Yesterday, my dad brought me 3 or 4 big freezer bags full of sour cherries from my grandpas cherry trees. That’s a lot of cherries, folks. My mind was racing with possibilities, cherry pie, cherry tarts, oh so much tastiness to be had. I really wanted to make them last though, be able to enjoy them for a while. When my mom mentioned jam, I knew that was the answer.
Before today, I had never tried my hand at making jam. I’ve wanted to for ages, but I’ve always put it on the back burner, one of those “I’ll get to it eventually” kind of things. I don’t know why I put it off - this recipe is so easy, no matter your experience level, you can do it.
Things you need to make this jam:
Things you don’t need:
hot water canner
We’re already off to a good start, huh? I’m not going to lie to you, this takes some time. You have to wash the cherries, pit them, stand over them while they cook, and then stir and stir and stir while the jam does it’s thing. It’s so worth it though, the end result is so much better than anything you can by at the store. It's sweet, with just a hint of tartness. It even beats my very favorite, Bonne Maman.
The greatest part of this recipe is that you don’t have to go out and purchase a hot water canner. Just sterilize your jars, screw them tight, let them cool and stick in the fridge. We ended up with about 8 half pint jars, so I’m going to put some in the freezer too.
This would be a great weekend project! You get sticky up to your elbows, and your hands seem to be permanently stained red, but it’s tons of fun. Try it out!
Like my adorable canning labels? They’re from Eat Drink Chic!
No-Recipe Cherry Jam
From David Lebovitz
A couple of tips: If you are making a lot, step 6 is going to take a while. We had 8 cups of cherry/sugar mix, and to get to the gelling point, it took about 45 minutes. Be SURE to stir constantly, you don’t want cherry carmel. Stay by that pot and watch it like a hawk. The plate and the freezer never worked for me. When it reached the point of sheeting off the spoon, that’s when I turned the pot off.
1. Buy as many cherries as you feel like pitting. Whatever variety you’d like. Mine were sour cherries.
2. Rinse the cherries and remove the stems. Pit the cherries. Chop about ¾ of them into smaller pieces, but not too small. Leave some cherries whole so people can see later on how hard you worked pitting real cherries. If you leave too many whole ones, they'll tumble off your toast.
3. Cook the cherries in a large non-reactive stockpot. It should be pretty big since the juices bubble up. Add the zest and juice of one or two fresh lemons. Lemon juice adds pectin as well as acidity, and will help the jam gel later on.
4. Cook the cherries, stirring once in a while with a heatproof spatula, until they're wilted and completely soft, which may take about 20 minutes, depending on how much heat you give them. Aren't they beautiful, all juicy and red?
5. Once they're cooked, measure out how many cherries you have (including the juice.) Use 3/4 of the amount of sugar. For example if you have 4 cups of cooked cherry matter, add 3 cups of sugar. It may seem like a lot, but that amount of sugar is necessary to keep the jam from spoilage.
6. Stir the sugar and the cherries in the pot and cook over moderate-to-high heat. The best jam is cooked quickly. While it's cooking, put a small white plate in the freezer. Remain vigilant and stir the fruit often with a heatproof utensil. Scrape the bottom of the pot as you stir as well.
7. Once the bubbles subside and the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel, (it will coat the spatula in a clear, thick-ish, jelly-like layer, but not too thick) turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer. After a few minutes, when you nudge it if it wrinkles, it's done.
If not, cook it some more, turn off the heat, and test it again. If you overcook your jam, the sugar will caramelize and it won't taste good and there's nothing you can do. Better to undercook it, test it, then cook it some more. Ladle the warm jam into clean jars and cover. Cool at room temperature, then put in the refrigerator where it will keep for several months.