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Extension > Food > Food Safety > Preserving and Preparing > Jams and Jellies > Making jams, marmalades, preserves, and conserves

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Jams and Jellies

Making jams, marmalades, preserves, and conserves

William Schafer and Isabel D. Wolf

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.


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.


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.

Recommended procedure

Use standard jars with 2-piece lids. Clean the jars and keep them hot. Pack product to within ΒΌ 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

Nutritive value

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.

Added pectin

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.

illustration of spoons dripping with jam

The jelly is done when 2 big drops slide together and form a sheet that hangs from the edge of the spoon.


Revised by Suzanne Driessen 2016

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