Fruit, not sugar, makes the spread
First the strawberries. Then the -oses: sucrose, fructose, and glucose syrup. Perhaps some cane sugar and corn syrup, a little pectin, and citric acid, and you’ve got strawberry preserves. We tasted five brands and while all those sugars were not in one jar, many had at least two, some three.
As all old-fashioned jam makers know, keep down the amount of sugar in the batch, and you’ll have a fruitier flavor. This would explain one taster’s lament afterward that his “teeth were hurting.”Unlike clear jellies and pureed jams, preserves have pieces of fruit suspended in heavy syrup. One brand had us wondering “Where’s the berry?” A German taster, confident that she knew her preserves, did indeed pick the brand she eats every morning. French-made Bonne Maman was her favorite, but alas, no one else’s. The Swiss brand, Hero, with the prettiest label, was at the bottom of most lists. In the end, the winner was all-American Smucker’s – the brand that goes into many PB&Js. It just edged out the other American jar, Trappist, made locally in Spencer. We tasted all of them on plain crackers and once we found a favorite, we wondered why no one had the good sense to bring the peanut butter.
Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves
$2.99 for 13-ounce jar
This comes in a lovely jar worth washing and saving. What’s inside, said one taster, “is sickeningly sweet.” Another: “It’s seedy and syrupy.” Indeed there was plenty of strawberry and a little crunch. “It goes down smoothly,” said one, and it’s “very spread-able.”
Hero Swiss Preserves,
$2.99 for 12-ounce jar
Well, the spoon stood straight up in this jar, and stayed there. “Too much pectin.” “Gelatinous.” One commented that it “tastes like it was made in a lab!” Many found it “low in odor,” “had no smell,” and “tasteless.” “I find this quite disagreeable,” was one taster’s final pronouncement.
Smucker’s Strawberry Preserves Winner
$2 for 12-ounce jar
Easy to spread and not gooey. “This has chunks of fruit,” exclaimed one, almost surprised. “More grit per square inch,” said another. And “it’s fragrant.” One thought “it smells like strawberry shortcake.” Several proclaimed it to be “less sweet” than the others, but it does contain three sweeteners. “It is the real thing with a real strawberry smell and bits of fruit.” One taster’s disdain for another brand was to say “it tastes like Smucker’s.” Go figure.
Trader Joe’s Strawberry Preserves
$2.49 for 20-ounce jar
This was the best buy for the money but the preserves stuck to the spoon and you had to shake it a few times to get it onto the cracker. Three said it was like “gelatin with pits,” or “Jell-O-esque,”and “Jell-O-y.” Another thought it had an “artificial flavor.” One person compared it to a “kid’s dessert” and another yelped “gummy bears!”
Trappist Strawberry Preserve $2.50 for 12-ounce jar
A beautiful color with bits of fruit floating in the jar. These preserves slid down easily from spoon to cracker. “A nice rosy color,” said one, but another claimed it tasted like “ruby Jell-O.” “It has real fruit but is gooey.” “It’s just OK, but the real fruit was nice.” “Chunky fruit.” “This is very preserve-y.”