is going to be stunning!

red jar of jam with a spoon scooping some, from above.

Jelly recipes

Oh, so smooth! Jelly spreads easily and thinly across sliced bread, making the difference between jam and jelly easily visible, especially if you compare them side-by-side.

tangerine jam in a glass jar with fresh tangerines on a wooden table.

 

Jam recipes

The chunky bits of fruit (or veggies!) that make up these homemade spreads are the difference between jam and jelly. These jams generally go on a bit more thickly, due to the texture of the ingredients.

toasted baguette slices spread with goat cheese and balsamic onion jam

 

fruit preserves in a glass jar with a spoon full of the spread

Fruit preserves

Similar to jam, fruit preserves generally have larger chunks of fruit or whole berries.

 

black cherry preserves

Fruit butters

Because the fruit flavor is condensed by cooking it down — different than making jam or jelly —  it’s easy to make fruit butters unsweetened or just lightly sweetened.

White bowl full of mango chutney

 

Sweet and savory chutneys

A bit like a cross between relish and jam, chutnies tend to be sweet and savory, and are frequently served alongside Indian food such as curries.

 

Now that you know the difference between jam and jelly, which do YOU prefer?? 

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

5 comments… add one
  • Sam Jun 27, 2018, 7:43 am

    Great info! Thanks for the knowledge dump. I’m going to try your clementine recipe tonight, hopefully it goes well!

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 28, 2018, 12:45 pm

      You’re welcome!

  • Amy Winters Jan 10, 2019, 7:01 am

    Thanks for explaining that preserves are similar to jam but usually have larger chunks of fruit or berries. I’m interested in buying some sort of fruit preserves online, but I was unsure what the difference was between jam, jelly, and preserves. I like the idea of larger pieces of fruit in the jam, so I think preserves will be a good choice for me!

  • Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen Jul 25, 2019, 2:16 pm

    Thanks for Linking up and explaining the difference between jam and jelly! I am a jam girl !

  • Yvonne Oct 7, 2019, 3:17 pm

    you forgot mullberry…..taste between blueberry and blackberry…..I love the taste and no seeds….

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