Jam and Jelly Lore: Yesterday and Today
While the precise origin of preserved fruit remains a matter of historical debate, it is known that jams, jellies and preserves have a rich history and long have been recognized worldwide for their fragrance and rich fruit taste.
The making of jam and jelly probably began centuries ago in the Middle Eastern countries, where cane sugar grew naturally. It is believed that returning Crusaders first introduced jam and jelly to Europe; by the late Middle Ages, jams, jellies and fruit conserves were popular there. In fact, the word “jelly” comes from the French word “gelée” which means to congeal. The use of cane sugar to make jam and jelly can be traced back to the 16th century when the Spanish came to the West Indies where they preserved fruit.
Marmalade: A Kingly Delicacy
The world’s first known book of recipes, Of Culinary Matters, written by the Roman gastronome Marcus Gavius Apicius in the first century, includes recipes for fruit preserves. Marmalade is thought to have been created in 1561 by the physician to Mary, Queen of Scots, when he mixed orange and crushed sugar to keep her seasickness at bay. It has been suggested, in fact, that the word marmalade derives from the words “Marie est malade” (Mary is sick), but it is far more likely that the derivation is from the Portuguese word marmelo for quince.
Marmalades were a kingly delicacy and many a royal sweet tooth demanded an array of fruit flavors rich with sugar. Chroniclers of more regal eras describe at length the magnificent feasts of Louis XIV, which always ended with marmalades and jellies served in silver dishes. Each delicacy served at Versailles was made with fruit from the king’s own gardens and glasshouses, where even pineapples were grown and candied like less exotic fruits.
Jam and Jelly Arrive in the U.S.
Books on jam-making were published by the late 17th century. In the United States, early New England settlers preserved fruits with honey, molasses or maple sugar. Pectin extracted from apple parings was used to thicken jellies.
In 1897, Jerome M. Smucker first pressed cider at a mill in Orrville, Ohio. Later, he prepared apple butter too, which he offered in crocks that each bore a hand-signed seal -- his personal guarantee of quality.
A grape jam patent was first issued to Paul Welch in 1917 for the puréeing of grapes. He called the product “Grapelade.” The entire production was purchased by the U.S. Army and shipped to France for consumption by the troops during World War I. When the troops returned to the States after the war, they demanded more of this “Grapelade,” and it was produced in quantity.
The Food and Drug Administration established Standards of Identity for what constitutes jam, jelly, preserves and fruit butters in 1940.
Jam and Jelly Today
While jams and jellies come in dozens of flavors and varieties, from the standard grape jelly to the more exotic chocolate jam, nine flavors account for more than 80 percent of total U.S. production. The most popular are grape jelly and strawberry jam. They are followed by grape jam, red raspberry jam, orange marmalade, apple jelly, apricot jam, peach jam and blackberry jam, in that order. An additional 28 flavors are commonly produced that account for less than 20 percent of total production.
Jelly is more popular among kids, while preserves are favored by adults. In fact, the average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by high school graduation. Consumers who regularly purchase jam, jelly and preserves usually buy two flavors to have at home. And at home, adults and children eat the products with equal frequency.
Jams and jellies boast quick energy, delicious flavors and only 48 calories per tablespoon (less for jellies made with low-calorie sweeteners). On a tablespoon-for-tablespoon basis, jams and jellies have about half the calories of butter (or margarine) and they contain zero fat! For instance, a tablespoon of butter is loaded with 102 calories, not to mention 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat and 31 milligrams of cholesterol.
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