Special Jam, Fruit Spread, Fruit Butter, & Marmade Explained

Why is Aunt Becky’s Jam called “Special Jam”?

Aunt Becky’s Special Jam does not include any secret ingredients (contrary to certain customer questions…you know who you are). My niece Anna (in the middle) named it special jam. When I first started making jam for my sister Heather, she shared it sparingly with my nieces because they eat like locusts and there weren’t very many jars. On the first day of the second grade (see photo below) Anna announced that she would no longer eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in her lunch unless it was made with “Aunt Becky’s Special Jam”. Look at those faces! How could I say no?!

1st day of school 2010

What’s the difference between jam and fruit spread?

Jam and fruit spread are the most closely related. First, it’s unrelated to sugar content. The distinction is based on science and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Every Aunt Becky’s product is tested using a handy-dandy digital refractometer.

digital refractometer pic

This little green machine tests the soluable solids in a product and lights up a number on the Brix scale. The FDA says that most fruit (except fruit butter stone fruits and marmalade citrus fruits) must have a Brix of 65 or above to be considered jam. If you ask the FDA, the word “preserves” is the equivalent of jam. Any product with a Brix of less than 65 is a fruit spread.

Then what’s fruit butter?

Fruit butter is like jam made from stone fruits that break down during the cooking process. A stone fruit is a fruit with a pit and includes cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, and apples. Cherries, apricots and peaches don’t break down all the way when cooking, so those fruits make jam or fruit spread. On the other hand, plums, pears and apples cook down into a creamy, buttery consistency.

apple butter

Like jam, the FDA has a say in the name fruit butter. Aunt Becky’s products made from only plums, pears or apples must have a Brix of 43 or above to be labeled fruit butter.

How about marmalade?

Marmalade is like jam made with citrus fruit pulp and peel. But it’s a little more fun…Imagine an orange and peel the orange in your head. First, you have the peel which includes the zest, the orange-colored part, and the pith, the bitter white part. Second, you have the segments which includes the membrane, the white part, and the pulp and juice, the juicy orange part. Marmalade includes the zest, pulp and juice. The pith, membrane and seeds are wrapped in cheesecloth during cooking and used to naturally thicken the marmalade.

oranges cut orange pectin

Pretty cool huh! Citrus fruits have their own thickener. Makes you respect the mundane orange a little more now huh.

What about sauces?

Well our illustrious FDA has not put a label on sauces. Sauces are named based on what makes the most sense. What a relief!

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