There are a number of different types of fruit preserves which vary in composition and preservation method. Fruit preserves are made all over the world, and used in a variety of ways. Many people are familiar with the use of fruit preserves as sweet spreads for baked goods, for example, but preserves can also be used as condiments for savory foods, and as ingredients in cakes and a variety of other dishes. Many markets carry a range of different types of fruit preserves to meet consumer needs.
Some people use the term “preserves” to refer to a specific type of fruit preserves. In this sense, preserves are whole fruits lightly cooked in sugar and water and canned as-is, with the intent of being eaten whole. These whole fruits can be used in an assortment of ways, and they have a naturally sweet, fresh flavor. A closely related concept is confit, a fruit preserve made by soaking fruits in repeated changes of sugar syrup so that the sugar penetrates the fruit and acts as a preservative. Confit is often made with whole small fruits like strawberries and cherries, or segments of larger fruits like oranges.
Other types of fruit preserves are made by chopping and processing fruit in some way. Jam is a type of fruit preserve made with whole fruit which has been crushed or cut into chunks, and cooked in water and sugar to release the natural pectin in the fruit, causing the jam to firm up into a mass. When multiple fruits are used or nuts are added, jam turns into conserves. Fruit butter is a style of fruit preserves made by forcing cooked fruit through a very fine-grained sieve to generate a creamy preserve with a uniform texture.
When fruit preserves are made without sugar, they are known as fruit spreads. Because fruit spreads lack the preservative properties of sugar, many of them are short-lived, and need to be used quickly, but they have a more fresh flavor. Fruit curds are made by cooking egg yolks, fruit juice, and sugar to create a rich, highly-flavored spread. Most commonly, citrus fruits like lemons and limes are used to make fruit curd.
Marmalade is a special type of fruit preserve which is intended to carry a bitter edge along with the expected sweet flavor. Traditionally, citrus fruits like the Seville orange are used to make marmalade, and the spread is chunky and somewhat dry. Jelly is yet another entry in the list of types of fruit preserves, made with fruit juice or the liquid left behind after other types of fruit preserves have been made. Jelly includes additional pectin, ensuring that the juice sets into a firm mass.