Why Adding Sugar To Jam Isn't Only About The Sweetness

Jam has had a way of taking the world by storm in the most subtle of ways. Stuffed into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches worldwide, slathered on golden toast, and layered into cakes and custards, it is quietly, one of the fruitiest and sweetest things to enhance our food. Part of what makes jam so appealing is its versatility. Don't like grape? Fantastic, we have strawberry. Do you want something a little unique? Have some raspberry and rosé wine jam with your brunch. Jam has been romanticized through things like the "Do-Re-Mi Song" sung by Julie Andrews in the movie "The Sound of Music" when she sings, "Ti, a drink with jam and bread," solidifying this condiment as something down to earth and delicious as well as a bit whimsical (via Genius).

We've been indulging in jam-like substances since the Roman days when they mixed soft fruit with honey and Indian spices (via Fresh Ways). But today, jam makers use refined sugar in place of honey, and for good reason. Sugar has allowed jams to lengthen their shelf life and keep them safe for consumption.

Just a spoonful of sugar...

If you reduce the sugar recommended by a jam recipe because you want your fruit to be a bit tart or for health reasons, think again. Jam recipes use sugar to absorb the water in the fruit; this is what allows the jam to thicken and binds all the ingredients together (via The Guardian). If you don't add the required amount of sugar, your homemade jam will become a runny mess. Kitchn suggests that if you do want sugar that's a little less sweet, actively seek out a jam recipe that is advertised to taste less sugary.

Additionally, sugar helps to preserve your jam. When sugar adheres to the water in the fruit, it is also sucking up any opportunity for mold and bacteria to grow (via FoodInJars). If there is no water, mold and bacteria have a hard time thriving. When making jam and canning preserves, a recipe isn't just a suggestion; it's a formula put in place to keep you and your food safe. So before you go tampering with it, it's best to understand why it has those steps in the first place.