If you were to ask anyone what a PB&J stands for, they would most likely say peanut butter and jelly. The history behind how the sandwich came about is a short, but interesting one. Despite this and what most people like to call it, when I make it myself I end up with a peanut butter and jam sandwich.
Jams, jellies, compotes, preserves, and marmalades, are sometimes used interchangeably. While they are quite similar in texture, the contents of the spreads are slightly different. Keep on reading to find out what all the fruit spreads really are, and whether you've been spreading jelly or jam on your beloved PB.
A jam requires fruit and sugar and sometimes pectin and an acid. To make a jam, a fruit will be cut or chopped and then cooked with sugar until the fruit pieces start to loosen up. Sugar acts as a preservative, and bonds with the water to draw moisture out of living cells. This helps to maintain and prevent spoilage of the fruit.
Pectin is a natural carbohydrate found in fruits and is known for its thickening and gelling properties. In order to gel, it requires heat and acidity, which is why some recipes call for lemon juice.
Some fruits contain higher levels of pectin than others. For apple, plums, blackberries, and quince jams, additional pectin is not necessary. For a jam with blueberries, peaches, and apricots, more pectin will help.
#SpoonTip: If you get your hands on a powder pectin, whisk it with granulated sugar to help prevent clumping and hard lumps.
The main difference between jam and jelly is that jelly is cooked with fruit juice instead of real fruit. This creates a clear, spreadable goo. Sometimes the fruits are cooked and then used to extract the juice via a jelly bag that ensures no slippage of any fruit pieces. Once the juice is collected, it is boiled with sugar and pectin to help form its shape.
Much like jam, a preserve uses the same ingredients, except that the fruit is kept whole or cut up and added in big chunks.
Conserves are another very similar chunky jam mixture. It can be made with more than one fresh fruit, with the addition of nuts and dried fruit. It pairs very well with meats and cheeses as a condiment.
Nowadays, marmalade is known as a citrus-based fruit preserve, made with the peels or rinds of citrus fruits. Originally, it was known as a spread made with quince fruits. The true origin of marmalade is still a debated topic. After the 18th century, oranges from Seville gained their fame as the main fruit used for making marmalade.
The taste can be sweet and sour, but can also have a mild bitterness. Enjoy it with some savoury vegetables or as a glaze for meat, and you'll soon realize marmalade pairs well with just about anything.
Fruit butters differ from most jams in the way they are cooked and how the final product looks. The cooking process is slower to allow the moisture from the fruits to evaporate in order to create a thick paste. As a result, the spread isn't translucent like most fruit jellies. Some common butters are apple, pear, nectarine, peach, or plum. Pumpkin butter may not be as well known but is totally underrated in my opinion.
A compote consists of cooking whole pieces or large chunks of fruit in a sugary syrup. Some people would consider a coulis a compote as well, which is a thick sauce made from pureed fruit. The syrup can be flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, or other various spices and can be served with cold or hot cream. Another great use would be on pancakes or French toast.
A chutney is usually spiced and can be considered more of a 'savory' jam. It includes a mixture of fruits, vegetables, sugar, vinegar, and spices. A popular one is mango chutney, which has a mild and sweet flavour. It pairs nicely with smoked meats, over baked brie or cream cheese, or even as a dip for grilled shrimp. Here are some more ways to use chutney
So what have we learned from all of this? That the J from the PB&J, regardless of what you consider it to be, is equally as versatile. Together they are an immortal combo, and there really isn't a need to choose one over the other. Now, you can take your knowledge to the test and see which pairing of nut butter and fruit jelly is your fave.