Everything You Never Knew About Jams and Preserves Everything You Never Knew About Jams and Preserves – BritShop

Everything You Never Knew About Jams and Preserves

by Jeffrey Davies

Many of us grow up consuming different forms of jams, whether on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with your morning toast, or spread across a scone with afternoon tea. Jams and fruit preserves have, in fact, been around for much longer than one might think, and are among some of the first-ever recorded recipes in history. Buckle up as we get into the history of it all.

Origins and Early History

Although only officially recorded as a recipe in the first century AD by Roman gastronome Marcus Gavius Apicius in history's first known cookbook De Re Coquinaria (The Art of Cooking), jams and preserves' origin date back much further than that, to the Paleolithic period, more commonly known as the Stone Age.

It was during this time that settlers quickly devised new methods of preserving food, and when it came to substances like honey and sugar, they discovered they lasted much longer when turned into syrups, which over time became jams and preserves.

Jams are believed to have taken shape as an aristocratic luxury in Europe following the Spanish arrival in the West Indies, where fruit preservation was already popular. It was King Louis XIV of France who had a particular flair for them.

He demanded that all banquets ended with fruit preserves served in silver dishes. 
Jams were initially considered a delicacy served at the end of a meal. Louis XIV’s jam was made using fruit from the gardens at the palace of Versailles, composed of tropical fruits like pineapple. 

Sugar wasn't affordable during this period, so his love and display of jam was likely a way for him to showcase his wealth and social status. It was this tradition that eventually led to jams arriving in England during the Tudor period. Two popular flavors during this era were medlar and quince.


Popularization of Jams and Preserves

Jams remained a high-society luxurious delicacy until the advent of pasteurization. It is French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte who is credited with this advancement, as in 1785 he offered a reward to anyone who could find a way to preserve large quantities of food for soldiers on the move.

It was inventor Nicholas Appert who discovered that boiling food at high temperatures and sealing it in an airtight container kept it safe. He since became known as the "Father of Canning." Louis Pasteur would go on to develop pasteurization in the next century.

Into the 19th century, it was John Chapman, famously nicknamed Johnny Appleseed, who was the pioneer of popularizing jams and preserves in North America. He began planting fruit trees in the American midwest in hopes that new settlers would begin harvesting and making their own preserves and ciders. Jerome Monroe Smucker from Ohio opened a cider mill in 1897 with fruit from trees that Chapman had planted, which eventually led to the household name brand of Smucker's jams in North America.

Jams and Preserves Become a Necessity

By the 20th century, jams and preserves had become less of a luxury item and even more of a necessity. During World War II, there was great anxiety over an impending food shortage, and it was the Women's Institute in the UK who convinced the government to give a grant of £1,400 for buying sugar and jam.

This way, fruits could be preserved in jam and would not go to waste. Preservation centers for fruit became popular during this time, and between 1940 and 1945, over 5,300 tons of fruit were preserved into over 1,600 tons of jam.

What's the Difference Between Jams, Preserves, Jellies, Curds, Marmalades, and Chutneys? 

First things first: jams and preserves are essentially the same thing. However, there are some differences from region to region, particularly in those from the UK: preserves typically contain pieces or chunks of the fruit it was made from, whereas jams might not and be smoother. 

Chutneys are considered a relish and are of Indian descent. They're considered in the family of preserves since they are typically composed of fruits as well as herbs and spices. Marmalades are a specific kind of preserve made from citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins, sweet oranges, and more. Marmalade is different from a jam by its use of citrus peels as well as more water in the average recipe. They are more similar to jellies than jams in this way.

Fruit curds are a dessert spread, typically served with scones for afternoon tea as an alternative to jam. Unlike jams or preserves, curds are noted for their use of egg yolk in their recipes. They, too, are considered part of the family of preserves because of their use of fruit juice. They also differ from custards in this regard since they contain fruit.

jelly is essentially a jam or preserve that has had the fruit pulp filtered out. In North America, they are popular with children for the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In the UK, jellies like redcurrant or mint are age-old accompaniments for roasted meals such as lamb, turkey, and game.

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