Jams and Jellies

Definition: Jelly is semitransparent, consisting of the strained juice of various fruits (occasionally vegetables), singly or in combination, that is sweetened, slowly simmered, and congealed, often with the aid of pectin or gelatin. Jam differs from jelly in its inclusion of fruit pulp or whole fruit; whole-fruit jam is sometimes called preserve.  Fruit jellies have 45 parts by weight of the fruit component to each 55 parts of the sweetener solids (45:55). The finished soluble solids content of a jelly is not less than 65%.

Fruit preserves and jams are divided into two groups, generally the berries and the pomes. Pomes are a fleshy fruit, such as an apple, pear, or quince, having several seed chambers and an outer fleshy part largely derived from the hypanthium. Also called false fruit. Those made from the berry group require 47 parts by weight of the fruit component to 55 parts of the sugar. Those made from pomes are 45:55. In both cases the finished product is not less than 65% solids.

Food Safety: Jams, jellies and preserve products are characterized by low water activity and a low pH. Since they are also packed at high temperatures, they are not likely to harbor harmful foodborne illness organisms. Some mold spoilage may develop if the cap applied is not heated to a temperature adequate to destroy mold spores. This destruction of organisms on the cap is usually accomplished by inversion of the jar or by the use of a steam capper. Home canners often pour hot wax on the surface to exclude air from the surface of the product. Understanding the science behind jams, jellies and preserves is important to achieving a stable, safe, and appropriately firm product. Fruit jellies, preserves and other related products are covered under CFR Title 21 Part 150.

Special consideration should be given to low or no sugar jams and jellies they have special food safety and quality issues.  Producers of these types of jams and jellies should be aware that the reduction in the amount of sugar in the final product changes the typical characteristics of a jam or jelly as total taste sensation is reduced, balance between sweetness/acidity/fruit flavor is changed, flavor and color components become less stable, color becomes less deep, and transparency is reduced. It is then generally necessary to use a relatively high fruit content and a reduced acid level to balance the flavor. In addition, gels with low soluble solids content are subject to spoilage once the container has been opened and the use of a preservative might be indicated for shelf-life extension. If no preservatives are used, the product must be hot-filled at a temperature of 185°F or higher to ensure enzyme inactivation and commercial sterility of the product, and must be kept refrigerated after opening. Small containers are normally preferred in these cases as they are consumed faster. Alternately, the filled product can be processed in boiling water bath for proper pasteurization. Typical preservatives used for low sugar preserves include sodium benzoate and/or potassium sorbate at 0.05 to 0.1% levels. All pH control acidified food products must comply with production process controls in 21CFR114.

All pH control acidified food products must be produced under supervision of a person who has attended an FDA approved ‘Better Process Control School’ as specified in 21 CFR 114.10. Contact the Colorado State University Food Processing Laboratory to find the nearest class or take an on-line course.

Visit the Additional Processing Info page for more information on processing times, high altitude, and commercial kitchens.

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP): Proper sanitation and Current Good Manufacturing Practices should be implemented whenever processing food for public consumption.

Weights of Components: The weight of the sugar component is the weight of the sugar solids. However, the weight of the fruit component is not so easily determined. Individual fruit can vary widely in solids. In addition, the fruits, purees and juices used in the manufacture of these products are often concentrated. The regulation provides for the calculation of the weight of the fruit component by listing numerical factors to calculate the pounds of fruit at a standard solids level. An example should suffice.

The law requires jelly to be 45 parts by weight juice to 55 parts by weight sugar. To determine the weight of the single strength juice when using a concentrate:

  • Check the Brix (% sugar) or soluble solids (using the refractometer) of the fruit juice or concentrate. For instance: apple concentrate (three-fold) at 40o Brix.
  • Multiply the percent solids by the weight of the ingredients and divide by 100. For instance 100 lbs apple concentrate at 40% solids. (100 x 40) /100 = 4000/100 = 40
  • Subtract any added sugar solids for a sweetened or capped concentrate or juice.
  • Multiply by the factor in Table 1. 40 x 7.5 = 300

This means your 100 lbs. of 40o Brix apple concentrate was equal to 300 lbs. of single strength juice. Added sugar solids may be no higher ratio than 55/45 or 1.22 times the weight of the single strength juice: In this case we have the equivalent of 300 lbs. of single strength juice. 300 x 1.22 = 366 lbs. of sugar solids may be added.

The advantage of not diluting the concentrate to single strength is that cooking time may be regulated by judicious addition of water. The above combination would be only about 61% solids and the excess water must be “cooked off” until 65% solids is reached. The sugar ingredient may be added as a syrup and its water can be taken into account in the formulation.

Distribution Method (Expand All | Collapse All)

The pH level of your jam or jelly will affect regulations you are expected to follow if you are selling a shelf stable product. Utilizing Colorado laboratories that test pH, you can obtain a statistically accurate measure of the equilibrium pH of your product (samples from multiple batches are tested; this helps to verify consistency among batches).

You are selling your product at a farmers’ market, CSA, roadside stand, or other direct to consumer outlet


Licensing:

Jam or Jelly you have produced

  • If you are selling shelf-stable jams and jellies that you have produced using products you have grown, you will need a Retail Food Establishment License, issued by your county health department. You may also need additional licensing and your processing facility may require inspection from your county health department. If you sell at farmers’ markets or other direct to consumer outlets in different counties, you should check with the health department in each county where you sell your product direct to consumers. Although not mandatory at this time, you may also register your processing facility with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
  • Additional requirements for selling acidified shelf stable products: If you have produced your jam or jelly and it is is acidified, i.e. it has a finished equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below and a water activity greater than 0.85, you will need to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All commercial processors, when engaging in the manufacture, processing, or packing of low acid or acidified foods,  must register with the FDA using Form FDA 2541 (Food Canning Establishment Registration; 21 CFR 108.25). This form must be filed no later than 10 days after the firm engages in operations.  Federal Regulations require each establishment be registered and scheduled processes be filed with the Food and Drug Administration for each product, product style, container size and type, and processing method. The form and instructions are available online. In addition to registering with the FDA you must attend a training course in order to process acidified foods. The training course is offered by a variety of universities, it lasts about a week long and is called “better process control”. University of Nebraska and New Mexico State are the closest in-person programs, or you can take the course online through the University of California Extension.

Jam or Jelly produced by someone else

  • If you are selling shelf-stable jams and jellies produced by someone else, you are exempt from licensing but must purchase from a licensed wholesaler.

Labeling: General labeling requirements.

Sales Tax Liability: General sales tax information.

Weights and Measures: If you are selling your product by weight, you must follow the Colorado weights and measures requirements.

You are selling your product to a store, restaurant, food cart, K-12 school, university, hospital, or other retail food establishment


Licensing: To sell jam or jelly that you have produced using products you have grown, you must first register with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) as a wholesale food manufacturing facility. Once you have registered your food manufacturing business, you may be inspected by CDPHE.  Some manufacturing processes require specific certification and/or training that must be completed before you can manufacture an acidified food or process seafood products. If you are interested in doing either of these, you should first contact the Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability at (303) 692-3620 for further information and visit this page for wholesale food program information and requirements.

If you are selling jam or jelly using unprocessed farm products purchased from another Colorado producer or from a wholesaler, you will also need a Farm Product Dealers License.

Additional requirements to sell acidified shelf stable products

  • If your jam or jelly is acidified, i.e. it has a finished equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below and a water activity greater than 0.85, you will need to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All commercial processors, when engaging in the manufacture, processing, or packing of low acid or acidified foods,  must register with the FDA using Form FDA 2541 (Food Canning Establishment Registration; 21 CFR 108.25). This form must be filed no later than 10 days after the firm engages in operations.  Federal Regulations require each establishment be registered and scheduled processes be filed with the Food and Drug Administration for each product, product style, container size and type, and processing method. The form and instructions are available online. In addition to registering with the FDA, you must attend a training workshop. The training course is offered by a variety of universities, it lasts about a week long and is called “better process control”. University of Nebraska and New Mexico State are the closest in-person programs, or you can take the course online through the University of California Extension.

Note that if you are selling at farmer’s market and as a wholesaler, you will need a to obtain a retail food establishment license and register as a wholesale food manufacturer.

Labeling: General labeling requirements.

Sales Tax Liability: General sales tax information.

Weights and Measures: If you are selling your product by weight, you must follow the Colorado weights and measures requirements.

Related Links: For further information and links to regulations pertaining to the production of this category of foods as well as to articles on the science behind making a high-quality jam or jelly.