Fruit spreads top our toast and keep our peanut butter company, but what makes each kind different?

The slice of toast is ubiquitous with breakfast.  How many times have you gone out for breakfast in Denver and been asked, “What kind of toast?”  Toast is the faithful companion to eggs and bacon.  And always served alongside the toast, or in a caddy on the table, is some kind of fruit spread.  Most often you find those little plastic containers of jelly with the peel-off cover.  Some places elevate their offerings with condiment jars of house-made jams.  At home we all have several jars on standby in the refrigerator, a certain type for each member of the household.  What would a peanut butter sandwich be without a thick layer of grape jelly?  Or maybe strawberry jam, or even orange marmalade.

Fruit spreads are a sweet industry in the United Sates, with over one billion pounds produced annually.  You’ve probably eaten a variety of fruit spreads, including jam, jelly and preserves.  But do you know the difference between a jam and a jelly, or marmalade and a conserve? In 1940 the FDA created Standards of Identity for jams and jelly.  Below are the definitions, perhaps you can impress your friends and family with some breakfast trivia.

Jelly –  A clear, bright mixture made from fruit juice, sugar and often pectin or acid. No less than 45 pounds of fruit must be used for each 55 lb. of sugar.

Jam – A thick mixture of fruit and sugar (and often pectin) that is cooked until the pieces of fruit are very soft and almost formless — the texture of a thick purée. It is also made with 45 lb. of fruit solids combined with 55 lb. of sugar.

Preserves – Almost identical to a jam but preserves can contain large chunks of fruit or whole fruit.

Conserves – Similar to a preserve but usually contains more than one kind of fruit and often nuts.

Marmalade – Also like a preserve but contains some amount of fruit rind, usually from a citrus fruit.

Fruit Spreads – Modern fruit spreads that have been introduced over the last 15 years do not fall under the jelly or jam Standards of Identity, hence the generic name “fruit spreads.” These products are usually made with fruit juice concentrates or low-calorie sweeteners replacing all or part of the sugar.

Fruit Butter – A spread that is made by cooking fresh fruit with spices until it becomes thick and smooth.



That little plastic container of jam is ready for your toast at Gunther Toody’s.


Source: International Jelly and Preserve Association