A STICKY HISTORY
Initially invented as a way to preserve food and as a protection against scarcity, the first
recipe for jam appears in the cookbook: “De Re Coquinaria” (“The Art of Cooking”) which
dates from the 1st century AD.
Darius the Great brought sugarcane back to Persia after his invasion of India. Persia
went on to become a prolific sugar-producing region. Crusade warriors brought back
more complex recipes from the Middle East and jam’s popularity as a way to eat fruit
started to take off. Returning home, they would talk of the wonders of the “new spice.”
The first recorded mention of sugar in England was in 1099, but it wasn’t cheap
enough for the masses and was restricted to wealthy and royalty, and therefore so was
Joan of Arc believed that quince jam gave her courage and ate it before going into
battle. Nostradamus wrote an entire book on it and spoke of the secrets of making jams
and jellies, long before his works on predicting the future.
Pirates and sailors stocked jam aboard ships when it became clear that vitamin C prevented
scurvy. The Sun King, Louis XIV, insisted that all of his meals be served with jam in special ornate
silver dishes. All of them were made for him from fruit grown in the gardens and glasshouses at Versailles —
and included tropical varieties like pineapple.
Marmalade has a tangled history but it often is associated with Mary Queen of Scots. Created for
her by a physician in 1561, it was made of Seville oranges, honey, and bitter peel as a remedy for her
Napoleon Bonaparte offered a reward in 1795 to anyone who could find a way to preserve large quanti-ties
of food for his soldiers. Nicholas Appert, a French confectioner, worked out that boiling fruit at high
temperatures and sealing them in airtight glass jars kept food safe for months.
Settlers brought their recipes with them to America, and the first book on making jam appeared in
the 17th century. In New England, molasses, honey and maple sugar were used to sweeten jam and pec-tin
was obtained from boiling apple peels. Jam as we know it emerged once sugar from the West Indies
became more affordable.
During World War I and II, there was widespread anxiety about food shortages in Europe and America.
During both world wars, government programs encouraged people to grow their own food and preserve
it — known as “Victory Gardens.” In 1940, The Women’s Institute received a government grant to buy
sugar to make jam. Volunteers gathered in village halls and farm kitchens to preserve about 5,300 tons of
fruit between 1940 and 1945.