Jams and Jellies in Our Global Kitchen main content.

Taste Jams and Jellies in Our Global Kitchen Through June 30

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On Exhibit posts

Fans of jams, jellies, and marmalades will have a chance to watch chefs and small-batch companies make and serve these tasty treats in the working kitchen of the Museum's special exhibition Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture. The menu includes avocado jam with dates on Wednesday, June 19, and cherry jam on Friday, June 21.

Our Global Kitchen kitchen
The working kitchen in Our Global Kitchen
© AMNH/D. Finnin


Fruit preserves of one kind or another have been made for thousands of years.

Jelly Jars Tanglewood Gardens
Dennis G. Jarvis

Today, many jams and other preserves are made using "canning" techniques. Canning protects food from spoiling in two ways: sterilizing the food by heating it enough to kill all microbes and preventing new microbes from entering the sealed container once the food cools.

As the exhibition also points out, industrial canning methods used today date "back to the early 1800s, when French chef Nicolas Appert invented the technique. The French military had offered a reward for anyone presenting an effective way to preserve food for soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars." (French armies also played a role in the creation of margarine, as "Mad Men" fans learned last month when Peggy, a copywriter on the margarine account, noted that the long-lasting spread "was invented for Napoleon III...because armies need to move, and it never spoiled.") 


Appert book
In the early 1800s, Frenchman Nicolas Appert, from the Champagne region, developed a canning method used to feed the Napoleonic army. He also published a book about his methods; you can read this 1920 English translation at archive.org.

Many other techniques preserved foods before refrigeration came along, as the exhibition explains. In addition, sugar, often used in jams, jellies, and other preserves, keeps bacteria from growing by drawing water from cells. 

Old Jam Jelly Poster
Though sugar is often added to jams and jellies, this World War I (c. 1919) poster encouraged American women to conserve sugar by canning fruit from their own trees and making (presumably low-sugar) jams and jellies.
National Archives and Records Administration/U.S. Food Administration

Learn more in Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture, open through Sunday, August 11.

The exclusive corporate sponsor for Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture is J.P. Morgan.

Additional support for Our Global Kitchen and its related educational and online resources has been provided by GRACE Communications Foundation. 

The Kitchen Experience is presented by Whole Foods Market.