What Do Americans Call Jam? Cultural Naming Traditions!

In the United States, the term “jam” is commonly used to refer to a fruit spread that is made from crushed or chopped fruits, along with sugar and pectin. Americans use the word “jam” to describe a variety of fruit preserves that may contain fruit chunks or pieces. The specific fruit used in jam can vary, and popular choices include strawberries, blueberries, apricots, and more.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that the term “jelly” is also used in the U.S., and it specifically refers to a fruit spread made from fruit juice, sugar, and pectin. Jelly has a smoother and more translucent consistency compared to jam, as it lacks the fruit pieces found in jam. The choice between them often depends on personal preference and the desired texture of the fruit spread.

What Is The History Of Jam?

The history of jam is a flavorful journey that spans centuries, weaving through ancient civilizations, royal feasts, wartime preservation efforts, and the rise of home canning. While the exact origins of jam-making are shrouded in the mists of time, it is widely believed that chefs in the Middle East were among the first to craft fruit jams and preserves, possibly as early as the 4th century or even earlier.

The Ancient Beginnings:

In the oldest surviving cookbook from antiquity, “De Re Coquinaria,” attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius in the late 4th or early 5th century, the first mention of fruit preserves made with honey can be found.

The ancient method involved heating, sweetening, and cooling fruit to create a delectable treat.

The Sugar Revolution:

The use of honey as a sweetener prevailed until the Crusaders, returning to England in 1099, introduced sugar as a “new spice” from their travels. This marked a turning point, as sugar quickly became the preferred ingredient for jams and preserves.

The worldwide fascination with sugar had begun, eventually reaching the shores of England during the 16th century.

Nostradamus and Marmalade:

What Is The History Of Jam

The French astrologer and physician Nostradamus, in 1555, wrote a treatise that included recipes for cherry jam, quince jelly, and pear preserve. The manuscript, based on knowledge predating his medical studies, showcases the evolving art of jam-making in the 16th century.

Additionally, the first marmalade is attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1561, who used crushed oranges and sugar as a remedy for seasickness.

Jam in the United States:

The spread of jam-making traditions continued as settlers brought this culinary art to the United States. Pioneers like Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees across the Midwest, contributing to the American jam-making tradition.

In 1918, Welch’s introduced its Grape Juice, and later, Grape Jelly, which gained popularity among both soldiers during World War I and civilians upon their return.

Wartime Preservation:

World War II brought rationing and food shortages, leading the Women’s Institute to play a crucial role in preserving fruits through jam-making. Between 1940 and 1945, over 5,300 tons of fruit were preserved, showcasing the adaptability of jam-making during challenging times.

Home Canning and Artisanal Resurgence:

The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century made sugar more affordable, paving the way for large-scale jam production. However, it wasn’t until the recent resurgence of home canning that jam-making regained popularity. With a nationwide shortage of jars during the pandemic, a new generation embraced the joy of preserving fruits in a delicious, time-honored tradition.

As its history continues to evolve, from the honey-sweetened concoctions of ancient times to the diverse and artisanal creations of today, this beloved spread remains a testament to the enduring appeal of preserving nature’s bounty in a jar.

Regional Jam Terminology in the United States

RegionCommon Terms for JamCultural Influences on Terminology
Northeastern United States– Jam– European Heritage: Strong influence from English settlers
– Fruit Preserves– Culinary Traditions: Historical practices and recipes
Southern United States– Preserves– Agricultural Heritage: Abundance of fruit-bearing crops
– Jelly– Culinary Traditions: Traditional Southern recipes
Midwestern United States– Jam– Farming Communities: Strong ties to agriculture
– Spread– Farmers Markets: Marketing influences on terminology
Western United States– Conserve– Culinary Fusion: Diverse food culture
– Artisanal Labels– Health-Conscious Language: Emphasis on natural ingredients

The Main Differences Between Jelly And Jam

IngredientsMade from fruit juice.Made from crushed or chopped whole fruits, including their flesh, skins, and sometimes seeds.
AppearanceClear, smooth, and translucent.Thicker, chunkier, with visible fruit pieces.
TextureFirm gel-like consistency.Varies in consistency, from smoother to chunkier.
Fruit ContentDoes not contain any fruit chunks or pieces.Contains chunks of fruit, giving it a richer flavor.
ProcessingInvolves straining out solid parts of the fruit, leaving only the juice.Uses the whole fruit, including its solid components.
Common UseCommonly used as a spread on bread or toast.Used as a spread, but the thicker texture makes it suitable for different culinary applications.

What is the Processing Jam-Making?


  • 8 cups (4 pints) of sweet, fresh fruit (such as strawberries, blueberries, or apricots)
  • One packet of MCP pectin powder (optional)
  • 4 cups of sugar (adjust to 5 1/3 cups for bitter fruits like oranges)
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. of butter or margarine

Part 1: Preparing the Ingredients

  • Decide whether or not to use pectin: While not mandatory, pectin can enhance the jam’s consistency. Ensure you follow the recommended sugar-to-fruit ratio if using pectin.
  • Sterilize a dozen canning jars: Boil the jars for 10 minutes, then let them air dry upside-down on a clean towel.
  • Prepare the fruit: Wash, peel, pit, or remove stems as needed. Cut larger fruits into 1/2-inch chunks.
  • Crush the fruit: Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, crush the fruit for 1-2 minutes for chunkier jam or 3 minutes for a smoother texture.
  • Prepare the fruit in a stockpot or large saucepan: Combine 8 cups of fruit with lemon juice and butter, stirring gently.

Part 2: Making the Jam

  • Bring the fruit mixture to a full rolling boil: Stir continuously to prevent burning until bubbles persist even while stirring.
  • Pour in the sugar: Add 4 cups of sugar (adjust for fruit bitterness) while stirring until dissolved, resulting in clearer and brighter fruit.
  • Let the fruit mixture simmer: Heat under low heat for 5-20 minutes until it achieves a thicker, syrupy consistency. Stir constantly.
  • Remove from heat: Once ready, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner.
  • Skim foam or bubbles: Use a spoon to remove any whitish foam on the surface.

Part 3: Storing the Jam

  • Ladle the jam into prepared jars: Use a canning funnel, leaving 1/8 inch of headspace. Wipe rims and threads clean.
  • Prepare the seals: Soften seals in hot water, place them on jars, and secure with clean rings.
  • Boil the jars for 10 minutes: Use a water-bath canner or stockpot, ensuring jars are covered by 1-2 inches of hot water.
  • Cool the jars: Remove jars with tongs, placing them on a clean towel to cool for 24 hours.
  • Check for sealed jars: Confirm the vacuum seal by ensuring the lids are tightly pulled down. Refrigerate any unsealed jars.

Versatile Culinary Applications of Jam

Culinary ApplicationDescription
Spread on Toast or BreadThe classic use, spreading it on warm toast or bread for a delightful breakfast or snack.
Topper for Pancakes or WafflesDrizzle it over pancakes or waffles as a fruity topping, eliminating the need for additional syrups.
Filling for PastriesUse it as a filling for pastries, croissants, or danishes for a sweet and fruity center.
Cake FillingLayer cakes with different flavored ones for added moisture and flavor.
Sandwich EnhancerAdd a layer of it to sandwiches, especially with cream cheese or peanut butter, for a sweet and savory combination.
Yogurt ParfaitCreate a yogurt parfait by layering yogurt, granola, and spoonfuls of it for a quick and delicious dessert or breakfast.
Ice Cream ToppingWarm jam slightly and drizzle it over ice cream for a fruity and flavorful topping.
Cheese PairingServe it alongside a cheese platter; the sweet and savory contrast complements various cheeses.
Glaze for MeatUse jam as a glaze for grilled or roasted meats, adding a sweet and sticky layer.
Salad Dressing BaseMix jam with vinegar and oil to create a unique and flavorful salad dressing.
Cocktail MixerIncorporate it into cocktail recipes, adding sweetness and depth of flavor to drinks.
Stir into OatmealSwirl it  into a bowl of oatmeal or porridge for added sweetness and fruity notes.
Dessert ToppingUse it as a topping for desserts like cheesecake, panna cotta, or custards.
Baking IngredientInclude jam in baking recipes for cookies, muffins, or bars to infuse them with fruity goodness.
Jelly-Filled DonutsInject jam into donuts for a burst of flavor in every bite.
Marinades and SaucesCombine it with other ingredients to create marinades or sauces for meats or vegetables.
Quick Fruit SorbetMix it with frozen fruits and blend to create a quick and easy fruit sorbet.
Jam Thumbprint CookiesMake thumbprint cookies by filling the centers with different flavored ones.
Fruit-Filled CrepesSpread it inside crepes, fold , and serve for a simple and delicious dessert.
DIY PopsiclesCombine jam with fruit juice and freeze in molds to make refreshing homemade popsicles.

What are the Varieties of Fruits used in jam-making? 

  • Berries:
    • Strawberries
    • Blueberries
    • Raspberries
    • Blackberries
  • Stone Fruits:
    • Peaches
    • Apricots
    • Plums
    • Cherries
  • Citrus Fruits:
    • Oranges
    • Lemons
    • Limes
    • Grapefruits
  • Tropical Fruits:
    • Pineapple
    • Mango
    • Passion Fruit
    • Papaya
  • Apples and Pears:
    • Apples
    • Pears
  • Miscellaneous Fruits:
    • Figs
    • Kiwi
    • Cranberries
    • Grapes

What Are Variations Of Jam?

What Are Variations Of Jam
Jam VariationKey Characteristics
Fruit JamMade from a single fruit or a combination of fruits.
Berry JamFeatures the rich and vibrant flavors of berries.
Citrus JamUtilizes citrus fruits for a zesty and refreshing taste.
Stone Fruit JamHighlights the sweetness of stone fruits.
MarmaladeContains citrus fruits with thin slices of peel.
PreservesContains chunks of whole fruits for a chunky texture.
JellyMade from strained fruit juice for a smooth texture.
CompoteA chunky fruit mixture cooked with sugar and spices.
ChutneyA savory condiment with fruits, vinegar, and spices.
ConserveA mix of fruits, often with nuts and raisins.
Apple ButterSlow-cooked apples with sugar and spices, smooth texture.
Fig SpreadLuscious spread made primarily from figs.
Tomato JamA savory jam made from ripe tomatoes.
Pumpkin ButterA spiced spread made from cooked and pureed pumpkin.


What is American for jam?

In the United States, the terms used for fruit spreads are jam, jelly, or Jell-O. While Americans may use these terms interchangeably, Jell-O specifically refers to a brand of flavored gelatin dessert.

Is jam popular in America?

Yes, jam is popular in America. According to Statista, in 2020, 163.89 million Americans consumed strawberry jams, jellies, and preserves.

How do you say jelly in America?

In American English, “jelly” is pronounced as [JEL-ee].

Do Americans have strawberry jam?

Yes, strawberry jam is popular among Americans. In 2020, a significant number, 163.89 million, consumed strawberry jams, jellies, and preserves.

Do Americans call jam as jelly?

No, Americans generally distinguish between jam and jelly. In the U.S., “jam” typically contains fruit pulp, while “jelly” is made using fruit juice.

What is jam in British slang?

In British slang, “jam” can refer to luck or, informally, to sexual relations or their contemplation.

Is jam American or British?

In America, “jelly” is a fruit spread, while in Britain, it refers to a dessert. The American equivalent of what the British call “jam” is often known as “jelly.”

Is strawberry jam British?

Yes, strawberry jam is a traditional English delicacy commonly found on the breakfast table or served with clotted cream and scones at afternoon tea.

Does the UK have jam?

Yes, in the UK, the fruity substance Americans call “jelly” is referred to as “jam.”

What is Jell-O in America?

Jell-O is an American brand offering various powdered gelatin dessert, pudding, and no-bake cream pie mixes.

Final Words

To wrap up, Americans commonly refer to fruit spreads made from crushed or chopped fruits, along with sugar and pectin, as “jam.” This versatile term encompasses a variety of fruit preserves that may contain fruit chunks or pieces, providing a diverse range of textures and flavors. 

Furthermore, while the term “jelly” is also used in the United States to describe fruit spreads made from fruit juice, sugar, and pectin, the preference between jam and jelly often depends on individual taste preferences and the desired consistency of the spread.

Whether enjoyed on toast, in pastries, or as a versatile ingredient in various culinary creations, “jam” remains a popular and beloved term in American food culture.