Jelly, jam, preserves, conserves and marmalades are fruit products that are jellied or thickened. Most are preserved by sugar. Their individual characteristics depend on the kind of fruit used and the way it is prepared, the proportions of different ingredients in the mixture and the method of cooking.
Jellies are usually made by cooking fruit juice with sugar. (Some are made without cooking using special uncooked jelly recipes.) A good product is clear and firm enough to hold its shape when turned out of the container, but quivers when the container is moved. When cut, it should be tender yet retain the angle of the cut. Jelly should have a flavorful, fresh, fruity taste.
Jams are thick, sweet spreads made by cooking crushed or chopped fruits with sugar. Jams tend to hold their shape but are generally less firm than jelly. (Recipes are also available for uncooked jams.)
Preserves are small, whole fruit or uniform size pieces in a clear, slightly gelled syrup. The fruit should be tender and plump.
Conserves are jam-like products that may be made with a combination of fruits. They also contain nuts, raisins or coconut.
Marmalades are soft fruit jellies containing small pieces of fruit or peel evenly suspended in the transparent jelly. They often contain citrus fruit.
Other fruit products that are preserved by sugar but not jellied include butters, honeys and syrups. Fruit butters are sweet spreads made by cooking fruit pulp with sugar to a thick consistency. Spices are often added. Honeys and syrups are made by cooking fruit juice or pulp with sugar to the consistency of honey or syrup.
This document was adapted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.