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A Brief History of Jam

The terms 'conserve' or 'preserve' are also used for jam.

Whatever you choose to call it, the precise origin of jam remains a matter of historical debate; however, jams have a rich history and are appreciated worldwide for their fragrance and fruity taste. Jam-making probably began in the Middle-East where cane sugar grew naturally. The first known book of recipes, "Of Culinary Matters", written by the Roman gastronome Marcus Gavius Apicius in the first century, includes recipes for jams.

It is believed that returning Crusaders first introduced jam to Europe; by the late Middle Ages, jam had become very popular. Jam-making in Europe can be traced back to the 16th century following the arrival of the Spanish in the West Indies who had been preserving fruits for generations.

Jams were a kingly delicacy and many a royal sweet tooth demanded an array of fruit flavors preserved with sugar. Chroniclers of more regal eras describe the magnificent feasts of Louis XIV, which always ended with fruit preserves served in silver dishes. Each delicacy served at Versailles was made with fruit from the king’s own gardens and glasshouses.

In Britain, jams origins are in Tudor times. The food historian Ann Wilson records that there was a wide range of jams available; for example, quince and medlar. There was also a highly prized Tudor preserve called a sucket, a cross between candied peel and jam. It is still produced in Chios in the north Aegean (allegedly Homer's birthplace) and is known as 'spoon sweets' because they are served on silver spoons. They can be made with green figs, baby aubergines, unripe walnuts, green pistachios, strawberries, berries and stone fruit.

Nowadays, commercial jam has become one of those products which has suffered the traditional British dumbing-down process caused by our food industry's insistence that customers want only the cheapest food. The proliferation of cheap, sugary jams has devalued jam. JamJamboree is an opportunity to reverse this situation.


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