Who Invented Jam? (Preserves & Canning)

who invented jam

Most of us enjoy our jams on and off and may have a favorite of our own. However, only a few think about how the idea of putting fruits and sugars came about or who started making jams first. Who invented jam?

The Romans may have been the inventors of jam. The earliest example of preserved fruits in honey was discovered around 6,000 BC. The Romans were cooking the fruits and honey together. Jam as we know it today is the result of sugar becoming more common in Europe, but the Romans laid the groundwork.


This article explores who invented jam and why it was invented. It will also explore how jam evolved over the years, becoming the jars of modern jam that we love today.

Why Was Jam Invented?

Jams were likely invented to preserve fruits during summer so they could be eaten during winter or when food was scarce. Jams were also invented as a way to introduce new flavors to honey and sugar, creating a new taste.

Preserving Food For Scarce Times

Jams may look like small innocent jars of sugar sweetness today, but jams may have saved many lives in the olden days.

This is because food security is much more challenging to achieve. Agricultural technology is not advanced, meaning planting and harvesting may happen only once yearly. Harvests may also not be plentiful.

On top of that, no technology, such as refrigeration or canning, keeps food fresh.

This means ancient humans needed to find ways to prepare and stock up on food supplies to survive the periods when food was scarce. This means finding ways to preserve all the excess food during spring and summer to survive the winter.

As a result, humans learned to dry meat, cover them in salt or keep it underground to stay cool. Humans also learned to coat fruits in honey liquids to preserve them, likely making the first jam-like preserves.

Improve The Taste Of Honey

Earlier, humans may have started consuming honey 2.5 million ago. However, as societies improve, humans may have learned to become a little more experimental with their tastes, especially the upper echelons of society.

They may have likely observed how keeping honey with fruits for a long time does not just preserve the fruit but also alters the taste of the honey itself. Humans later learned to add spices to further improve the jams’ taste.

Who Invented Jam?

The earliest examples of preserving fruits in sweeteners have been recorded as early as 6,000 BC. The Romans were the first to make jam-like fruit preserves by cooking fruits and honey together before cooling and storing them away. Modern jams today came about in the 19th century, combining techniques such as canning and pasteurization.

The invention of jam can be a rather tough question to answer, as the definition of the jam itself may differ between people. On top of that, jam as a food evolved over time before arriving at its current version today.

Depending on how you see it, you can view jam in two separate ways:

  • The first ever example of preserving fruits in something sweet.
  • The first-ever jam-making process that uses steps similar to today.

If you want to look at the first ever example of preserving fruits in something sweet, the answer is the bronze age people. Cave paintings have shown that humans have learned to harvest honey and keep fruits in honey to preserve it as early as 6,000 BC.

Honey contains no moisture, which means it is an excellent liquid to use to protect the fruit from moisture and air, keeping it edible.

If you are looking for the first people to make jams similar to how we make jams today, you may be looking at the ancient Romans as the inventor of jam.

The Romans learned that cooking the honey and crushed fruits together removes additional moisture from the jam. This means the jam may last even longer.

The Romans were also the first to document how to make jams. Marcus Gavius Apicius detailed in the cookbook De Re Coquinaria (The Art of Cooking) how to make Roman jams. The recipe shows the steps to take soft fruits and heat them with honey. Then you cool the honey before storing it away.

How Has Jam Evolved Over The Years?

Jams started off as fruits preserved in honey. Humans later learned to heat the mixture to help it last even longer. As sugars get introduced and become cheaper, sugar becomes the preferred sweetener instead of honey. Technology such as pasteurization and canning made jam affordable and plentiful today.

The development of jam as food likely started during the Bronze age. On its way to becoming the modern jams we know today, it has gone through many changes and incorporated many technologies.

Sweetened Fruit Preserves

The earliest people to preserve fruits in sweeteners were likely the bronze-age people. The practice was later improved by the ancient Greeks. The Greeks were known to preserve quinces with honey. They mix the two and dry the mixture somewhere before storing it away.

The Romans were the first to make sweetened fruit preserves, similar to the modern jams we have today. They learned to take soft fruits, mix them with honey, and then heat it up to remove excess moisture. The mix is then cooled down and stored away.

Sugar Comes To Europe

Europe was one of the last old-world civilizations to get sugar. Sugar originated from Polynesia and spread through East Asia, India, and the Middle East for thousands of years.

Jams made of sugar were already made in these civilizations before the Crusaders eventually brought the first sugars back to Europe in the 11th century. At the time, sugar was recorded as ‘spice.’

Sugar eventually became the preferred sweetener to make jam over the years, as mass plantations in the Caribbean and India helped to bring down the price.

Food For The Royalty And The Rich

However, during sugar’s early introduction into Europe, it was an expensive ‘spice’ reserved only for the rich. A 1319 record states that a pound of sugar in London is priced at two shillings, about £36 in today’s money.

As a result, sugar jams were reserved for royalty and rich people. Peasants and farmers likely continue to make jams from honey during this period.

Over the 11 to 18th century, many royalties and famous people in Europe are known to love sugar jams:

Joan Of Arc: Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431) is a French female fighter known for being a military leader that protected France during the Hundred Years’ War. She was known to eat up quince jam to build up courage before going into battle.

Nostradamus: Nostradamus (1503 – 1566) is a futurist and astrologer known to make some rather bizarre future predictions that actually became true. He reputedly loves jams so much that he wrote a treatise on them, entitled ‘Treatise on Makeup and Jam.’

Nostradamus lists jam recipes such as cherry jam and quince jelly in the book. He also prescribed jam recipes to cure the plague and to attract love interests.

Louis XIV: Ruling from 1643 – 1715, Louis XIV of France loved jam so much he insisted that he be served it after every meal, on a silver platter and spoon. He also liked to serve jams to guests after meals to showcase his wealth since jams were expensive at the time.

Canning & Pasteurization

Jams remained small-scale cottage production until the discovery of two major technologies, canning and pasteurization. The person who made this possible? Napoleon Bonaparte.

He was looking for ways to preserve food so his Grand Army could get fed on faraway campaigns. It took Nicholas Appert to discover the method of boiling at high temperatures and storing it in airtight packaging. Appert’s invention eventually became the canning technology today.

Louis Pasteur built on Appert’s findings and later invented pasteurization, another way to preserve food. With these technologies and the general decrease in the price of sugar, jams are now more plentiful and easier to make.

Mass Production

However, it took the Americans to make the modern jams we see today. Mass production of jams started during the tail end of World War One.

The Americans were sending a large contingent of soldiers overseas for the first time, and the Army was looking for a way to feed the soldiers. The Army started buying all sorts of food that could travel, including jams.

One of the earlier jam makers in the US was Welch’s. The US Army purchased the entire inventory of Grapelade jams and fed their soldiers with it.

As the soldiers returned, they started looking for Grapelade, creating the demand that finally drove the mass production of jams we see today. In fact, Welch’s Concord Grape jelly, launched in 1923 as a response to the demand, is still available today.