Whenever I see a gift, I try to stand back and realize how lucky I am to have it. I have always wanted to live in a place with endless fruit trees. I would say that I’ve gotten my gift. This beast of a cherry tree sits right outside our front door. I would say I have plenty to be thankful for in the fruit department.
When we first started picking the cherries, we couldn’t figure out what kind they were. We knew they weren’t bing cherries and they tasted a bit like (and looked like) Rainier cherries, but those are only grown in the U.S., as far as I know. They have a taste all their own, a little sweet, but also a little tart. I have self concluded that these are sour cherries and I’m sticking with that. Whatever they are, they make amazing jam.
I made a gross miscalculation the first time I made this and didn’t pick enough cherries. What I thought was a lot, was not when I cooked them down. 90 minutes of work for 2 jars of jam. Yikes. The next time, I picked A LOT of cherries. This time I got 5 half pints, that was much better.
Pitting cherries – augh. Don’t ever scowl at the price of homemade cherry jam. Two words: Labor Intensive.
I do love the end result of pitting cherries though. I probably lost a pound of cherries from little hands picking out of the bowl. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of fresh pitted cherries? Lemon juice and zest into the pot.
I almost didn’t make this post because there really isn’t a recipe. That is also the reason why I decided to post it. When doing research on the best cherry jam recipe, I couldn’t find a decent recipe with pectin. Not that I have to use it, but I suffer from extreme paranoia with jam not setting up and pectin is my magic bullet for that. Okay, no good pectin recipes. I finally settled on the jam philosophy from David Lebovitz here: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2005/06/norecipe-yikes/
It takes a little time, but it works. Here is what you need:
Yes, that’s it.
I started by cooking down my cherries. I smashed them as I went, but feel free to puree first and then add to the pot. I added the juice and zest of 1 big lemon. You have to have the acidity for water bath canning. Next you measure. For how many cups of cooked cherries, you add 3/4 the amount of sugar. I had 6 cups of cooked cherries, so I added 4.5 cups of sugar.
The next step is where the jam comes together. Boil it down. Since I stir mine constantly, I don’t like a violent boil. But it does have to get down to jam consistency, so take that as you will.
When you hold it up and it doesn’t fall immediately off of your spoon, you are almost there. This next tip is the best though:
Put a plate in the freezer and when you think the jam is done, set a little on the plate, return to the freezer for a minute and see if it gels. You are just getting it to cool down, so it isn’t so runny and boiling hot. If it gels and wrinkles up, then it’s good. If not, keep boiling and try again. You can see by my plate that I tried 3 times, I’m so impatient.
Skim off the scummy bubbles on the top and throw it away.
You can do a couple of things at this point. You can freeze it, use it immediately, or you can process in a water bath canner using regular canning methods. If you haven’t canned before, here is a perfect resource for you to begin: http://www.freshpreserving.com/
That’s where I go with my canning questions.
I decided to do a water bath and process my jam in half pints. I knew we wouldn’t use it all right away and freezer space is a luxury here, so this was my best bet.
There is always a little left over to put right in the fridge though for breakfast. It’s so good!
- Granulated Sugar
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon (1/4 cup juice per 4 half pints)
- Wash and pit cherries (you will need at least 2 pounds of cherries)
- Chop, smash or puree cherries in the blender and add to a stock pot
- Add juice and zest of 1 lemon (use at least ¼ cup lemon juice for 4 anticipated half pints)
- Cook cherries over medium heat, stirring constantly
- When cherries have cooked down at least 20 minutes, measure cooked cherries
- Add ¾ amount of sugar as cherries (for example: if you have 4 cups of cherries, add 3 cups of sugar)
- Bring cherries back up to a boil and allow to thicken, stirring constantly - do not allow to burn
- Place a plate in the freezer
- When cherries no longer drip off the spoon, place a small amount of jam on the plate and return to freezer
- When the jam gels on the plate and starts to wrinkle when pushed, then the jam is done.
- If the jam is not done, return the plate to the freezer, continue boiling and try again in a few minutes.
- When the jam gels on the frozen plate, remove from the heat and choose preservation method (freezing, refrigerate for immediate consumption, or canning)
- If canning, please follow proper canning procedures.