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Jam vs. Jelly vs. Preserves: What’s the Difference?

Photo: Teresa Sabga

You're in the grocery aisle and can't decide what to buy. Jam, jellies, preserves, what's the difference? Learn the label lingo for these fruit-based spreads.

Whether you’re shopping the farmers’ market or the aisles of a grocery store, you might come across several different types of that sweet, fruity spread that makes the perfect accompaniment to biscuits and toast. Jam, jelly, preserves—what differentiates these three from each other?

  1. The type of fruit
  2. How it’s prepared
  3. Proportion of ingredients

Jam is made of crushed fruits that are then cooked with sugar, pectin, and acid until the fruits reach a spreadable consistency. Jam has an organic shape to it, and often has chunks of fruit in it.

Jelly is more transparent and has a gel-like consistency. To make jelly, you must crush and cook the fruit so the juice can be extracted. The juice is then strained through a jelly bag, boiled with sugar, and occasionally pectin. Then it sets into its form.

Preserves are simply chunks of fruit that are stored in their own juices, jam, jelly, syrup, or water.