Whats The Difference Between These Preserves

There are many ways of preserving fruit to keep over the winter. Each one has its own style and its own way of making it, which leads to a different appearance.

Jams are whole fruit preserved in sugar and boiled until they reach the 'setting point' that point at which the jam will set of its own accord at room temperature. The skins and often the seeds of the fruit are incorporated in a jam.

A preserve is similar to a jam, except that it's cooked for less time so that the fruit remains more solid and does not break down. Preserves typically contain less sugar than jams and will not last as long.

A compote contains even less sugar and can be considered as a sugared fruit stew. Typically it is intended for consumption within a week.

Jellies are prepared like jams, except that the fruit are boiled in water or acidulated water (water with lemon juice added) until the fruit are soft and pulpy. The fruit pulp is then strained over night to produce a clear fruit liquid. Sugar is then added to the clear liquid and it's boiled again until the setting point is produced. This produces a clear fruit-flavoured 'jelly'. Often they have apples as a base and to provide the pectin needed for the jelly to set. As well as fruit jellies can also be made from a mix of fruit, herbs and wines. They are often used as the basis for sauces in cookery.

Curds are fruit-flavoured liquids that are thickened by the addition of eggs. The eggs give the mixture a creamy spreading consistency.

Below are recipes for a jam, a jelly and a curd so that you can compare the production techniques.

Strawberry Jam

Ingredients:
2.8kg strawberries
2.8kg sugar
juice of 2 lemons

Method:
Pick over the strawberries, remove any stalks and wash then dry thoroughly. Place the sugar in an oven-proof dish and bake in an oven pre-heated to 110°C for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile add the fruit to a saucepan along with the lemon juice and bring to a simmer, allowing it to cook for 20 minutes or until fruit is tender (and the juices are running freely).

Remove the pan from the heat then add the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved. Return to the heat, bring to a boil and cook rapidly for about 15 minutes. Test for setting by placing a plate in the fridge. Spoon a little of the jam onto the plate, allow to cook then move it with your fingernail. If a crinkly skin forms then the jam is ready. If not continue boiling for 5 minutes more and test again.

Skim the surface then ladle into sterilized jars that have been warmed in an oven set to 100°C for 5 minutes. Allow 1cm of head space then secure the lid, allow to cool and store.

Blackcurrant Jelly

Ingredients:
1.8kg blackcurrants
600ml water
75g sugar per 100ml liquid

Method:
Wash and trim the blackcurrants then place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan along with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, mashing the fruit against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Pour into a jelly bag or a sieve lined with several layers of muslin and allow to drain into a bowl (do not be tempted to squeeze the bag as this will only make the jelly cloudy.

The following morning discard the fruit (I tend to freeze them to make pies later) then measure the volume of the liquid and add 75g sugar per 100ml of fluid.

Place the juice and the sugar in a saucepan, heat through then add the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook rapidly for about 15 minutes. Test for setting by placing a plate in the fridge. Spoon a little of the jelly onto the plate, allow to cook then move it with your fingernail. If a crinkly skin forms then the jelly is ready. If not continue boiling for 5 minutes more and test again.

Skim the surface then ladle into sterilized jars that have been warmed in an oven set to 100°C for 5 minutes. Allow 1cm of head space then secure the lid, allow to cool and store.

Gooseberry Curd

Ingredients:
340g caster sugar
700g gooseberries (under-ripe are better)
300ml water
110g butter
3 (large) eggs, lightly beaten

Method:
Wash the gooseberries then top and tail before placing in a pan, along with the the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Take off the heat and blend or luquidize to a smooth puree. Push the puree through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon to remove the seds.

Prepare a bain marie (double boiler) and transfer the strained gooseberry puree to this. Add the sugar and butter and continue cooking over low heat until all the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and blend with the eggs, which have been lightly beaten. Mix to combine thoroughly then return to the heat and continue cooking slowly in the double boiler until the curd mixture will just coat the back of a spoon.

Skim the surface then ladle into sterilized jars that have been warmed in an oven set to 100°C for 5 minutes. Allow 1cm of head space then secure the lid, allow to cool and store.

If your interest is piqued by these recipes then I urge you to find out more about jam and preserve making.

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About The Author, Gwydion
Dyfed Lloyd Evans runs the Celtnet Recipes site and the Celtnet Articles recpository. You can find these and many, many more recipes for various jams and preserves at his extensive Celtnet Jams, pickles and Preserves collection.