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Making jams, marmalades, preserves and conserves

Closeup of red strawberries.

Jams, marmalades, preserves and conserves are fruit products preserved by sugar. These products differ in gel consistency, ingredients and how the fruit is prepared. They are easy to make at home.

  • Jams are made from crushed or ground fruit and usually have a thick consistency due to high pectin content.
  • Marmalade is a jelly with pieces of fruit suspended in it. Citrus peel and juice are frequently the basis of marmalade.
  • Preserves contain whole fruit or small pieces of fruit in a thick sugar syrup.
  • Conserves are jams made from a mixture of fruits. They usually contain citrus fruit, nuts and raisins.

Ingredients and their roles

Fruit gives the product its special flavor and provides pectin for thickening.

Pectin provides thickening or gel formation.

  • All fruits contain some pectin.
  • Apples, crabapples, gooseberries, some plums, highbush cranberries and citrus peel contain large amounts of pectin.
  • Fruits like blueberries, strawberries, cherries or huckleberries contain little pectin. You can make thicker products with these fruits by combining them with fruit rich in pectin or with powdered or liquid pectin.

Acid must be present to form gel in marmalades and thickening in jams, preserves and conserves.

  • For fruits lacking in natural acid, like strawberries, recipes call for lemon juice or other citrus fruit.
  • Commercial pectin products contain organic acids that increase the acid content of fruits.

Sugar aids in gel formation, develops flavor by adding sweetness, and acts as a preservative.

  • Corn syrup or honey can replace half of the sugar in a recipe.
  • Use light colored, mild-flavored honey; too much honey can overpower the fruit flavor.

Watch our 5-minute presentation on jam and jelly basics


Because of high sugar content, jams, marmalades, preserves and conserves are mainly a source of calories. One level tablespoon of these products contains 55 to 70 calories and should be used sparingly by people concerned about controlling their weight or sugar intake.


William Schafer, emeritus Extension specialist; Isabel D. Wolf;  Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator; and Deb Botzek-Linn, former Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

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