The difference between jam and jelly is like the difference between a prize fighter and a ballerina. Jam is in your face with chunks and flavor. Jelly softly pirouettes across your toast in subtle waves of goodness. We love them both!
If there was a battle between jams and jellies, I don’t know which side I would choose. Can’t we slather both on a biscuit and be happy? Joyce Pinson, Friends Drift Inn
Difference Between Jam and Jelly – Drawing Lines in the Toast
Here’s the thing. I like celebrating differences. Yes, there are distinct contrasts between jam and jelly. I will get to that in a minute.
I love jam. I like jelly.
There I said it, admitting my own food bias.
It’s time to celebrate jams and jellies – not just as breakfast spreads but as an innovative ingredient in other recipes. Jam and jelly both have qualities beyond enhancing toast and biscuits!
Momma Likes Jelly
Growing up, Momma always made jelly; especially grape jelly from the sprawling Concord grapes that grew in our orchard. We would go out with wash pans and paring knifes, cutting clusters of the grapes in ginormous handfuls.
If momma was going to make jelly; everyone scattered. She was on her own until it was time to fill the jars.
Making jelly requires cooking the fruit down, getting the peels and seeds separated, and straining the remaining juice to make a clear glistening liquid which would be further cooked with sugar and pectin to make the most magical grape jelly you can imagine.
Never mind, that the kitchen would look like grapes had been mass-murdered and we would have to clean for days.
Grape jelly was worth every splatter.
But Grandma Made Jam
Maybe Grandma was old-school. Perhaps she had more time. But when the harvest came, Grandma would make jam. Thick, oozy, uber-concentrated fruit flavors with a bit of sweetness, with chunks of berries or fruit, Grandma’s jams were coveted and hoarded by friends and family.
Breakfast at Grandma’s always included jam and biscuits. Lunch was likely to see a salad dressed with a jam vinaigrette. In spring, Sunday Supper concluded with warmed strawberry rhubarb jam over vanilla ice cream. In fall and through the winter holidays, Grandpa made a blackberry jam cake with caramel icing that invited us linger at the table for hours after the meal, talking and laughing.
While everyone was in a good mood, Grandpa and Grandma would shove aside the massive kitchen table, crank up the old Bakelite radio and do a spirited Charleston or Jitterbug. The power of jam cake could not be denied.
Difference Between Jam and Jelly – The Nitty Gritty
For me food is emotional. It conjures memories and spurs new dreams.
So, let’s remove the passion for a minute and consider what the academics have to say about the difference between jam and jelly.
Turning to Encyclopedia Britannica’s Jonathan Hogeback, an academic who writes with a voice of reason regarding the difference between jam and jelly:
The biggest difference between jelly, jam, and preserves is how much of the original fruit is used to make them.
Hogeback goes on to describe jelly as having that tell-tale smooth consistency. He explains jam is made by crushing fruit, leaving bits and pieces of the fruits in the spread.
The Joys of Jelly
Jelly jiggles. It is shiny. The clarity of jelly makes it shimmer in the morning light, like a jewel that has fallen loose from the queen’s crown.
You know what I love best about jelly?
Jelly is versatile. You can use jelly as a glaze for vegetables and meats. Friends Drift Inn Mint Julep Glazing Jelly is amazing stirred into Earl Gray Tea, instead of sugar.
And let’s not forget savory jellies! Red Pepper Jelly and Friends Drift Inn Classic Pepper Jelly, both bring a new dimension to cream cheese appetizers, deviled eggs, and as meat glazes. Charlie, my favorite grill master, spreads warmed pepper jelly on burgers, hotdogs, and even fried corn cakes!
A jelly is a strained fruit gel, with fruit pulp and other sediments removed. If you like the flavor of blackberries but not the grit, blackberry jelly would be perfect for you.
Jelly Means Work
And while jelly is indeed a dainty spread, it bears repeating. Jelly is labor intensive. The process is tricky, and to get the right consistency is an art.
To make jelly, one cooks chopped fruit in water until the fruit becomes totally soft and has given up all its juice. The pulp is then carefully strained out and discarded. The juice is cooked with sugar until it gels, usually with pectin, which gives the jelly its solidity.
When we are at CANE kitchen, where we currently produce Friends Drift Inn jelly, Charlie and I are in our happy place. Jelly is labor-intensive on the front end, but once the jelly has been strained and cooked it goes pretty fast.
Like all Better Processors, we take temperature measurements to assure quality control.
But like any seasoned hillbilly jelly-maker, I still use a cold spoon inserted in the kettle, removed, and then draw a line down the back. If the jelly is set properly, the jelly stays put. If it oozes across the line, we cook it more.
Making jelly is a process.
Show Me the Jam!
Friends Drift Inn crafts both jams and jellies. We love jams and jellies, but for different reasons.
When cooking for the family or our guest, the scales tip in favor of jams.
Maybe it is because I don’t think of jam as a final product; but more a prepared ingredient for something like baked goods, roasted vegetables, jam cocktails, or meat glazes.
Perhaps it is jam’s concentrated fruit-forward in your face flavors that makes my culinary creativity shift into high gear.
Jams make me happy. And I am not alone.
We don’t like to play favorites, but we really like jam. It’s the chunkier version of jelly, with more pieces of actual fruit in it and a slightly looser, spoonable texture.
Making jam is messy. When we are at CANE kitchen, it seems like we get jam splatters all over our aprons, on the floor, and over the fill table. Because our jam is chunky, as we fill the jars sometimes the jam just “plops” instead of the smooth pour of jelly.
But at the end of the day, we love making jam and seeing reactions when folks taste it!
Opening the Jam Jars
What are you going to make?
I love jam filled muffins!
I think Peach Habanero Jam should be on-hand every time we crank up the grill. It is so good on burgers and hotdogs. Oh, and don’t forget on cheese and charcuterie plates!
Swirling Blackberry Bourbon Jam in a bourbon cocktail or smearing it on a turkey breast as a glaze puts a spring in my step!
Reminder, after you open jam you must refrigerate!
So What Is The Difference Between Jam and Jelly?
Jelly is fancy, slick and sophisticated. It is the thing that makes peanut butter sandwiches sing, and puts a smile on your face when you spread it on your morning toast. It is light and breezy.
Jam, it is chunky and thick. The flavors are intense and concentrated.
You will find both have their moments.
Both have similar shelf-lives, about eleven months unopened or three weeks after you crack the seal and refrigerate.
Both make thoughtful hostess gifts.
Choosing between a jam and a jelly is a tough decision, you should not have to make. Choose both! Our Friends Drift Inn Appalachian Heritage Collection offers the best of jams and jellies!
Spread the love and share the giggles!