[Sca-cooks] Jam was Medieval Questionnaire

Elise Fleming alysk at ix.netcom.com
Mon Oct 29 11:07:34 PDT 2007

Johnna wrote (with some snippage):

> That might be a problem of how it is defined as it all
> becomes somewhat more complicated as the one British dictionary I just 
> looked at states—
> *jam"*
> A conserve of fruit boiled to a pulp with sugar; sets to a pectin jelly 
> on cooling. (Known in the USA as jelly.)
> So here we have a Dictionary of Food and Nutrition equating the two as 
> the same in the USA.
> And another book The Oxford Dictionary of American Usuage and Style says
> jam=
> (= [1] a fruit jelly

Yes, I was thinking that there was a problem of definition.  Seems to me I
read - or saw on one the lists - that the word "jam" didn't enter the
dictionary until the 1700s?  Or was it the late 1600s?  Didn't we have this
conversation a few years ago on the Cooks' List?  To me, jelly and jam are
NOT the same thing, but that's an American talking.  I learned recently
from my English friends that "jelly" is "jello" or "gelatin".  They were
confused about what I put on my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Part of my questioning has to do with a frustrating correspondence with a
SCAdian friend who has tried to write about "medieval jellies" and then
proceeds to make "jam".  Jellies, in the English medieval and
Tudor/Elizabethan times, was (I believe!) a clear substance.  Jam is not
clear.  My SCAdian friend makes lovely jams - a seed-filled or pulverized
pulp-filled, sweet, semi-solid spread - but they aren't medieval, I
contend.  The fruit pastes aren't jams.  They are too solid and jam isn't. 
I'm not sure that all of us will agree on what constitutes a jam, though. 
On that Dutch web site, the modern Dutch name for the period item appears
to include "jam", but I don't think the period name did.  Aaack!

So, I'm still not really convinced that what we in America call "jam"
actually existed pre-1600.  

Alys Katharine

Elise Fleming
alysk at ix.netcom.com

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