By Type of Preserves

Uses only the juice of the fruit & sugar. It sets up very firm.

Jelly is a bright, shiny, translucent filtered fruit spread. The fruit is pureed, sieved, or filtered then cooked with added sugar & pectin to produce a fairly firm texture that looks quite a lot like "Jell-O". While firm, it should still spread evenly. They are often made from fruit juice, sugar & pectin.

Made in a very similar way to jam, except at the end the solids are strained out—or it’s made from juiced fruit.

Uses the pulp of the fruit (seeds & skins), sugar, & pectin. Jam is less firm than jelly.

Jam is a thick, firm fruit spread made from chopped fruits. They are firm without being stiff, meaning a spoonful plopped on a plate will slowly spread out at room temperature. There are two common methods of making jams: cooking over low heat for a very long time to concentrate the fruit & sugar, or a short cook time using added natural fruit pectin. Jams made with fruit pectin are brighter in color, & generally more flavorful.

The fruit in jam is either crushed or cut into small pieces, then cooked in sugar long enough that the pieces are spreadable. It also has a gel-like consistency thanks to the presence of pectin, a natural thickening agent that naturally occurs in many fruits, like apples.

Preserves are typically less firm than jam and made from small, whole fruits or small chunks of fruit and sugar.

A preserve is a more ambiguous category; in that, it can have varied consistency, from a thin honey-like texture to a soft jelly. Ball says true preserves do not retain their shape when spooned onto a plate. There may be small whole fruits, or large pieces of fruit. They may be made with or without added pectin & cooked until the gelling point.

"Preserves" is often used as an umbrella term to refer to everything in this list & then some; basically, any produce that’s been preserved. But a jar of our preserves it means that the fruit is left in whole or nearly whole pieces. In other words, it’s chunky.

Like jam, but includes the peel of fruits as well. Most are made from the juice & peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar & water.

Marmalade is a sweet & tart fruit spread made from shredded pieces of fruit & fruit peelings suspended in jelly. Typically, they are made with citrus, like orange & lemon, but they also are made from more exotic fruits like pineapple, mango, kumquat, or even prickly pear. They have a consistency like jams & are generally cooked quickly to the gelling point.

Marmalade is a jam that includes the peel of the fruit. Because of this, it can only be made with citrus, & traditionally is made with Seville oranges. It’s got a bit of a bitter edge thanks to that peel, making for a slightly more sophisticated flavor. (Although that never stopped Paddington Bear from craving his marmalade sandwiches.) Citrus peel also has a lot of pectin in it, so marmalades tend to set much more firmly than other fruit preserves.

Is made of whole fruit stewed in sugar.

A combination of 2 or more fruit cooked to a thick consistency, often firmer than a jam. Conserves may also contain nuts, raisins, dried fruit pieces, & coconut. Like old-fashioned jams, they are cooked to the gelling point & produce a thick consistency.

Compote is whole fruit (or big pieces of fruit) cooked with sugar just long enough that the fruit still holds its shape. Sometimes a looser version of compote—one made with less sugar—is eaten on its own or with whipped cream as a dessert. Think of it as sort of a sweet fruit soup.

Fruit butter is made from fruit pulp, sugar, and spices, but contains no pectin, and no actual butter. Fruit butters generally have the same consistency as thick applesauce.

Fruit butters are smoothly pureed fruit spreads. They do not contain any dairy products nor dairy butter. The term "butter" refers to its smooth, uniform finely pureed texture. Cooked for a long time over low heat, the water is boiled off to produce a thick texture & concentrated flavor. Sugar & spices are added.

Fruit butters are made by pureeing a fruit, mixing it with sugar, & cooking it. This is most commonly done with apples, but you’ll see pear butter, peach butter, & plum butter, too. Since it has less sugar than many of the above fruit condiments, it doesn’t gel, making it much looser than, say, jam. It’s also less sweet because of this, naturally. Think of apple butter as halfway point between applesauce & jam.

Perhaps the most famous apple butter is Belgium’s beloved Sirop de Liège, a thick, refined, almost syrup-like substance made by reducing apples, pears, & dates. It is often eaten with cheese, on toast, in a meatball dish called boulets à la liégeoise, and, of course, on waffles.

Mostarda, a Northern Italian fruit sauce tarted up with mustard, traditionally accompanies meat. Mostardas are made by heavily reducing the liquid released from fruit—apples, pears, & figs are all popular choices. The fruit is then cooked in this liquid & mixed with mustard powder, & sometimes white wine. This flavorful condiment is a great addition to the breakfast table, fantastic with cheese, or as the glue that holds a ham & biscuit sandwich together. Dropping a dollop in yogurt wouldn’t hurt, either.

A relish of Indian origin made of fruit, spices, herbs, sugar, & vinegar.

In India, chutneys are made out of all kinds of things, including herbs & vegetables. The fruit chutneys we’re familiar with in the US, though, stem from a British-Indian tradition of vinegar-laced chutneys.

Fruit chutneys are made by reducing fruit, sugar, & vinegar into a thick paste, at which point other flavorings are often added—garlic, onions, raisins, & tamarind are all common. As for which fruits to use, the sky’s the limit. Mango is obviously popular, as are apple, pear, peach, cranberries, all kinds of dried fruit, & citrus.

Fruits are seasoned & cooked with honey or sugar till jam-like. Savory confits, such as ones made with garlic or fennel, may call for a savory oil, such as virgin olive oil, as the preserving agent.

A type of jam eaten in Southern Africa made by boiling fruit(s), sugar, & adding a little ginger.


Spread is a generic term for jellies, jams, and fruit butters.

Preserving Life: That's My Jam!