This Is Our Jam
The Current Pickle
It's hard to talk about jams and jellies without talking first about the PB&J, the iconic sandwich that has been around since the early 1900s in America and the one you'll eat 3000 times in your life - and even more if you're an NBA player.
You probably cut your crusts off at some point (or demanded a parent do it) - turns out that genius move could have earned you a patent. Popular jelly manufacturer Smuckers has even just purchased land to build an Uncrustables factory in Colorado to keep up with this $200M crustless sandwich market.
While cute and convenient, those pre-made sammies are all refined grains and added sugars, so the next time a craving hits, make your own with high-quality ingredients. Since sugar is the most oft-used preservative in preserves (heh), consider these two things:
- Look for less sugar. This probably means it has 10 grams or less of sugar per tablespoon. Once the FDA added sugar labels start to take effect (7/26/18), remember the less added sugar the better.
- Find a local brand. Chances are this will mean seasonal fruit, local production, small batches, and a focus on quality. If you can't find a local brand (farmers markets often have good options too!), branch out with a non-national brand or a Good Food Award winner in the "Preserves" category.
What’s the Dillio with the Name of My "Fruit Suspended in Gel"?
Yeah, it's all kinds of confusing when it comes to names used in the jelly aisle. So first understand a key ingredient in your jar of "fruits suspended in gel": pectin. Pectin naturally occurs in the cell walls of fruits, and can also be added to ensure the perfect gelatinous consistency.
To avoid further confusion and get yourself out of this jam, understand what you're buying:
- Preserves: Applies to all fruit preserved in sugar. Think of this as the term that covers all.
- Jelly: The most refined (and often the most translucent one on the shelf), it's a strained fruit gel, with fruit pulp and other sediments removed.
- Compote: Uses whole pieces of fruit cooked down in sugar syrup to a consistent texture without additional thickeners.
- Jam: Less homogenous than compote with fruit debris (like seeds) mixed in to the pure fruit gel.
- Conserve: A preserve that combines multiple fruits.
- Marmalade: A preserve, often with a citrus base, that retains the peel, and may contain multiple fruits as well.
- Chutney: A spicier jam, which may include the addition of vinegar, dried fruit, and spices for savory notes.
Some term-defiant chefs are bucking the norm and making savory jams and marmalades out of things like onions, eggplant, and even meat. We say, jam on!
The Hot Pickle
Happy Cinco de Mayo! If you feel inspired, consider making a strawberry margarita jam (making preserves can be fun and easy!) or flip that idea around and make a pepper jelly margarita: preserves work great in your drink as much as they work on bread.