Jelly, Jam, and Preserves: What’s the Difference?

Yesterday, I posted about the fair coming to town this month, and asked you to comment on what I should enter in the home canning competition. (If you haven’t commented yet, click here and leave your advice for me!) Well, the competition rules are very specific regarding the categories entered – so specific, I had to know whether my entry was a jelly, jam, preserve, chutney, marmalade, fruit butter, etc.  I knew jellies and jams were different in texture and consistency, but what’s the difference between jams and preserves? After researching this, I found there are very specific differences, and the recipe ingredients and procedures are a good indication of what it is. Now I want to share with you what I learned. (Photo credit:  


Of all the forms of preserving fruit and/or vegetables, jellies are the most firm and, well, jelly-like. Jelly is made from the juice of fruit or vegetables that have been boiled down and strained, so there are no pieces of fruit or vegetables in it. Pectin is usually added to get the jelly consistency. Jelly can also be made from herbs, tea, wine, flowers, and liqueurs.


Some people define jam and preserves as the same thing, but according to my fair’s competition (as well as several websites), there is a difference. Jam is much less gel-like than jelly and is made by cooking fruit or vegetables until they’re pulp or puree. Sugar and an acid (lemon juice or vinegar) are added, along with pectin if the fruit or veggie doesn’t have sufficient natural pectin. (If sugar is not added, it would be called a fruit spread and would not keep as long because sugar is a preservative.) Unlike jelly, jam does have some pieces of the fruit or veggie and is used as a spread or a filling in baked recipes.


Preserves are made from whole or cut up fruit and have the least amount of gel-like consistency, compared to jelly and jam. Preserves also contain the largest pieces of fruit. Sugar and pectin (if needed) are added, and they are used as spreads and fillings.


Marmalade is a spread made from the peel and pulp of citrus fruits. It is cooked for a long time with sugar and water but no pectin. The citrus fruit has sufficient pectin to firm up if cooked long enough. Think of marmalade as a loose jelly with chunks.


Conserves are like preserves but are made from cooking dried fruits or nuts. They often contain spices or liquors, and are very thick and chunky.


Chutney is basically a savory jam. Made from chopped (not pureed) fruits and/or veggies, it can be sweet, tangy, and/or spicy.  It contains vinegar, sugar, and spices, and is served as a condiment with meat and vegetable dishes. Some people confuse chutney with relish. Chutney is jammier and contains fruit while relish is usually made from pickled vegetables.


Fruit butter is made from pureed fruit with sugar and/or spices that is slowly cooked down until it becomes paste-like. Pectin is not added, and the sugar content is very low (if sugar is added at all). It is used as a spread and can be home canned, but it won’t last longer than six months because of the low sugar content.

Well, now you know how to correctly label your canned fruit (and veggies). And I can properly enter my fair’s competition. Blue ribbon, here I come! 🙂

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