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

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.

Originally published June 2018; this post has been updated.

finished jar of apricot preserves.

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?

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THAT’S the difference between jam and jelly!

Jelly is an almost-transparent sweet spread. It’s made from strained 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. Seedless jams utilize the pulp, making a thicker end product than jelly that’s free of seeds.

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. 

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.

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

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. 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. Even so, I generally opt to use a pectin product. Why? It is faster, it’s more reliable, and I don’t lose volume in order to reduce the fruit spread.

blank canning label.

Planning on doing lots of canning this year? Grab a FREE download of these cute printable canning labels — complete with a gentle reminder to return the jar, in case you’re giving some as gifts!


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 pieces of fruit or whole fruit, in the case of 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!)

  • Freezer jams and jellies: These recipes are cooked and thickened, then cooled and stored in the freezer.
  • Canned jams and jellies: Again, these are cooked and thickened, but the filled canning jars are processed in a water bath canner. If you opt to preserve your fruit spreads, it’s crucial that you follow safe canning guidelines and use recipes developed with those guidelines in mind. More on the canning process here.

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!

jars of homemade grape jelly.

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.

jar of cherry jam, lid off.

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.

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

open jar of pear preserves.

Fruit Preserves

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

jars of peach butter with lids off, peaches behind


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.

jars of home canned lemon marmalade.


Most often made with citrus, marmalade is a bit jam-like, with the inclusion of the strongly flavored citrus skins. 

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?? 

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

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

9 comments… add one
  • Mark Aug 19, 2023 @ 13:30

    It all looks and sounds good
    I want try some sometime.
    I was wondering if you have a recipe for sugar free blackberry jelly and blueberry jellly
    Thank you

    • AttainableSustainable Aug 24, 2023 @ 5:40

      I have a few lower sugar recipes, browse around 🙂

  • Diana weir Aug 22, 2022 @ 11:21

    I’m making jelly from Roger Red hybrid grapes. The are small vey sweet grapes with a big seed. Can I use Pomona pectin in making jelly from them and not use sugar? Thanks.

    • AttainableSustainable Aug 23, 2022 @ 6:45

      I haven’t tried that so couldn’t say for sure.

  • Yvonne Oct 7, 2019 @ 15:17

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

  • Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen Jul 25, 2019 @ 14:16

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

  • Amy Winters Jan 10, 2019 @ 7:01

    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!

  • Sam Jun 27, 2018 @ 7:43

    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

      You’re welcome!

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