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Preserves evolved before the invention of refrigeration as a way to hold onto the goodness of fruit after its short season of ripeness. They have been central to U.S. farming and eating from the Colonial times.

Helen Bullock, in "The Williamsburg Art of Cookery", wrote that "Pickles, preserves, jellies, and conserves were such staple table delicacies in Colonial Virginia that one can rarely examine the inventory of a person's estate without finding preserving kettles, stone and earth jars, jelly glasses, and an abundance of utensils for making and serving them."

Preserves also had a special meaning for the Pennsylvania Dutch, famously wonderful family farmers: they emigrated from Germany because of religious persecution, where their enemies had often destroyed their crops, cut down their orchards, and dug up their vines in winter. When the Pennsylvania Dutch arrived in the New World, they were determined to preserve their food, and do it in such a way as to make it taste as delicious as fresh food.

Organic preserves and farmhouse preserves fall into these traditional categories:

  • Narrowly defined, preserves retain the shape and integrity of the whole fruit (or fruit cut in uniform pieces), suspended in syrup.
  • Marmalades consist of small pieces of pulpy fruit (usually citrus) suspended in a clear jelly.
  • Jams are usually made from small fruits such as berries, where the entire fruit is cooked with sugar until it turns to delicious mush.
  • Conserves are made from a mixture of two or more fruits to which nuts are added.
  • Butters are the least sweet preserves, created when fruits are cooked until soft with the resulting puree run through a sieve.
  • Jellies have pectin added to them, so that the end-product, while still tender, stands firm when cut.

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