Being the big jam maker in my family, I was once asked: What’s the difference between jams, jellies and preserves? Here’s the rundown, and recipes or links to recipes for jams, jellies and preserves.
Jelly: Clear and Sweet
Jellies are made from the juice of fruit rather than the whole fruit. Clear and sweet, jellies are great to make with seedy fruit, such as raspberries. Jellies always feel a bit profligate to me, because so much of the fruit seems to go to waste. This past weekend, I made strawberry jelly from berries I bought at Lorence’s near Northfield.
To make the jelly, I cleaned and cut the tops off of strawberries to get 8 cups. No need to cut the berries, just take the top off. Put the berries in a large pot with a half cup or so of water. Turn on the heat and mash the berries with a potato masher. You want to cook and mash for about 5 minutes until the mixture is very juicy and most of the berries are mashed. Then put the mixture in a jelly bag or a strainer lined with a few sheets of cheese clothe over a large bowl or pan. (I recently bought a jelly bag and it was a revelation!) The mixture needs to drain for several hours or overnight to allow all the juice to come out of the fruit.
The next day, you can the jelly. If you are planning to can it for preserving outside of a refrigerator, follow these instructions for preparing your jars and lids. To make the jelly, measure 3-3/4 cups of juice and place it in a large pot. At the same time, measure out 4 1/2/ cups of sugar and set it aside. Add one package of pectin to the juice, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring periodically. When it is boiling, add the sugar all at once and continue stirring to bring the mixture back to a full rolling boil. Boil it for one minute exactly, stirring all the time. Turn off the heat, and add the jelly to jars. Process for 5 minutes in a canner or set them aside to cool and jell before putting in the refrigerator.
Jams and Preserves: Fruity Goodness
The difference between jams and preserves has to do with fruit size and viscosity. In jams, the fruit is mashed with sugar and (usually) pectin. It produces a firm-ish spread, though not necessarily as firm as jelly and it has fruit bits in it, unlike jelly. Preserves have larger chunks of fruit floating in a sugary syrup that is looser than jam or jelly, but thicker than a sauce might be.
I love to make peach preserves, especially in August when the crates of Colorado peaches finally arrive in Minnesota. The recipe calls for no pectin, so it needs to thicken on the stove before being jarred.
Here’s the recipe I used (it’s my own modification of one by Martha Stewart). It requires an overnight marination of the peaches, so give yourself time.
Skin, pit and chop into ½ inch bits enough peaches to make 8 cups (about 9 peaches).
Put the peaches in a cook pot with 4 cups of sugar and a large cinnamon stick. Bring the pot to a boil, cook a minute or two, then transfer the entire mixture to a bowl to cool. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, put your canning pot on the stove to heat and prepare 6 half-pint canning jars, lids and rings. Wash lids, rings and jars in hot soapy water. Then, put the rings and lids in a pan and pour boiling water over them. Sterilize the jars by heating them in your boiling hot-water bath canning pot for about 10 minutes.
While prepping the jars, put the preserves and liquid back in a cook pot and begin to heat on the stove. Remove the cinnamon stick. Heat the preserves to boiling and let them cook for about 30 minutes. The liquid and peaches should darken in color and the liquid should thicken to about the viscosity of syrup.
When everything is ready, put the hot preserves in the hot jars. Top with the lids and tighten the rings. Then put in the hot-water bath for 10 minutes. When you remove the preserves from the water, you should hear the “ping” of the jars sealing. Let them sit for a few days before serving as the preserves will continue to thicken.
Makes a great homemade gift for the holiday season.
So which is your preference: Jams, jellies, preserves? I love them all.