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I've seen both words being used (peanut butter and jelly; peanut butter and jam), but I was wondering whether they were both words for the same thing, or if there's actually a distinct difference between the two.

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There's also this site: cooking.stackexchange.com –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jul 27 '11 at 15:59
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All these years I've thought that "jelly" was just what Americans call British "jam". But apparently that's not right. –  FumbleFingers Jul 27 '11 at 17:54
    
Should this be migrated to cooking.stackexchange.com? Cause this addresses an epicure question –  Thursagen Jul 27 '11 at 18:28
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Wikipedia explains that the difference between jam and jelly is that jam uses whole pieces of fruit, while jelly uses the juice:

Properly, the term jam refers to a product made with whole fruit, cut into pieces or crushed...
Jelly is a clear or translucent fruit spread made from sweetened fruit (or vegetable) juice and set using naturally occurring pectin.

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Understand that these, as well as marmalades, confits, etc are all "preserves". However, the term "preserves" is often used specifically to refer to what are technically "conserves" or "whole fruit jams", where the product is made simply by throwing the fruit into sugar syrup and simmering it until it has the desired texture. So, you may see "strawberry preserves" right next to "strawberry jam"; the difference, if any, will be that the preserves will have larger, more recognizable pieces of the fruit while the jam will likely have started with crushed or pureed strawberries. –  KeithS Jul 27 '11 at 16:41
    
@KeithS, that's comfits, not confits –  jwpat7 Apr 2 '12 at 4:40
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@jwpat7 - no it isn't. Your link for comfits shows something entirely different (dried food preserved in a hard sugar shell). KeithS is correct with confits. –  Useless Apr 3 '12 at 15:40
    
@Useless, thanks, you are right. –  jwpat7 Apr 3 '12 at 18:37
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There is a difference. Jam in the UK, is what Americans call jelly. Jelly in the UK, is what Americans call "Jell-O".

The main difference, is how to use these words. Consider who you are talking to, to ensure that you make your meaning clear.

If you are talking to a British person and mention jelly, they will think of what Americans call "Jell-O". If you ask for jelly in the UK, you will end up with "Jell-O".

If you mean what Americans call jelly, you will need to use the word jam.

Otherwise, this can lead to a misunderstanding.

These pages explain it: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/jelly?q=jelly and http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/jam_1?q=jam

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So for jam in the US, what corresponds to it in the UK? –  Mitch Apr 1 '12 at 20:41
    
@Mitch, conserves (mentioned in an earlier comment) correspond to some kinds of US jams, particularly those with visible bits of fruit; is that term used in the UK? However, I doubt that the term applies to (eg) apple butter, a kind of jam. –  jwpat7 Apr 2 '12 at 4:52
    
What do you mean, Mitch. When is the word jam, used in the USA? –  Tristan Apr 3 '12 at 15:34
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Typically, jam has chunks of fruit left in it while jelly does not. Think of it like the difference between chunky and non-chunky peanut butter.

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