Making jams, marmalades, preserves, and conserves
Jams, marmalades, preserves, and conserves are fruit products preserved by sugar. These products differ in gel consistency, ingredients and how the fruit is prepared. They are easy to make at home.
- Jams are made from crushed or ground fruit and usually have a thick consistency due to high pectin content.
- Marmalade is a jelly with pieces of fruit suspended in it. Citrus peel and juice are frequently the basis of marmalade.
- Preserves contain whole fruit or small pieces of fruit in a thick sugar syrup.
- Conserves are jams made from a mixture of fruits. They usually contain citrus fruit, nuts, and raisins.
Fruit gives the product its special flavor and provides pectin for thickening.
Pectin provides thickening or gel formation. All fruits contain some pectin. Apples, crabapples, gooseberries, some plums, highbush cranberries, and citrus peel contain large amounts of pectin.
Fruits like blueberries, strawberries, cherries, or huckleberries contain little pectin. You can make thicker products with these fruits by combining them with fruit rich in pectin or with powdered or liquid pectin.
Acid must be present to form gel in marmalades and thickening in jams, preserves and conserves. For fruits lacking in natural acid, like strawberries, recipes call for lemon juice or other citrus fruit. Commercial pectin products contain organic acids that increase the acid content of fruits.
Sugar aids in gel formation, develops flavor by adding sweetness, and acts as a preservative. Corn syrup or honey can replace half of the sugar in a recipe. Use light colored, mild-flavored honey; too much honey can overpower the fruit flavor.
- Large, flat bottom kettles (6-8 quart size)
- Wooden spoons and metal spoons
- Jelly or candy thermometer
- Standard canning jars with two-piece lids
- Boiling water bath canner
Filling jars and heat processing
Heat processing jelly products made with liquid and powdered pectin, or traditional no-pectin-added products at recommended temperatures and duration seals in food quality and destroys bacteria, yeast and molds that can cause food to spoil. See Extension's canning basics series of articles for more information on canning.
Note: Paraffin wax is no longer recommended for sealing jars. Paraffin does not form a complete seal and does not protect against mold growth and toxin production in jelly. The process is a potential health risk.
Use standard jars with 2-piece lids. Clean the jars and keep them hot. Pack product to within ¼ inch of top and seal. Heat process in boiling water bath canner according to the chart below. Count time from when water returns to boil after putting the jars in the water.
Processing time in a boiling water canner for jams and jellies
Jar size: Half or quarter pints
Elevation: 0-1000 feet | Processing time: 5 minutes
Elevation: 1001-2000 feet | Processing time: 6 minutes
Elevation: 2001-3000 feet | Processing time: 7 minutes
Jar size: Pints
Elevation: 0-1000 feet | Processing time: 10 minutes
Elevation: 1001-2000 feet | Processing time: 11 minutes
Elevation: 2001-3000 feet | Processing time: 12 minutes
Because of high sugar content, jams, marmalades, preserves and conserves are mainly a source of calories. One level tablespoon of these products contains 55 to 70 calories and should be used sparingly by people concerned about controlling their weight or sugar intake.
Methods of preparation
The two main methods for preparing jams, marmalades, preserves and conserves are by cooking fruit and sugar with no added pectin or with added pectin.
No added pectin
Jams, conserves, and marmalades made without added pectin require longer cooking and have a slightly different flavor from those with added pectin. They also yield a less finished product.
The product is done when the temperature reaches 220° – 222° F.
When using powdered or liquid pectin, be sure to follow the directions that come with the pectin product. The order of combining ingredients depends on the type of pectin used.
Successful preparation of pectin-added jams, marmalades, preserves and conserves depends on accurate timing. Begin counting time when the mixture reaches a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.
Freezer or refrigerator jam does not require cooking the fruit.
See recipes below for examples of all methods.
The jelly is done when 2 big drops slide together and form a sheet that hangs from the edge of the spoon.
- Strawberry jam without added pectin
- Strawberry jam with liquid pectin
- Freezer strawberry jam recipe
- Orange marmalade recipe
- Plum conserve recipe
Revised by Suzanne Driessen 2016