History of Jam

Making jam has a very long history. The earliest cookbook, called Of Culinary Matters, which dates back to 1st century Rome, contained recipes for making jam. It was part of the diet in the countries of the Middle East where there was an abundance of sugar that grew naturally. Honey was also used as a sweetener. This enabled the people to have vitamins from fruit all year round. Crusaders returning to Britain brought the jams and recipes back with them. The Spanish brought the tradition to the West Indies with them where fruit was in abundance and so they used the method of making jam to preserve the fruit.

Marmalade came into existence in the 16th century when Mary Queen of Scots’ physician mixed orange and sugar to help with her seasickness. Thus, marmalade became a favorite of royalty. Louis X1V of France had a variety of jams at his feasts made from fruits from the palace gardens, which include pineapples and other exotic fruits.

Although the immigrants to the US brought their own recipes with them, the first book on making jam appeared in this country in the 17th century. Early settlers in New England used other ways of making jam, using molasses, honey and maple sugar to give it the sweet taste. They used pectin obtained from boiling apple peel to use as the thickening agent.

Once it became known that Vitamin C prevented scurvy, jam became part of the staple used on ships. Fresh fruit did not last long, but the jam lasted for the length of the trip providing the sailors with the vitamins they needed to stay well.