What's the difference between jelly and jam?

I think Cecil needs to expand upon his 1995 column What’s the difference between jelly and jam? I know I’m still confused. I’ve been using a store brand of squeezable grape jelly for a while for my PB&J sandwiches. Currently I’m using the Welch’s brand and have been thinking it’s a lot thinner than I remember. It took me half the bottle to realize it was grape Jam, not Jelly! Since I thought jam was thicker than jelly and contained bits of stuff, I thought it odd that this jam didn’t have any discernible “bits” and was quite runny. It just so happens that Cecil’s column on the subject is currently on the front page. However it is the shortest SD column I recall ever seeing, so I had to perform my own research in order to get the “Straight Dope.” That hasn’t gone too well.

Using Google to search for JAM JELLY, these are the first three results.

Linky #1 recipes.howstuffworks tells me:

[li]In jelly, the fruit comes in the form of fruit juice.[/li][li]In jam, the fruit comes in the form of fruit pulp or crushed fruit (and is less stiff than jelly as a result).[/li][/ul]
This is promising since jam being less stiff than jelly jibes with my recent observations. However, I am dubious about the logic behind jam being less stiff because it comes from a semi-solid (fruit pulp or crushed fruit) and jelly is stiffer because it comes from a liquid (juice).

Linky #2 thekitchn has this to say:

Jam is a thick mixture of fruit, pectin, and sugar that is boiled gently but quickly until the fruit is soft and has an organic shape, yet is still thick enough that it spreads easily and can form a blob. In addition to being a spread, jams are also good for fillings.

Jelly is made from sugar, pectin, acid, and fruit juice and is a clear spread that is firm enough to hold its shape. Jellies can also be made from ingredients other than fruit, such as herbs, tea, wine, liqueurs, flowers, and vegetables.

The jelly part sounds fine, but my Welch’s jam is not “thick enough that it spreads easily and can form a blob.” It forms a somewhat viscous puddle. Also, what is the difference between jelly “hold[ing] its shape” and jam “form[ing] a blob?”

Finally, perhaps the third time’s a charm. Linky #3 todayifoundout says:

If you are wondering how to tell the difference between jelly and jam on sight, the jelly will spread pretty evenly, while the jam will tend to be a little lumpy.

The bottom line seems to be this…

Jelly is made from fruit juice and therefore never has any “bits”. Also, jelly has some thickness and spreadability.

Jam has “bits” ranging from small seeds to pieces of pulp to pulp mashed to nothingness. Jam may be thin, medium, or thick in consistency.

Cecil, Teeming masses, want to help me out here? Perhaps we could take a poll.

Neither is compote.

Jam is made from fruit. Jelly is made from juice or fine puree. Preserves are mostly fruit with less added sugar and water.

So, rsa tells us that Cecil needs to expand on his column, then gives us a bottom line that’s exactly what Cecil said in his column.

Cecil says “Jam is made by boiling fruit and does have fruit bits.” It doesn’t appear to necessarily be the case that jam always has fruit bits.

Where does Cecil say anything at all about the consistency of jam or jelly?


ETA: Cecil’s bottom line is regarding peanut butter and apple butter.

From your own OP:

How does this differ from what Cecil said?

Perhaps I was unclear but “pulp mashed to nothingness” was meant to mean no bits, whereas Cecil says “jam… does have fruit bits.” “Bits” means to me a small amount of something that is visible (if barely) and usually some texture different (firmer) than the underlying gelée.

Maybe you missed my comment about the squeezable Welch’s jam: “I thought it odd that this jam didn’t have any discernible “bits” and was quite runny.” When I buy squeezable jelly, it is not runny, some are quite thick.

Link #1 - “jam… is less stiff than jelly.”
Link #2 - "Jam is… thick enough that it spreads easily and can form a blob
Link #3 - “jam will tend to be a little lumpy.”

It could be that the lack of bits in Welch’s is an anomaly, but Cecil didn’t address the consistency of jam and jelly at all.

I’d always heard the divide as being this:

Jelly: made from juice.

Jam: made from pureed fruit.

Preserves: made from pieces of fruit.

I don’ t know if it’s accurate, but I do know that the process to make them is the same, regardless of jam, jelly or preserves.

I hate to be a trouble maker just as everyone seems to have reached a reasonable understanding here, but here goes: Marmalade.

"It must be jam, 'cause jelly don’t shake like that!"


My sentiments exactly.

So sue Welch, not Cecil.

Horrible, horrible, joke but fits here. Please do not read it.

What’s the difference between jelly & jam?

I can’t jelly my cock up your mom’s ass