Let me be clear from the beginning: knowing the difference between jelly, jam, and preserves is no laughing matter! You may think it’s funny, but there are devils in these details that many people neglect to respect. I have narrowed it down to a science and even though I have had my own struggles with identifying and classifying them, I now know the errors of my previous ways and now I have taken it upon myself to school others on the fine line between each one. Pay attention, people, because I don’t want to have to go through this again!
Until deities blessed us with modernity, preserves were not just a way of living, but were the only way to live. In the old days, buying fruits on the side of the road was not an option, so people had to sort out other ways to prevent their food from going bad and spoiling during the colder months or across long treks by land or sea. And now we even have a home dehumidifier to prevent spoilage. Thanks to modern times, we have truly arrived!
Before canning, drying, salting, and smoking were used as a form of preserving food. The Romans and Greeks used to store fruit in honey, but sugar, however, was considered a luxury. It wasn’t until the 19th century (I know, how far we have come, right?) that jellies and jams were able to be made and stored in bulk.
Luckily, today we don’t have to worry about keeping food fresh throughout a winter. We are past those ‘Game of Thrones’-type of days, thankfully. Now, I can make preservatives that have extreme flavour, kick, and let’s face it, ambition. But the true question is if you know the difference between preserves or do you just consider them all the same? The most important thing to remember is that they are all different depending on the fruits used, how it is prepared, and ingredient proportions. Let’s get down to the basics, now, shall we?
Fruit should not be making a cameo here, but it should be the star, so select accordingly. Acquiring the right mix is so important if you want to perfect a flavour that is not too ripe. Steer away from fruit that lacks texture, flavour, pectin and the right amount of acidity.
The backup and start supporting player is sugar, which is the preservative here. As it bonds with water, it draws the moisture and makes those jams and jellies pop. Of course, sugar is what makes those preserves sweet, but you can use sweeteners aside from white sugar. Alternatives include corn syrup, brown sugar, and honey.