April/May 2015

Getting to Know: Fruit Condiments

Can you tell a compote from a chutney? A jam from a preserve? It’s easy to get confused since grocery store labels are often inexact. Here’s the real deal when it comes to preserved fruit.

Can you tell a compote from a chutney? A jam from a preserve? It’s easy to get confused since grocery store labels are often inexact. Here’s the real deal when it comes to preserved fruit.


Fruit preserves are whole pieces or large chunks of fruit suspended in jelly or very thick syrup. Preserves tend to be less sweet than jams and jellies since they traditionally are made with equal parts fruit and sugar. The sugar plays an important role in helping the preserves set, though pectin is often used, too.


Jam is made from crushed or finely chopped fruit, which is cooked with pectin and sugar until thickened (jams traditionally contain more sugar than fruit by weight). We use jam as a filling for pastries and other desserts like our Peanut Butter and Jam Cake (see related content).


Unlike preserves and jam, jelly contains no fruit bits; it almost always requires additional pectin to set up properly. The final ingredient is sugar, and like jams, jellies contain more sugar than fruit or fruit juice. We melted strawberry jelly and used it as a glaze in our recipe for Easy Fresh Fruit Tart (see related content).


Marmalade almost always contains pieces of rind, which gives it a unique texture and also a faint bitterness. While marmalade was historically made with quinces, today it is usually made with sour Seville oranges.

Fruit Curd

Lemon curd gets all the glory, but curds—citrusy chilled custards—are also made with lime, orange, and grapefruit. It’s important to cook the curd until it reaches 170 degrees; the egg yolks will thicken and cling to a spoon at that point (boiling will break the custard). The curd will continue to thicken as it cools.


Usually served as part of a dessert, a compote is fresh or dried fruit slowly simmered in heavy sugar syrup with various spices and (sometimes) liqueur. Compotes made with the concentrated flavor of dried fruit can benefit from the addition of hearty herbs like rosemary and thyme.


Similar to marmalade, a conserve is a thick, chunky, cooked condiment that often contains fruit rind. Due to the rind’s high pectin content, conserves don’t usually require added pectin. Conserves differ from marmalades, however, in that they usually contain nuts and dried fruits like raisins or currants.


Besides fruit, vinegar is the key ingredient in fruit chutneys. Spices and a touch of heat (chutneys vary in spiciness) add complexity. Though chutneys are usually cooked on the stovetop, we’ve also used the microwave to speed things up.

Fruit Butter

Deeply flavored fruit butters require long cooking times to achieve their heavy consistency. Apples and pears make popular fruit butters; their sweetness is complemented by spices and sometimes apple cider or brandy.


Unlike most of these other condiments, a fruit relish isn’t necessarily cooked. Relishes can be sweet or savory and made of cooked, pickled, or raw ingredients. We process cranberries, a whole orange, and an apple with sugar and spices for our Cranberry-Apple-Orange Relish (see related content).


This sweet-savory Italian condiment features candied fruits preserved in a mustardy syrup: Mustard powder, seed, and oil can all be used.

Fruit Paste

Fruit paste is most commonly made with pectin-rich quince or guava. Spanish membrillo and Portuguese marmelada are quince pastes that are cooked with sugar until dark and thick and then cooled until firm and sliceable. Fruit paste will keep in the refrigerator for up to six months.