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I assume the difference in name is due to their cooking processes, but am unsure what exactly makes them different.

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

according to the Ball canning book (paraphrasing)...

JAM is made by cooking crushed or chopped fruits with sugar, and is made of one fruit or a combination of fruits, is spreadable, and is firm but will not hold the shape of the jar.

JELLY is made from juice strained from fruit, usually prepared in a way to keep it crystal clear, and is gelatinized enough to hold is shape when removed from the jar, yet is still spreadable.

PRESERVES are fruit preserved with sugar so it retains its shape, is transparent, shiny, tender and plump. the syrup generally has the consistency of honey, and a true preserve will not hold its shape when spooned from the jar.

to add to the confusion, i'll also add their descriptions of...

CONSERVES, which are jam-like and made of a combination of one or more fruits, nuts and raisins, cooked until it rounds up on the spoon.

MARMALADES are a soft jelly containing pieces of fruit and peel evenly suspended in a transparent jelly. similar in structure to jam.

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:) nicely succinct and still informatively complete –  zanlok Jun 1 '11 at 6:43
thanks! but i give credit to Ball. i tried to come up with an answer relying only on my memory, and that didn't work, so i had to haul out my book and check. : ) –  franko Jun 1 '11 at 13:36
Just to add even more to the confusion, you should probably include chutney too! –  Aaronut Jun 1 '11 at 13:51
Just to stir the bucket and muddy the water even more - bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1404/red-onion-marmalade –  James Barrie Jun 2 '11 at 17:11

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