It seems that any civilisation that has an abundance of fruit, soon masters the art of making jam! The earliest known cookbook, from 1st century Rome even contains recipes for preserve-making. With its rich history preserving is very much part of our heritage and a wonderful link back to our own past, as well as forming our tastes as a nation – who could think of going to Cornwall or Devon without trying the scones with jam and cream; the famous Bakewell tart when in Derbyshire, or how about a good old fashioned Great British Victoria Sponge with no jam? Unthinkable!
So do you know your jams from your jellies? Your chutney from your confit?
Here’s a quick reference to help you out.
Whole fruit that can be either left whole, crushed or chopped and then cooked with sugar until the fruit is soft. Pectin and an acid may be required for your recipe, depending on the natural sugar levels in the fruit you are using. As it cooks, the water evaporates leaving behind the gloriously fruity and spreadable jam, which thickens further as it cools. Sugar is the primary preservative in jam. Jams should contain a minimum of 45% fruit
Similar to jam, but made using the juice of the fruit, rather than the whole fruit. This gives a glowing clear or translucent spread, which uses pectin as the setting agent.
A jam made from a mixture of different fruits can be called a conserve – all conserves are jams, but not all jams are conserves! A conserve can combine different fruits and also ingredients such as dried fruit or even nuts.
Confit is a method of preserving fruits by slow cooking them at a very low temperature in a sugar syrup, sometimes called candied fruits. The fruit must be fully infused to its core to preserve it, so the larger the fruit, the longer in needs to coo. Confits can also be savoury using vegetables, or even meats - the methodology is similar to the Confit-ing of duck that is popular in France, although that is cooked in fat rather than the sugar syrup. Historically fruits or vegetables were preserved with honey, until sugar became more widely available.
A preserve made with beaten egg yolks, sugar and fruit juice and zest. The ingredients are gently cooked together until thick, when cooled they form a velvety smooth, intensely fruity spread. Homemade fruit curds do not generally keep for as long as jams.
A complex preserve that carefully balances the sweet and sour aspects of citrus fruits. Made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits, marmalade generally does not require the addition of any pectin, as the peel contains a naturally high level of pectin which naturally thickens the marmalade. Legend has it, that marmalade first came to prominence in Britain as a potential cure for seasickness for Mary, Queen of Scots!
A pungent relish of Indian origin made from fruits, vinegar vegetables, spices and herbs. Chutneys can vary greatly from the spicy, sour Lime Chutney at your local Indian restaurant to the sweet and sticky tomato chutneys that work so well in with your cheeseboard.
If you’re a bottling beginner or your jam is the talk of the annual village show, find all the equipment that you’ll need to make the perfect preserves with our preserving guides.